Best Restaurants for Comfort Food in the West

AAA Members share their favorite spots for tasty tacos, silky ice cream, hearty breakfasts, and so much more.

Fried chicken sando combo outside at Pretty Bird in Salt Lake City.
Fried chicken sando combo from Pretty Bird in Salt Lake City.
Bonjwing Lee

“I didn’t think I could get excited about a chicken sandwich but I was wrong! Pretty Bird in Salt Lake City has the best one around. I don’t live there, I live in Montana, but I have to go there every time I am in SLC because it’s the best chicken sandwich ever. Make sure to order your chicken sandwich with a side of Mexican street corn.” —Karol Fetherston

“I live in Santa Cruz, California, and my favorite spot when I want comfort food is Taqueria Vallarta, the original location on Soquel Avenue next to Shopper’s Corner market (a worthy destination in itself). The carnitas are fantastic, as is the chile verde and al pastor—they just do pork really well! I switch it up between the super nachos, super quesadilla, hard shell tacos, and super burrito. When I do get the burrito, I order it with cabbage instead of rice. It is so good!” —Laura Friend

Yak’s Cafe on I-5 in Dunsmuir, California, is simply well put together and fresh, with a great combination of flavors. Order any burger and the garlic parmesan fries. The food is an experience, not just filling your empty void. This restaurant is a MUST STOP on I-5 for anyone going north or south.” —Lyle Neese

Zachary's Chicago Pizza spinach and mushroom deep dish pizza in Oakland, California.
Zachary's Chicago Pizza spinach and mushroom deep dish pizza in Oakland, California.
Melissa Barnes

“For the best pizza in the Bay Area, head to Zachary's Chicago Pizza, the original shop in Rockridge, California, but with locations all around the region. The pizza served is deep dish, and they all have excellent flavor in classic Chicago style. I always order the mushroom and spinach, with a salad on the side.” —Geri Creque

Juan’s Flaming Fajitas in Henderson, Nevada, is an amazing Mexican restaurant. Everything is fresh, the staff is great, and the atmosphere is always upbeat. My favorite dish is the fajita quesadilla with either beef or chicken with mild peppers, onion, and cheese with rice and beans on the side. Three types of house-made dips are served upon being seated. My favorite is the warm bean dip with tortilla chips made on the spot.” —Terri Wilcox

“The best milkshakes in the world are served at Scooper’s in Sparks, Nevada. They use only the best and freshest ingredients. My favorite is chocolate with a whole banana blended in. The chunks get stuck in my straw and have to be sucked out on the other end. I am a native of Sparks and I have been going to Scooper’s since high school, when we would escape the classroom and head there for lunch. It was a treat then, and very much a treat now.” —Maria Munoz


“For good portions at reasonable prices head to Holder’s Country Inn in Los Altos, California. The chicken fried steak is good, and so are all the breakfast items. They have so many options beyond breakfast, but I can't get past the all-day breakfast menu.” —Bill Hough

“I never order off the menu at Aldo’s in Santa Cruz, California. Usually I just ask the owner to bring out what he likes for the day. The last time, I had an open face crab sandwich that was just incredible. The restaurant sits right on the water at the harbor, and whether you sit inside or outside, it has character. Take a seat, it’s home.” —Craig Rogers

Cedric’s in Idaho Falls, Idaho has the best comfort food. They give a café vibe with a quick, affordable menu, but the portions are large, and a lot of it is made in-house. The house-made hot chocolate is to die for!! The cheese curd basket is my favorite for quick bites, and my husband loves their full breakfast with eggs, hash browns, bacon, and toast. Everyone who works there is so friendly! You truly feel like family. They even refer to many people by their first name: There’s a healthy amount of ‘regulars’ that keep coming back, so they must be doing something right!” —Jackie Johnson

Joe Bandito's chicken tostada on a table with chips and salsa in Springville, Utah.
Joe Bandito's chicken tostada in Springville, Utah.
Nicole Morgenthau

Joe Bandido’s in Springville, Utah, has a large selection of California-style Mexican food. The waiters are super-efficient and friendly, and the chips and salsa are SO good! My husband and I always share the chicken tostada. We go most Sunday afternoons, and we frequently see the same patrons there.” —Karin Weight

