Comfort food is a universal language spoken across cultures. While the particulars vary, its primary function is to evoke the happiest memories we have of eating, dating all the way back to childhood. Whether mac ’n’ cheese, chicken soup or doughnuts suit your fancy, we’ve found five variations on what we consider comfort foods with a healthy twist. No sign of a guilt trip here.
Big B’s Texas BBQ
Can Texas-style barbecue be healthier than other styles? Natalia Badzjo and Brian Buechner of Big B’s Texas BBQ say this is so. They explain that true Texas barbecue is not injected with flavorings or flavor enhancers such as MSG, nor is it slathered in sauce. It is simply given a generous treatment of house dry rub, then smoked. The simplicity of Texas barbecue can be enjoyed many ways at Big B’s, such as with the smoked turkey, lean brisket or tri-tip, to name a few. The rub is all that is needed to impart flavor and tenderness, but a choice of sauces is always available. Need more proof that you’re “carving” out a healthy lifestyle with Texas barbecue? Plenty of athletes partake in all the protein deliciousness after a workout. 3019 St. Rose Pkwy., Suite 130, bigbztexasbbq.com
Momofuku Las Vegas
Noodles are another addictive pleasure food, whether it be pad Thai or ramen. For those who like the idea that less is more, Momofuku’s Ginger Scallion Noodles also delivers in this regard. The ramen noodles are tossed in a sauce consisting of a marinade of chopped scallions, ginger, oil, soy, vinegar and salt. Imagine all the healing and fat-burning properties of ginger and scallions at work! Topped with pickled shiitake, cucumber and wakame, the dish is a delight. In The Cosmopolitan, cosmopolitanlasvegas.com
Instead of mashed potatoes with butter, savor the soft potato puree topped with “pats” of quinoa cake. That’s what Chef Jaret Blinn’s CRAFTKitchen in Henderson puts together for a fresh and hearty dish called the Farmers Market Stack. It happens to be the restaurant’s top-selling vegetarian dish, and we can see and taste why. The vegetarian, gluten-free offering features a soft quinoa cake, which gently sits on a puree of potato, finished with roasted farmers market veggies and cherub tomatoes. Opt to add an egg for breakfast. The cake is made with organic red quinoa, bound with cooked white polenta and seasonal roasted vegetables. 10940 S. Eastern Ave., craftkitchenlv.com
Fried foods are addictive and delicious. Who the heck wants to eliminate them from the comfort-food category? Certainly not Estiatorio Milos, but they’ve found a way to make people who find chips to be their guilty pleasure feel not so guilty. The Milos Special is made of thinly sliced eggplant and zucchini that’s lightly fried. Piled high with vegetables upon vegetables, it’s like eating (veggie) chips out of a bag. Additionally, it is served with house-made tzatziki, a seemingly sinful yet healthy accompaniment for dipping, which sure beats the standard sour cream and onion dip. In the Cosmopolitan, cosmopolitanlasvegas.com
When dessert cravings come a-knocking, a cream puff is just the answer. And never just one. The Paris-Brest is a French treat said to have been created by a pastry chef in honor of a bicycle race between the cities of Paris and Brest. Eatt, a gourmet bistro specializing in healthy indulgences, offers this dessert, calling it the Praline Cream Puff, a choux puff filled with a light hazelnut cream. The trick here is that the chef uses 75 percent less butter and 66 percent less sugar. You’d never know after the first bite—thus the need for many more after. 7865 W. Sahara Ave., eattfood.com