Mac and cheese is among the most cherished of comfort foods, and a lot of what makes it special is that it can so easily be shaped by our favorite flavors and childhood memories.
“To me, nothing says American like mac and cheese,” said celebrity chef Michael Symon in a video where he demonstrated an upgrade to a classic childhood favorite, which he upgraded with nutty Wisconsin Gruyère cheese, bacon, macaroni, and rosemary. “I love Wisconsin Gruyère because it has that nutty flavor and that rich body,” said Symon, of his recipe. But the beauty of making a mac? Use your favorite cheeses, and your favorite herbs and spices. Make it fancy or casual, baked or stovetop. It’s all what you want it to be.
While a great mac and cheese can be found everywhere from a dive bar to a fancy restaurant, and can include anything from gruyere and bacon like in the aforementioned recipe to cheddar, lobster, and a hint of spice, there’s so many ways to enjoy it. And, as exhibited in these 25 examples at spots around the nation, there’s a whole lot of delicious ways to enjoy mac and cheese.
National Mac and Cheese Day is celebrated on July 14. What better time to try a new take on a classic?
Whole Maine Lobster Mac ‘N Cheese
At Barry’s Downtown Prime at Circa Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, when developing the menu in the early stages of the restaurant, the team knew they wanted to have mac and cheese on the menu but didn’t know how to present it. Chef Barry S. Dakake is from Rhode Island and always has lobster on the brain and he knew he wanted to incorporate a whole lobster shell to really wow guests with presentation. To prepare the dish, they steam the claws and tails, reserve the meat, and incorporate it with mac and cheese. The dish is then baked with aged cheddar and is sprinkled with breadcrumbs on top to crisp for presentation.
Chef Art Smith’s Mac and Cheese
At Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Disney Springs in Orlando, Florida, it’s a real classic bechamel sauce, three kinds of cheese, and real semolina pasta. “What’s more American and spells “COMFORT than Mac and Cheese,” said Smith. We agree!
Sweet P’s Mac n’ Cheese
At Sweet P’s Barbeque in Knoxville, Tennessee, Sweet P’s Mac n’ Cheese is a classic, nostalgic, Southern-baked style mac. Hearty elbow noodles are saturated in a thick, cheesy roux and served hot with a baked topping of just-browned bubbly cheddar. The secret to the dish is the roux: It’s made with a hefty dose of Sweet P’s signature Soul Rub, the flavor foundation of all the restaurant’s smoked meats. The Soul Rub adds depth, smokiness and a beautiful deep color.
Lollipop di Macaroni
At La Devozione, located in Chelsea Market in New York City, this is a fried round Mac&Cheese lollipop served with a mornay sauce. Macaroni pasta is cooked in boiling water, drained al dente and seasoned with besciamella sauce, yellow and white cheddar cheese, parmigiano reggiano, nutmeg and deep fried in seed oil. Mornay sauce on the bottom of the dish allows you to add sauce at your preference with every bite and it’s perfect for kids. “The dish was inspired by both the Italian arancini, a circular shaped cheese stuffed ball and the American mac and cheese. The Lollipop di Macaroni is a hybrid of both Italian and American culture,” said Chef Alessio Rossetti.
Grilled Bacon Mac & Chee Melt
At Tom & Chee in Cincinnati and Oklahoma City, this is made with mild cheddar, mozzarella cheese, hearty white bread, and applewood smoked bacon. “Tom & Chee has always been fueled by creating modern twists on nostalgic comfort food favorites and the Grilled Mac & Chee Melt is no exception,” said John Gerth, Cincinnati Tom & Chee franchise owner. “This melt features cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, our homemade award-winning Mac ‘n Cheese and bacon on hearty white bread. As one of our more adventurous melts, it’s certainly a crowd favorite at our restaurants.”
Mac ‘N Cheese Croquettes
Perfect for happy hour, these croquettes at recently opened B Live in Arlington, Virginia are filled with mac + cheese and served with spicy tomato aioli. “I was inspired by the flavors of a classic grilled cheese sandwich & tomato soup for this dish. Since we’re in the summer, I balanced the hot mac + cheese filled croquettes with a gazpacho to balance the richness of the croquettes with the freshness of the tomatoes. The acidity from the sherry vinegar also creates a nice balance. The mac + cheese is unexpected, especially with a gazpacho, but the result is a delicious, indulgent bite!” said Chef Juan “Nacho” Olivera.
Macs & Stacks, a virtual brand founded and popularized by late-night gastrobar chain Bar Louie, offers a True South mac that combines the brand’s signature cheese sauce, creamy cheddar, parmesan and pimento cheese and is topped with southern fried chicken, candied bacon, spiced crispies and scallions.
Mac & Cheese Curds
At The Fifty/50 Sports Bar in Chicago, this mac is made with cheddar and blue cheese mornay sauce, cavatappi pasta, fresh cheese curds, garlic bread crumbs. “Nothing beats a gooey cheese pull, and nothing pulls like a melty cheese curd. Salty garlic breadcrumbs really balance the rich creamy nature of this dish that (if you can believe it) tastes better than it looks!” said Chef de Cuisine Cameron Usiak.
