Thursday, June 30, 2011

Portland's Best: Mac n' Cheese

This week, my boyfriend Ben made mac and cheese for dinner (as seen above). Not the Kraft powdered stuff, but real, home-style macaroni and cheese. There was heavy cream, flour for thickening, so much butter it’s best I not disclose the actual amount, three kinds of delicious cheeses, and homemade bread crumbs to top it all off. Mmm, mmm, mmm.
As I greedily slurped down the cheesy goodness,* I couldn’t help but reflect on the joy brought by something as seemingly small as this homemade comfort food. It’s so familiar; I kept thinking about my mother’s old kitchen in South Portland and suddenly I was ten again, sitting at the table with my favorite cheesy meal. And while it brings us back to our childhood memories of home cooking, it can also be constantly reinvented. Add a new ingredient and you’ve got a whole different twist. The possibilities are endless. The more I thought about mac and cheese, the more I sympathized for all the people I know who don’t have a Ben to cook them this miraculous meal whenever the craving strikes (and this particular craving strikes a lot at my apartment).
*I’m one of those unfortunate souls who never learned how to properly eat meals…I sort of just inhale everything in front of me and ignore any effort of conversation made by whichever poor fool happens to be sharing the meal with me.
Then, I remembered three things: 1) I’m in Portland, 2) we have almost* more restaurants per capita than any other city, and 3) many of these restaurants have incredible home-style mac and cheese ready for the ordering. So, I racked my brain and thought about all my favorite mac and cheese hot spots in Portland, and as a result, we now have this post. So next time you’re craving some home-style mac, you may not have to wait until laundry night at your mom’s house; just saunter down to some of these restaurants and get your fix. A cool thing about these mac and cheese dishes: they’re typically not too expensive. You can satiate this craving without ruining your credit.
*supposedly San Francisco is in the number one spot, but maybe they just have better PR than we do.
1) Hot Suppa—Located at 703 Congress Street, this small but very popular restaurant serves up hands down one of the BEST macaroni and cheese dishes I’ve ever had in Portland. It’s offered as an entrée at lunch or as a side all day. The lunch serving is HUGE, so if you’re a normal person who doesn’t stuff themselves silly like I do when I go out to eat, you’ll most likely have some leftovers. It also comes with a side (I like to go for the creamy tomato soup).  And here’s the real kicker: it’s topped with grilled kielbasa. Meat lovers, rejoice! * Hot Suppa also uses local goods whenever possible and their mac and cheese is no exception—this particular cheesy goodness can partly be attributed to the Pineland Farms Maine cheddar used in the recipe. All in all, getting your homemade fix will only run you about 9 bucks. And given the quality and the quantity of this mac and cheese, I’d say it’s well worth it!
*If you’re a vegetarian, you can definitely ask them to hold the kielbasa.
2) Great Lost Bear-While I normally go to this Forest Avenue beer oasis for their draught selection (over 50 taps!), they also have one heck of a mac and cheese. It’s so good, it’s listed not once, but four times on their menu. They claim to have the best mac and cheese in town; I say the competition is stiff, but GLB’s mac is definitely up there. The portion is smaller than Hot Suppa, but I like to get it as a side and split it with someone too dumb to realize I don’t share food well…or at all. It’s also a good lunch option—and at only $6.99, your wallet leaves happy, too. Get it with the buffalo chicken for only a dollar more. Match this cheesy delight with one of the 50+ delicious microbrews and I’d say you’ve got a darn good night.
3) District-I tried their mac and cheese for the first time this past weekend, and I am pretty excited about it. It’s served as a side, and while I think mac and cheese goes well with just about everything, it pairs nicely with your steak or chicken entrée. Aside from being creamy and just generally delicious, Distrct serves up the traditional staple with a delightful twist: bacon! As evidenced by my Hot Suppa mention, I am very pro mac and meat. So if you share my feelings on this one, next time you get that cheese/bacon yen, head to District on Danforth Street. Their chicken wings are also amazing, but we’ll leave that for another day, another post…
4) Bayside Bowl- I love this venue for many reasons: bowling+bar+karaoke=a happy girl. Adding mac and cheese to the mix should be illegal. The best thing about Bayside’s mac and cheese is the topping options. They give you the same topping choices as their pizzas; you can mix and match with 20 different toppings! If I’m remembering my high school math correctly,* the number of possible combinations is so high, my iphone calculator displays it like this: 20! = 2.43290201 x 1018. That’s a lot of mac and cheese. If you’re a “just cheese” type, this meal will only run you about $7. It’s $1 for every additional topping. Choose wisely.
*I’m not
Before I sign off, I want to throw an honorable mention out there: I have heard The Corner Room has amazing baked mac and cheese with truffle oil. As I’ve never sampled their dish, nor did I see it on their online menu, I did not want to lead anyone astray. However, if they are still serving it, do it up and let me know! It sounds amazing. Furthermore, if I left out any of your favorite mac and cheese spots, leave a comment! If there’s mac and cheese, I will go!
Until next time…


  1. Gritty's has a nice Mac n Cheese. I plan to run to these other places per your recommendation! I don't share well either!

  2. Gritty's has a nice Mac n Cheese. I plan to run to these other places per your recommendation! I don't share well either!