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A&E >  Food

Food for comfort: Go ahead, dig into shepherd’s pie, oxtail, mac and cheese and a vegan burger

It’s about this time of year – every year, when the great outdoors are more gray than great – that the draws of food and comfort really start chipping away at our new year’s resolutions. In other words, it’s foggy, and I want shepherd’s pie.

So, while the weather continues telling us to hibernate, here are a few comfort food dining options that will get you out of the house and then right back to bed – and I mean that as a compliment.

When it comes to comfort foods, O’Doherty’s Irish Grille owner Tim O’Doherty always thinks of his mother’s “mulligan stew.” The recipe for this particular stew was constantly in flux according to whatever leftover ingredients might’ve been waiting in the refrigerator, but the base ingredients were always there.

“I mean you’ve always got to have potatoes,” O’Doherty said.

The traditional pub fare section of the O’Doherty’s menu is solidly comfort food, but the shepherd’s pie, made with beef, mashed potatoes, onions and peas, is “the king.”

“Put some cheese on top and some gravy over that baby, and man … that’s good,” O’Doherty said.

Another perhaps lesser-known but nonetheless cozy-friendly dish is the Butte Pastie. Inspired by the packed lunches miners took to work, these handheld meat pies are filled with beef, potatoes, onions and carrots and topped with a hearty gravy.

And later, if you’re looking for something a little sweeter, the apple crisp is a go-to.

If you go: 525 W. Spokane Falls Blvd., (509) 747-0322,

At Rüt Bar & Kitchen, founders Justin Oliveri and Josh Lorenzen are passionate about sharing the full range of possibilities available in their vegan diet.

It’s not all rabbit food, Lorenzen said. In fact, he explained, the majority of the Rüt menu is comfort food.

“A lot of people assume that vegan food is radically different than other food, but in reality, it’s just swapping out ingredients – and here we try to put up dishes that people are familiar with, maybe that aren’t typically vegan and then make them vegan.”

Rüt’s jalapeño mushroom burger, served with an Impossible burger patty, seitan bacon, sautéed mushrooms, crispy onion, vegan cream cheese and jalapeño relish on a pretzel bun, is always a customer favorite.

But new items are just around the corner. The winter menu will feature Rüt’s take on the Reuben sandwich.

“We’re basically treating seitan like you would corned beef and pairing it up with vegan cheese and some red kraut – made in-house – with Russian dressing. Slap that on some marble rye, and you got yourself a really nice, warm and hearty sandwich,” Lorenzen said.

For dessert, he recommends the Captain Nutella Crunch Cake.

“It’s a cashew-based cheesecake, but we are flavoring it like Captain Crunch and Nutella,” he said. “It’s definitely got some nostalgic vibes going on, but it’s all vegan, and it’s all housemaid.”

When it comes to vegan comfort food, it’s all about big flavors. It’s salty, sweet, spicy and not necessarily focused on the healthy side of vegan food.

“It’s really more about enjoying the flavors and the textures and finding something that will really fill you up,” he said. “It’s got to have big flavor, and it’s got to be nice and rich and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.”

If you go: Rüt Bar & Kitchen, 901 W. 14th Ave., (509) 241-3165,

Chef Joe Morris at Luna agreed. “You want something that’ll stick to your bones,” he said.

Morris’s personal favorite comfort food is a good mac and cheese, like the dish that has been popping up on the Luna menu recently.

But on the permanent menu, he said, you can’t go wrong with the oxtail main plate served with gnocchi, roasted parsnips, leeks, parsnip purée, oxtail jus and a potato crisp.

If you go: Luna Restaurant, 5620 S. Perry St., (509) 448-2383,

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