First published in Good. Food. Stories.
Cozy Cottage is an unspoiled utilitarian gem unlike any pretentious Manhattan barbecue hot spot, trendy Williamsburg fauxthentic truck stop, or other contrived “comfort food” eatery for image-conscious hipsters. The Cottage is a breath of fresh Bronx air.
Safely tucked away in an industrial corner of the northeast Bronx, it’s far enough away from the aforementioned hipsters looking to “urbanize,” as well as the drunken Wall Streeters slumming the night away in the meatpacking district or perma-rexic models perching at a trendy brunch spot to sip Bellinis and have cell phone dates while ignoring their food and companions.
The Cottage is the ultimate expression of form following function, perfectly suited to its environment in every way. It is surrounded by auto body shops, car lots and repair shops, an MTA bus yard, machine shops, and strip joints. It has been satisfying the hunger of hardworking men and women since 1930, and doing so with huge servings of freshly made foods at reasonable prices. Cozy Cottage has ten tables and booths with amply comfortable dimensions, meant to accommodate the wide shoulders and bigger appetites of its hard working patrons (and their waistlines after the enormous portions).
In a city of trendy joints that come and go, Cozy Cottage is a throwback. It has endured wars, recessions, downturns, and downsizing. Its recipes have been passed down through three owners over 81 years. It has an almost cult-like following among its loyal patrons. It was renovated in 1992 when the present owners, the Les family, expanded their hours, bumped up the number of tables from three to ten, modernized the kitchen and carving station, and started offering delivery service.
Their menu varies slightly from day to day, but remains basically simple: a variety of Italian, Greek and American favorites, serving breakfast and lunch, seven days a week, from 5:00 am to 5:00 pm.
On my latest visit I slid into a double-wide booth after being greeted with a smile and hearty handshake by Mike, one of the owners, who was alternately working the cash register and jockeying take-out and delivery orders.
Carmen, the genial waitress, took my order, shot the breeze and delivered a huge bowl of chicken noodle soup. Mechanics, car salesmen and laborers bustled around the stainless steel steam table while Carmen brought me a a seltzer with ice and a newspaper to read while I waited for two golden brown fillets of juicy, buttery fried cod with crusts so crunchy and decadent my eyes rolled into the back of my head. Each fillet, proportionate to a size 13 work boot, was draped over a mountain of crisp french fries. Hey Chip Shop, you English fop! Are you lookin’ at me?
I asked George Les, Mike’s partner and brother-in-law, if they were trying to kill me with their portion sizes. George laughed and explained that they had already reduced them some years ago when people complained. But who could complain about nearly half a ham’s worth of thick and juicy slices, sumptuous mashed potatoes, and tender greens that are like a baseball bat to the back of the knees of a vegan diet. All this for $11? With soup too?!
Or how about dropping $7.75 on a chicken parmigiana hero that’s approximately the length of your forearm and so good you’ll swear you are eating on Arthur Avenue? How about a savory, rosy skirt steak that won’t fit on the plate even after being folded over, grilled to your liking, with two sides for just $17?
So you can keep your attitude factories that serve three pieces of lawn waste on a plate that would just as soon spit on you as serve you for back breaking prices. I’m going to Cozy Cottage, where Carmen makes me feel at home, and George and Mike take my man-sized hunger to sleep with the fishes in the nearby Bronx River for a price I can live with. After all, I wear men’s clothes to work, not skinny jeans.
Cozy Cottage, 4105 Boston Road, Bronx, NY. 718-882-3040.