Let’s take a moment to celebrate the unsung culinary heroes, shall we? The sweet potato casserole so often overshadowed by the turkey. The tricolore salad pushed aside to make room for the pulled pork. Side dishes are so much more than fillers. Plus, cobbling together a meal out of sides is often less expensive than ordering an entrée, so we’re here to give them their due.
Street corn off the cob
Mexican classic meets home cookin’ in this one. The Fitzroy’s menu is all about comfort foods (see also: broiled mac ‘n’ cheese), and co-owner Richard Ridge says it’s not uncommon for guests to build entire meals out of side dishes. The street corn off the cob combines the spices and flavors of elote, or Mexican street corn, with the texture and heartiness of Southern creamed corn.
New York Times food writer Joan Nathan referred to it as the “best fennel dish ever” in 2012, and it’s hard to disagree. Originally created to accompany a salmon entrée, the simple dish—orange slices and fennel roasted together at high heat and topped with basil—was so well-received that it earned its own spot on the restaurant’s contori list.
Manchego bread pudding
Sous chef Mike Hollard describes it as a “fancy stuffing,” so obviously we’re on board. Zocalo’s manchego bread pudding is a concoction of cubed bread, sage, chicken stock, caramelized onions and (obviously) manchego cheese baked in its own little dish. Pair it with some grilled asparagus and smoked tomato grits and call it a meal.
Platanos fritos (fried plantains)
Al Carbon Chicken
Al Carbon’s menu features enough side dishes to fill this entire page, but let’s talk about one of the simplest (and most delicious): platanos fritos, or fried plantains. The perfect balance of crispy, chewy, sweet and salty, and served with a side of dipping sauce, you could almost call them dessert. If you want to skip the entrée altogether, try the chiles toreados and cebollitas (grilled jalapeños with spring onions), nopalitos (roasted cactus) and arroz amarillo (yellow rice).
Public Fish & Oyster
What would a side dish roundup be without at least one order of fries? Twice-cooked, sprinkled with sea salt and served with a side of aioli, it doesn’t get much better than the Belgian fries at Public Fish & Oyster. Order a simmering serving of moules-frites, or make a meal out of the fries, haricots verts and a couple oysters on the half-shell.