America's Best Macaroni and Cheese Gallery
America's Best Macaroni and Cheese
Macaroni and cheese is one of those perfect foods. Whether made with powder from a packet or a combination of five cheeses and béchamel sauce, it’s nearly impossible to dislike. In recent years, mac and cheese has become a staple of restaurants ranging from barbecue joints to bistros, and we’ve tracked down the 10 best examples in America.
#10 Cochon Butcher, New Orleans
The next-door offshoot of chef Donald Link’s renowned Cochon, this hybrid butcher and sandwich shop serves some stunning macaroni and cheese. Sharp white Cheddar, cream cheese, and tomato paste serves as the foundation for their version, which is mixed with elbow macaroni and diced house-cured pancetta before being topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano and bread crumbs.
#9 Queens Comfort, Queens, N.Y.
Walk into the fun and quirky Queens Comfort (which specializes in — what else? — comfort food) and look around, and you’ll notice that just about every table is enjoying an order or two of macaroni and cheese. They offer six varieties of macaroni and cheese (including a deep-fried version with sriracha and ranch and another with pulled pork and shoestring onions), but the best place to start is with the classic: It’s made with elbow macaroni, fontina, Cabot Cheddar, and aged gouda, and is served in a giant portion with a brown, crunchy, and bubbly crust.
#8 Slows Bar-B-Q, Detroit
This classic side dish is elevated to new heights at this trendy Detroit barbecue joint. Shells are combined with a sauce made primarily with béchamel and mild Cheddar, and, as a finishing touch, more grated Cheddar is broiled on top. It’s rich, creamy, and insanely addictive.
#7 Little Bird Bistro, Portland, Ore.
Chef Gabriel Rucker knows his cheese, and each gratin dish that leaves his kitchen at Portland’s celebrated Little Bird is a head-turner. Small elbow macaroni is mixed with béchamel, white Tillamook Cheddar, Gruyère, and an ever-changing third cheese. Every time you visit, the dish will be slightly different, but still ridiculously tasty.
#6 Cheesetique, Arlington and Alexandria, Va.
At this Northern Virginia cheese shop and wine bar, owner Jill Erber uses macaroni and cheese as a way to showcase some of the cheeses she has on offer. Ramekins are filled with elbow macaroni mixed with a combination of asiago, goat gouda, and cacio di Roma, then topped with breadcrumbs and a hit of truffle oil before getting a blast in the broiler. The mix of cheeses (plus the not-unwelcome truffle essence) makes for a comforting and homey final product.
#5 Crave Kitchen & Cocktails, Mount Pleasant, S. Car.
The “secret ingredient” in Crave executive chef Landen Ganstrom’s legendary macaroni and cheese may be a mystery, but the creamy, tangy, gooey result of a combination of ten year-aged California Cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and mozzarella is insanely delicious, helped along by the genius decision to replace macaroni with chewy corkscrew-shaped cavatappi. You can top your mac with your choice of pulled pork, lobster, bacon, broccoli, chicken, scallops, shrimp, or short ribs, but we suggest keeping it unadorned.
#4 Yardbird, Miami
Five cheeses go into this Miami hotspot’s super-popular macaroni and cheese: Grayson, Swiss, Cheddar, red Leicester, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Combined into a creamy sauce and tossed with a spiral-shaped pasta called torchio, it’s topped with bread crumbs and chives before being served in a heaping baking dish. Unique, creative, and delicious, this mac and cheese hits all the right marks.
#3 Murray’s Cheese Bar, New York
If there’s one thing that the chefs at Murray’s Cheese Bar, the restaurant offshoot of one of the country’s most famous cheese shops, know, it’s cheese. And the macaroni and cheese that they devised to be the flagship dish (they’ve tweaked it a couple times since opening) is worthy of the heaps of praise that have been lavished upon it. Spring Brook Reading lends creaminess, Comté adds nuttiness, Irish Cheddar gives it a subtle tang, and a heap of fried onions on top elevate it into the stratosphere.
#2 Blue Plate, San Francisco
The macaroni and cheese at chef Cory Obenour’s Blue Plate was created more than ten years ago and is still one of the most popular menu items. The secret ingredient? Semi-firm drunken goat cheese, from Murcia, Spain, which is cured in red wine. When combined with elbow macaroni, white Cheddar, Tabasco, nutmeg, Worcestershire sauce, and dry mustard, the finished product is creamy, tangy, a little spicy, and worthy of cultish devotion.
#1 Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Seattle and New York
It has locations in Seattle’s Pike Place Market and New York’s Flatiron District, so cheese lovers on both coasts can experience this delicious and legendary macaroni and cheese. It’s made with penne and two of the cheeses that the restaurant-cum-cheese producer make themselves: Beecher’s 15 month-aged Flagship Cheddar and Just Jack. Chipotle and garlic powder lend a little smoky spice, and the finished product lives up to every expectation you might have from a shop that dares to call its mac and cheese the “World’s Best.” This simple and elegant macaroni and cheese is flawless, and truly is the best in America. And, luckily for you, they’ve been generous enough to post the recipe online.