Long a staple of the kids menu, mac and cheese in NYC has grown up, thanks to elegant ingredients like gruyere, duck, and lobster. But this comfort food also comes with hot dogs and hamburger, and even plain, for any purists in the audience. Simply put: there’s a version out there for everyone. By Jessica Allen.
Artisanal Fromagerie Bistro & Wine Bar
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You’d expect a restaurant that’s attached to a fromagerie to make excellent macaroni and cheese, and you’d be right. Artisanal, in Murray Hill, begins by mixing gruyere with Parmesan and a bit of mascarpone. Then it cooks the noodles al dente. Atop this pasta-and-sauce combo is a flavorful crumb-and-cheese crust. The dish comes as a side to accompany a main meal of trout almondine, duck bourguignon, or another French favorite, or you can get it entree-sized.
Heidi’s House By the Side of the Road
At Heidi’s House, you can get the macaroni and cheese plain or, for a few extra dollars, with gluten-free pasta made from rice; with bacon, from “properly fed piggies,” according to the menu; with lobster; or with chorizo. No matter what, it’s a cheesy mass of carbs, a dish to fortify you for cold weather, to put meat on your bones and make you go up a size or three in pants. Some might scoff, arguing that mac and cheese should stand on its own, and the housemade, 100% organic spiral pasta definitely does. But bacon makes it better, as it is wont to do.
The single-minded devotion to mac and cheese on display at Macbar earns it a spot on this list. In fact, this Nolita restaurant, run by the same folks as the popular Delicatessen next door, loves mac and cheese so much that the interior was designed in shades of yellow and brown to resemble the dish. Among the offerings here are the “mayan chipotle,” with chihuahua cheese, green onions, and chicken diablo, and the “mac stroganoff,” with stewed mushrooms and braised beef in a sour cream sauce—all comforting bowls of unique flavors.
Named for the Texas grandma of one of the owner’s, Mama Joy’s brings the Deep South to North Brooklyn. In addition to cornbread, hush puppies, shrimp and grits, and fried chicken, among other down-home staples, this Bushwick restaurant offers mac and cheese with duck confit. “Mac and quack” adds tender slivers of duck to the standard cheese and elbow macaroni, and therein lies the secret to its umami-esque goodness. Try the signature cocktail, the “high cotton,” made with champagne, bourbon, lemon, and elderflower, too.
With three locations (and counting), Brooklyn MAC wants to be the borough’s go-to for yummy macaroni and cheese. It has our vote. Versions are named for neighborhoods: the Greenpoint, for example, has kielbasa sausage, horseradish, cheddar, and broccoli, while the Carroll Gardens has brie and caramelized apples. Perhaps the real innovation here is the ability to make your own, choosing from such ingredients as mozzarella, grilled chicken, Romano, tomatoes, and hot dog.