ELMS: Home-cooked comfort food away from home

This week marked the end of a long and relaxing winter break. And while it was nice not to worry about homework and making it to class on time, it’s so good to be back on campus.

I loved going to Caff’s Thursday, Friday and Saturday to catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a month, cheering on the men’s basketball team to a victory over Louisville in a packed Bradley Center, and checking D2L Monday at midnight to see who is in my classes (everyone does that, right?). Yep, as much as I love being at home with my parents, I’m so glad to be back.

But after a weekend of Sobelman’s and Jimmy Johns, I realized I had nothing to eat in my apartment except a couple boxes of Rice-A-Roni. So I hit the grocery store, walked through the aisles and picked out the usual: bread, peanut butter, bagels and cream cheese, ramen noodles, macaroni and cheese, salad, lunch meat, eggs, cheese and more cheese (this is Wisconsin, people).

I love food, but I’m ashamed of my cooking skills or definite lack thereof. How could I forget about this part of college life after only a month of being away? And just like that, I miss being at home with my parents.

Home-cooked meals are possibly my favorite part of breaks, especially because my parents like to cook good ol’ comfort food: spaghetti and meatballs, pork roast, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, chili and massive breakfasts of French toast, eggs and most importantly, bacon.

Now I know these are not nearly the most complicated dishes on the face of the earth, but I truly have no ability to cook, and I’m not even trying to be funny when I say that. And with all the wintery weather we’ve been experiencing (finally!), I am in serious need of some warm, starchy comfort food.

Unfortunately, I was unable to convince my parents to come up and cook for me on a daily basis, and, with my busy schedule, I can’t really spare the time it takes to drive home for dinner every night.

That left me with either hiring a personal chef or exploring local restaurants and cafés to satisfy my cravings. Since I am a very broke and in-debt college student, I had to go with the latter. In my quest to find delicious comfort food on a budget, I realized Milwaukee chefs truly embrace my favorite kind of meals.

Comet Café and Honeypie, owned by the same wonderful folks, and Beans & Barley and Hotch-A-Do are four great places to get delicious, filling food on a tight budget.

Comet Café, which specializes in from-scratch comfort food and craft beers, is known for its massive meatloaf sandwich ($10) which includes a generous slice of bacon-wrapped meatloaf topped with mashed potatoes, grilled tomato, onion and bacon served open faced on salted rye bread with beer gravy. If that isn’t comfort food, then I don’t know what is.

If you prefer more vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options, Beans & Barley is the place to go. My favorites are their crisply baked burritos that fall in the affordable price range of $5 to $8.

Right across the street you’ll find the warm and quaint Hotch-A-Do. Serving everything from French toast to soups and sandwiches to a fabulous weekend fish fry, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.

Honeypie, Comet’s counterpart, is known more for its hearty breakfast options served Monday through Friday until 3 p.m. and its special weekend brunch menu that’s perfect for curing even the most awful hangover.

So if you’re missing warm, home-cooked meals from mom and dad as much as I am, hop on a bus and check one of these places out. Your homesickness will be cured as soon as you take a bite.