If there is one thing in this world that I love, it has got to be mac ’n’ cheese. I can’t get enough of the cheesy pasta comfort food. I think it reminds me of my childhood when my grandpa would cook Kraft mac ’n’ cheese consistently, and it became a sort of ritual in my humble home. In my early adolescence, I rebelled against this classic dish; I had had just one too many platefuls and felt the need to cut it out of my life. But since leaving home, I have longed for that sense of comfort that I used to get out of my meals cooked by my grandpa. These nights get lonely, so what better way to fill the void than with a nice helping of mac ’n’ cheese? If you are like me in your search for home-cooked comfort, then here are some local restaurants that you must try if you want to relive those glory days of childhood.
A few key points I want to mention about my mac ’n’ cheese expertise are that when I bite into mac ’n’ cheese, I seek a rich, cheesy texture, a thin yet sturdy noodle and a little kick of heat. Originality is also a huge bonus for me. Fresh flavors are what make it classy and inspired.
1. Buddha Bowls’ Mac Daddy
This particular meal is only for the empty-stomached. I was not prepared for the amount of food presented before me but I never back down from a challenge. Buddha Bowls presented me with a hefty serving of mac ’n’ cheese so gloriously nestled inside a hollowed-out sourdough bowl. It is normally served with bacon bits but I opted for tomatoes. My bread bowl was stuffed with a ton of macaroni, topped with tomatoes, an extra layer of mozzarella and cheddar and a splash of Tapatio Hot Sauce — talk about a carb and salt overload! My first bite was pretty amazing. Thinking back now, I realize that they must rely on the bacon to provide most of the general flavor which was absent from my dish. However, the tomatoes added a nice fresh bite that was desperately needed to break up the heavy starches I was consuming.
Because it is was cooked like a typical Buddha bowl, the cheese was not very creamy, but this coagulated Mac Daddy was able to be consumed like a sandwich without falling apart. I managed to eat the whole thing, but I will never eat again; I’m so full.
2. Kaptain’s Firehouse BBQ Late Night Mac ’n’ Cheese
I feel as though my diet restrictions really hindered my experience here because, apparently, the pulled pork mac ’n’ cheese is heavenly. I still felt this one needed to be included on my tour de fromage. I tried the jalapeno mac and attempted sweet-talking my way into getting some tater tots thrown in the mix, but they are exclusive to the animal mac ’n’ cheese. This fact made me cry a little, as my Irish blood longed for those sweet spuds. It is unfortunate, too, because this macaroni dish checked all my boxes. It had an incredible kick. Because it was prepared fresh, the cheese was creamy and the noodles were excellent, but the dish became monotonous, and I felt like those tots could have completed the dish, sending me to pasta heaven.
Overall, the dish was perfect comfort food; the heat from the jalapenos warmed from within and the creamy pasta goodness was apparent in every bite. I highly recommend going here, and if you are a meat-eater, do what my vegetarianism did not allow me to and order the animal mac so I can live vicariously through you.
3. Velvet Jones Mac ’n’ Cheese After Dark
Although the location is out of our little Isla Vista, Velvet Jones, normally a bar and lounge, offers a supplementary service Thursday through Saturday called Mac ’n’ Cheese After Dark. I found this haven a while back and have been making ventures out to State St. frequently ever since to get my fix. The menu is simple enough. A small or large mac ’n’ cheese comes with optional toppings of bacon bits, basil, tomato or jalapenos. You can also, for an additional charge, go animal style and add tater tots or BBQ chicken. The macaroni is all premade, so it isn’t nearly as gooey as it could be, but the numerous toppings really compose it into a beautiful dish. Of course, the tater tots are essential to the experience and are nestled at the bottom as a sort of secret to be divulged later. Needless to say I am a bit obsessed with this concoction, and if you happen to make your way downtown late at night, make sure to experience Velvet Jones Mac ’n’ Cheese After Dark.
Mac ’n’ cheese is just one of those quintessential dishes that just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Whether served in a bread bowl, covered in pulled pork or served with tater tots, mac ’n’ cheese just has that special something to satisfy everyone.