 “The Original Breakfast House in Phoenix not only has great food, but a fun atmosphere with live music while you wait in the mornings on the weekend. The waitstaff seems to enjoy their job because each person has a smile. Food is prepared quickly and is so tasty. We drive 30+ miles to go to this restaurant on the weekends and it is way worth it—even when gas was $6/gallon! We always order the chicken fried chicken and the deep fried French toast with a side of great drip coffee. You will find about seven different dishes that you want, but one is all you need because it's a healthy serving! It’s a cash-only place, so make sure you stop by the bank on the way there.” —Katie Cochran

Gourmet Girls Gluten Free Bakery and Bistro in Tucson, Arizona, is not only 100% gluten free but is incredibly delicious. They have extensive breakfast and lunch menus and a bakery to die for. We have been eating here about once a week for years and we never get bored: quesadillas, burgers (they change the special every month), sandwiches, breakfast burritos, chicken fried steak, pancakes, French toast, and Monte Cristo sandwiches. The staff is excellent and very helpful if you have any kind of food allergy. Love this place.” —Tania J. Malven

French toast from Grotto Cafe in Cave Creek, Arizona.
French toast from Grotto Cafe in Cave Creek, Arizona.
Courtesy Grotto Cafe

The Grotto Cafe in Cave Creek, Arizona, has a stunning patio and views, plus quaint and lively indoor seating. The owner and staff are friendly and laid-back, and the food is great. We love to order the Grotto French toast, Grotto breakfast bowl, and the chicken salad on cranberry walnut bread. Even better, the restaurant gives back to our community and brings in local music. We get the best service EVERY time.” —Sandra Gilligan

Jeff’s Freezette in Colusa, California, is a classic burger joint that has been around since the 1950s. A hot dog with extra onions or a double cheeseburger and an order of fries with a chocolate shake or frostie can’t be beat on a hot summer day—or fall, winter, or spring day for that matter!” —Brian Brown

“My favorite restaurant for comfort food is SanJalisco in San Francisco. This is a family-owned and run restaurant serving authentic Mexican food for well over 35 years. Their attention to detail with each dish reminds me of the dishes that I ate as a child. The handmade tortillas made fresh leave you completely satisfied. On the weekend, they serve up their famous birria (made out of goat meat) that has been slow cooked overnight with just the right amount of spice—not too spicy but just right. The owner always tries to make her rounds when she’s not cooking to make sure everyone is happy and walking away with a full tummy.” —Ada Ortega

“For the best mole you’ve ever had, visit Ofrenda Mexican in Cave Creek, Arizona. Their excellent menu also includes amazing carnitas tacos and seafood enchiladas. You won’t be disappointed.” —Dasher Short

Two customers hold scoops of chocolate caramel crackle and Oreo cookie in cones from Mitchell’s Ice Cream in San Francisco.
Scoops of chocolate caramel crackle and Oreo cookie from Mitchell’s Ice Cream in San Francisco.
Stephanie Dewey

“There are so many great places for comfort food in San Francisco. For Mexican food, go to La Taqueria. For the best Puerto Rican food, try Parada 22. Dianda’s has the best Italian pastries, and Mitchell’s Ice Cream makes the best handmade scoops. Each stop offers a mouthwatering explosion of delicious treats for your palate.” —Albert Martinez

“A hidden gem, and locally operated, Cocina Michoacana Mexican Restaurant in Groveland, California, has friendly staff and the most delicious Mexican food ever! My favorite dish is the chicken or cheese enchilada with the verde sauce. The beans are amazing, as well as the sauce! This is such a fun spot to stop and grab the best Mexican food just 30 minutes from the entrance to Yosemite. I literally crave this food!” —Amy Connolly

Red Apple Café in Aptos, California, is so good, fresh, and filling. We usually need to go for a long walk afterwards to walk off all the delicious food! A must-order is the eggs Benedict, with roasted potatoes and sourdough bread—make sure to spread thick the butter and jam. My husband always gets the chicken fried steak, with the same sides. This is a very quaint, off-the-beaten-path place. And we absolutely love it! They always have daily specials. And we’ve never had a bad experience.” —Debby Olsen

“For comfort food, I always go to Velvet Grill and Creamery located in the historic old town of Galt, California. It has a great hometown menu, friendly team members, and is locally owned and operated. When you’re there, be sure to also check out Spaans Cookie Factory.” —Bernice Lee