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Best Comfort Food 

The Mango Room

Thelma Oliver and her partner, chef Ian Hockenberg, were anything but comfortable early this summer, when downtown construction made it so tough to get to their restaurant that many diners assumed that the place was closed. But devotees of the two-year-old Mango Room made enough of a racket that tourists as well as fans of Hockenberg's down-home Southern cooking and Caribbean cuisine started trickling back in for bowls of soothing gumbo loaded with shrimp, crab and hot link sausage; crispy fried chicken; braised oxtails; and warm mango cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream. The fact that Oliver and her staff kept their groove going under stressful circumstances is a tribute to the soothing qualities of dishes that few other local restaurants offer anymore, such as fried green tomatoes, cheddar grits, cucumber salad and a brown-sugar-brined pork chop. And Hockenberg's chocolate cake is the culinary equivalent of a big, fat bear hug. (Editor's note: The Mango Room closed in April 2008. In May, The Pitch's Charles Ferruzza wrote that the owners hope to reopen the restaurant elsewhere in the metro.)

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