The sweaters are out, which means fall flavors are in. As it turns out, science may have the answer to why we crave warm spices, hearty flavors and rich desserts as summer fades into fall and winter. When the temperature drops, it’s completely natural to crave nourishing, comfort foods. If fact, there’s a good chance that it’s your body’s way to adapt to frigid temps and more time indoors. A slight uptick in caloric intake keeps our bodies warmer and may help with the lack of sunlight our bodies receive. So go ahead and indulge, it’s the perfect time of year.

South Jersey has some great restaurants guaranteed to offer some much needed comfort in the cool months ahead.

“Smithville Inn’s chicken pot pie has been one of the best comfort foods since Fred and Ethel Noyes,” says Fran Coppola, co-owner of Historic Smithville of the inn’s original developers, adding that they still use the same recipe that Ethel Noyes developed in the 1950s. The homemade, flaky crust gives way to a creamy, veloute sauce brimming with warm chicken, vegetables and dumplings ($21). While Smithville Inn’s comfort foods warm you from the inside, they also have five fireplaces to warm you on the outside. With sections of the inn dating back to 1787, the sentiments of bygone eras add to its warmth. Other fall favorites at the Smithville Inn include French onion au gratin soup ($7), a blend of four onions, herbs, beef broth, croutons, three cheeses and onion straws; Frenched chicken ($25) marinated in an apple brine and served with an apple demi, roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potato mash; rack of lamb ($38) flame-grilled and served with sautéed swiss chard and Lyonnaise potatoes.

The Smithville Inn is located at 1 N. New York Road in Galloway. For more information call 609-652-7777 or go to HistoricSmithvilleNJ.com

Fall also means football. For many, a weekend spent watching the game and eating a great burger is about as warm and comforting as it gets. “Vagabond offers innovative twists on classic menu favorites in particular, their award-winning burgers,” says Julie Craig, events and marketing coordinator at Vagabond Kitchen & Tap House in Atlantic City. With burgers such as the Vagabond Spartan burger ($13) topped with pork roll, American cheese, caramelized onions and spicy ranch aioli served on a brioche bun; the surf and turf burger ($18) topped with a French-fried lobster tail and finished with their famous banger sauce; or the homemade veggie burger ($12) a homemade vegan patty topped with sliced avocado, lettuce, tomato and an avocado ranch slaw served on a brioche bun — there is a burger for everyone. If burgers aren’t your thing, there is plenty more to eat. Other menu favorites include the crabby dip and chips ($14); the turkey, apple, Brie sandwich ($12) and much more. “Vagabond’s casual and cozy, yet edgy vibe is the perfect place to catch the game with friends,” Craig says. With 23 beers on tap, a full cocktail menu and wine, Vagabond has a little bit of comfort for everyone.

Vagabond Kitchen & Tap House is located at 672 N. Trenton Ave. in Atlantic City. For more information call 609-350-6721 or go to VagabondAC.com

Just because the temperature has dropped doesn’t mean you have to spend your nights indoors … just yet. Head to the Reeds at Shelter Haven and cuddle up in front of their cozy firepit for “Firepit Fridays” from 5 to 8 p.m. Fridays in November. Snuggle up in the glow of a roaring fire, gaze out over the water, listen to live music and enjoy weekly food and drink specials. Warm up with winter cocktails such as a traditional wassail ($10) with brandy, apple cider, orange and lemon juices, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon; pumpkin spice latte ($10), with Bailey’s spiced pumpkin, vodka and whipped cream; winter sangria ($10) with red wine, orange vodka, pomegranate liqueur, brandy and orange juice and much more. Food specials include mac ‘n’ cheese ($8), wagyu beef sliders ($17), charcuterie plates ($19) and more.

The Reeds at Shelter Haven is located at 9601 Third Ave. in Stone Harbor. For more information call 609-368-0100 or go to ReedsAtShelterHaven.com

Fine dining can do wonders to comfort the foodie on cool autumnal evenings. Sofia Restaurant in Margate brings warm Mediterranean hospitality to epicurean fare. Dishes such as lamb osso bucco ($36), Soujoukakia-stuffed meatballs ($11), baked moussaka ($20) and spinach crab drip with pita chips ($8) and more will fill all those fall cravings. The atmosphere exudes all the romance of the famed Grecian scenery. With intricately carved wood details, fireplaces and traditional Greco-Mediterranean décor, Sofia’s offers all the comfort you need to spice up a cold New Jersey night.

Sofia Restaurant is located at 9314 Amherst Ave. in Margate. For more information call 609-822-9111 or go to SofiaOfMargate.com

For fine dining, Italian comfort food head to Capriccio at Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City. This award-winning restaurant features traditional Italian fare with a seasonal flare. Soups such as Zucca ($10), a butternut squash soup with fall spices and prosciutto-bruschetta and pasta fagiole ($10), a hearty bean and pasta soup, are perfect for cool fall nights. Other hearty dishes include Reginette Stufato Fatto in Casa ($25) pork shank stew and reginette pasta; Pollo Arrostito ($34) roasted chicken with wild mushrooms, Treviso and salt and pepper polenta, Osso Buco Alla Milanese ($56) braised veal shank served with saffron risotto and root vegetables. Of course, pasta is always comforting, and Capriccio has a mouth-watering Spaghetti e Polpetta Fatta in Casa with tomato confit, crispy garlic roots and a meatball.

Capriccio is located at 1133 Boardwalk in Atlantic City. For more information call 800-772-9000 or go to ResortsAC.com

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