I don’t clearly remember the first time I had macaroni and cheese. It’s just always been there. The first time I made mac ‘n’ cheese, my friends and I made it out of a box and we added Bac-O’s for flavor. It wasn’t very good, but it wasn’t bad either. Lesson learned: even bad mac ‘n’ cheese can be delicious.
It wasn’t until I was an adult and eating in restaurants that I realized how good a real baked shells and cheese could be. I became obsessed with finding down-home cheesy perfection.
Chat ‘N’ Chew, a downtown NYC staple, has one of my favorite basic baked versions. It’s not fancy, but you get a lot of it, and it hits that perfect blend of crispy topping, warm cheese and noodle-y goodness.
When I’m craving a taste of my Bac-O’s disaster, I indulge in Tipsy Parson‘s Mac ‘N’ Cheese with slab bacon. The smoky flavor perfectly slices through the sharp Vermont cheddar and delivers an extra protein punch.
More recently, the newly opened Little Cheese Pub has set my obsession on its head with rotating versions of the comfort classic. The Dutch Kas Mac has all the traditional elements, but the cheese is Gouda and it’s topped with beer pretzels. It’s exactly what mac ‘n’ cheese should taste like, but somehow better. They also have versions with Manchego and mozzarella cheese. It’s practically criminal.
Hungry yet? Try one of our chefs’ versions at home or tell us where the best mac ‘n’ cheese is in your town.