The 52 Burger
At The Fifty/50 Sports Bar in Chicago, this is a double smash burger, cheddar, caramelized mac and cheese, lettuce, Dijonnaise, and pickles on a seeded brioche bun. “To pass up the opportunity to serve people crisp, caramelized mac and cheese on top of a burger is criminal! Tangy Dijonnaise paired with creamy bleu cheese mac and crisp pickles is a match made in burger heaven,” said Chef de Cuisine Cameron Usiak.
Millionaire Mac & Cheese
At SĒR Steak + Spirits in Dallas, a perfect blend of house made campanelle, African rock lobster, jumbo lump crab cake, and summer black truffle. “At SĒR Steak + Spirits, we are passionate about serving unforgettable meals that bring our team’s global experience to life on the plate, and that is what guests will find every time they dine with us,” says Executive Chef Richard Hoffmann. “The Millionaire Mac & Cheese, made with house made Campanelle, African Rock Lobster, jumbo lump crab cake, and summer black truffle, is a perfect example of the unique flavor combinations we infuse into every dish.”
Dickey’s Brisket Mac Stack
At Dickey’s restaurants nationwide, this dish is made with slow-smoked brisket with creamy Mac & Cheese, plus extras & add-ons – the sky’s the limit. Topper options include cabbage slaw, sliced cheddar cheese, add a rib, a variety of Dickey’s signature sauces (spicy, sweet, Texas Hot BBQ, buffalo hot sauce, Carolina BBQ etc.), onions, pickles, jalapeños, and even poblano queso.
Jacked Up Mac
At Innocent Yesterday in New York City, this is a creamy plant-based mac and cheese topped with smoky chipotle BBQ pulled jackfruit and beer-battered tempura onions. “This dish is everything you love about a summer barbecue packed into every bite. The richness of the mac n cheese is perfectly balanced by the jackfruit smothered in a tangy BBQ sauce with a chipotle kick and who doesn’t love crispy onions?” said Innocent Yesterday Executive Chef Allison Henriques.
Gnocchi Breakfast Carbonara
The Gnocchi Breakfast Carbonara at OEB Breakfast Co. in Newport Beach, California and Scottsdale, Arizona, has a richer consistency and is more decadent than your average mac and cheese or carbonara because of its rich and flavorful brown butter hollandaise sauce. This unique spin on mac and cheese incorporates double smoked bacon, grana padano, cracked black pepper, raw egg yolk and petite watercress to create a delicious brunch masterpiece! Founder and Chef, Mauro Martina says: “The Gnocchi Carbonara is made with all the ingredients that run through my veins and is inspired by my Italian heritage. I can envision my Nonna being proud to feed me this unique dish – it’s like a creamy, cheesy Italian Power Bowl for breakfast! It’s a beautiful thing when you can create such a delicious dish with minimal ingredients.”
Vegan and Gluten-Free Mac & Cheese
At Pure Grit BBQ in New York City, this is a vegan take on mac & cheese with shiitake bacon and almond parmesan. Head Chef Emily Hersh says: “Let’s be honest: when you think of great mac and cheese you don’t often think vegan and gluten-free. It all started with the perfect gluten-free pasta: It took lots of trial and error, but eventually, we landed with Jovial elbows. These little guys provide the right amount of structure while acting as a perfect vehicle for our house-made mac sauce. Now, most importantly, the mac sauce: it’s made from roasted and caramelized butternut squash and cauliflower. Other big players include miso, nutritional yeast, and Earth Balance butter. We blend everything together until it’s creamy and cheesy. Finally, we make sure that every bite of our mac includes crispy shiitake bacon and almond parmesan.”
Chipotle Lobster Mac & Cheese
At Azul Mariscos in Chicago, this play on a traditional mac and cheese has chipotle cream sauce, chihuahua cheese, and cavatappi pasta. “People think seafood and cheese shouldn’t go together, but anyone who tried our lobster chipotle mac & cheese would disagree. Its rich, creamy, cheese, a little bit spicy, and decadent,” said Executive Chef Michael Hernandez.
Hot Chicken Mac & Cheese
At The Stillery in Nashville, this dish is made with cavatappi and house cheese sauce, baked with buttery breadcrumbs “Our famous Hot Chicken Mac & Cheese is comprised of cavatappi pasta, a super-rich and creamy house-made cheese sauce topped with buttery breadcrumbs. The mac & cheese is baked in a cast iron skillet and served topped with our Nashville hot chicken. The crispy, spicy hot chicken pairs excellently with the creamy mac & cheese,” said Steve Sargent, partner and co-founder.
Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese
At Fool’s Errand in Milwaukee, locally sourced smoked gouda, among a mix of other local Wisconsin cheeses, creates a thick, creamy cheese sauce served with radiatore noodles.”In Wisconsin, there’s no such thing as a plain ol’ boring mac and cheese. Our Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese is an elevated spin on your classic Wisconsin Mac, but still sparks that same nostalgia factor,” said chef and co-owner, Dan Jacobs.
Crab Macaroni and Cheese
At Café One Eleven inside of Agua Caliente Cathedral City, the Crab Macaroni and Cheese is a special for National Mac and Cheese Day that includes Dungeness crab, roasted pasilla chiles and herbed bread crumbs. “This is no kids’ mac and cheese – it’s an adult mac and cheese! I wanted to take the classic American mac and cheese dish and elevate it to an even heartier, protein-packed meal. It starts with the classic mac and cheese base and is enriched with a unique combination of flavorful ingredients. The crab gives it a nice texture and rich flavor profile, while the roasted pasilla chiles and herbed bread crumbs add even more texture and uniqueness to this dish,” said Executive Chef Jonathan Wiener.
Lobster Mac & Cheese
At STK Steakhouse, this is rich and creamy mac and cheese packed with large chunks of tender cold water lobster. “While a special blend of cheeses offers a creamy, melty texture that you expect from mac & cheese and large chunks of lobster offer paramount decadence, it’s the rich bisque that we make from the shells of the lobsters and incorporate into the dish that take it to remarkable culinary heights,” said Vincent Menager, Vice President of Culinary at The ONE Group.
Truffle Mac N Cheese
At BOA Steakhouse in Los Angeles, a 3-cheese blend of white cheddar, provolone and Gruyère tossed with a light cream sauce, truffle purée, white truffle oil and topped with toasted panko bread crumbs, parmesan, garnished and fresh truffles. “Creamy and decadent, you can never go wrong with our Truffle Mac N Cheese. We use a 3-cheese blend of white cheddar, provolone and gruyère tossed with a light cream sauce. To add a bit more decadence, we add a truffle purée, white truffle oil and top it with toasted Panko bread crumbs, parmesan and garnish it with fresh truffles for the ultimate indulgence,” says BOA Steakhouse Santa Monica Executive Chef Dana Dare.
Six Cheese Mac
At Juniper in Westbury, New York, this dish starts with a base of garlic and black pepper infused heavy cream. Chef then incorporates six unique cheeses, including a sharp English Cotswold cheddar, a mild sheep milk cheese from the Pyrenees Mountains, and a smoked Tuscan Pecorino. The cheese sauce is then folded into the pasta, which is Cavatappi shaped and topped with a parsley and lemon flavored breadcrumbs. It’s then baked until the crumbs brown and the cheese is bubbling. “The inspiration behind this Mac was the beautiful artisanal cheese plates I experienced in my travels across Europe,” said Juniper Executive Chef Chris D’Ambrosio.
24K Gold Hot Chicken Finger with Mac & Cheese Pizza
At Macy’s Place Pizzeria in Cheektowaga (Buffalo), New York, the extravagant pizza is made with from-scratch mac & cheese (mozzarella, sharp cheddar, queso and shredded parmigiana) along with Buffalo style chicken fingers. “The pizza was a huge hit during most of the COVID-19 lockdown, when people were at home and craving something different. Macy’s Place is known for our eccentric and unique pizzas, and we were creating some fun topping combos during that time. The inspiration for this pizza came from when I was a teenager, eating mac & cheese and chicken fingers after school, mixed up with some hot sauce. It was definitely my go-to from childhood and made for a nostalgic comfort food in 2020. Now it remains one of our top sellers,” said Nick Argy.
Lobster Mac & Cheese Fries
What The Fries in Charlotte, North Carolina has Lobster Mac & Cheese Fries on the menu every day. It’s made with real lobster chunks, conchiglie pasta with scratch-made Boursin cheese sauce, Gouda cheese, Asiago cheese and parsley on a bed of hand-cut fries.
Mac & Greens
At Patti Ann’s in Brooklyn, Mac & Greens is a lighter and healthier take on a beloved mac, with noodles and sautéed greens doused in a creamy bechamel made with raclette and pureed rutabaga.
Vegan Truffle Mac & Cheese
At Serendipity3 in New York City, they blanche their cavatappi pasta to perfection and then create a vegan truffle cream and mix it with vegan mozzarella. They combine the cavatappi with creamy cheese sauce and top it with more mozzarella and brulee till golden. It is then finished with Urbani Black Truffle oil.
At B Live in Arlington, Virginia, this omelette is made with bacon, chives, and mac & cheese. This omelette is all about indulgence! “The mix of bacon, cheese, egg & macaroni is my breakfast take on a classic Carbonara Pasta,” said Chef Juan “Nacho” Olivera. “I love the way this dish combines my love and background in Italian cooking with the restaurant’s upscale, American menu. The Mac + Cheese is certainly unexpected in an omelette, but the flavors compliment each other perfectly and are unlike anything else you’ll find on other brunch menus.”
Leave a Reply