Pass the Mac
7 Spots for This Cheesy Favorite
Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food: warm, rich, cheesy, creamy and buttery. It’s a staple in American kitchens as a traditional home-cooked favorite for kids, and a beloved cheat day meal for adults.
Elevating a mac and cheese from the Kraft “blue box” version to the savory marriage of noodles and cheese takes extra finesse at the stove. Valerie Phillips, a Utah-based cookbook author (“Soup’s On!”) and former Deseret News food writer says there are four elements that make a great mac and cheese.
“First, the pasta needs to be tender, but with a little bite to it, not soggy,” Phillips says. “Second, the cheese needs to have a lot of flavor, like sharp cheddar, maybe with a little parmesan or Asiago. Third, the sauce should be lush and creamy. And fourth, I always love a crunchy topping of toasted buttered bread crumbs, so you have that contrast of the crunchy topping and creamy sauce.”
More restaurants in the Mountain West are serving mac and cheese with creative modifications: bathing noodles in gourmet cheeses, topping the sauce with savory meat or blanketing the pasta in a sandwich. Here are seven tried-and-true best places to order a delicious mac and cheese.
BBQ4LIFE got its start in Boise as a food truck and still serves its peppery mac and cheese one of two ways: as a side or layered inside a sandwich. Rated the best mac and cheese in Idaho by Southern Living magazine, the barbecue joint cooks either the traditional dairy version of mac and cheese or a modern vegan mac and cheese made with a plant-based cheese substitute.
Mac and cheese has its own section on the menu at Blū, which is known for its varied offerings with inventive flavor combinations. Diners can nosh on a simple white mac and cheese main dish or try one of the restaurant’s three unique mac and cheese offerings such as buffalo (buffalo chicken and blue cheese crumbles), blackened (blackened shrimp and lime) or Santa Maria (slices of tri-tip and breaded jalapeno peppers).
Located a block from Jackson Hole’s Town Square in a historic log cabin, Cafe Genevieve’s southern-inspired, home-cooked meals include a mac and cheese side that is a local favorite. The recipe includes Louisiana hot sauce, which gives the pasta’s white cheddar cheese sauce a spicy punch.
At the appropriately named Cravings Bistro, two cheesy favorites combine: a grilled cheese sandwich and mac and cheese. The guilty pleasure sandwich is filled with a homemade four-cheese macaroni, shredded pot roast, sweet barbecue sauce, and topped with more cheddar cheese.
Eva’s Bakery (named after the chef/owner’s great grandmother) serves a three-cheese mac and cheese with roasted mushrooms and house-made pancetta. The quaint café and boulangerie is easy to spot with its bread-lined shelves and bright blue storefront.
The delectable Grandma Claire’s Mac and Cheese at cozy Ruth’s Diner in Emigration Canyon doesn’t skimp on cheese. The pasta is served as a side with steak or meatloaf, but the dish really delivers as the main course, where the mac and cheese is served with veggies and your choice of chicken, shrimp or pulled pork.