Macaroni and cheese has come a long way from the blue box your mom used to make on Friday night. Gourmet varieties all over town have elevated the comfort classic to new heights with the additions of ingredients like pork belly, green chiles, and even Brussels sprouts.
From downtown to Paradise Valley, here are 10 of our favorite mac 'n' cheese dishes in metro Phoenix.
District American Kitchen and Wine Bar at the Sheraton Grand Hotel
District's mac 'n' cheese is a simple, straightforward dish made worthwhile by a few notable additions. First is the Schreiner's beer hots sausage, tucked in the gooey Oregon cheese sauce and adding a spicy kick to every bite. The second is the playful layer of Cheez-It dust sprinkled on top. A cheese dish combined with everyone's favorite cheese snack? We'll take it. Priced regularly at $10, District's mac is only $9 before noon, and $5 during happy hour.
Coronado's longstanding neighborhood eatery, Tuck Shop, offers an upscale mac 'n' cheese on its seasonal menus. Made with house-cured bacon and herbed breadcrumbs, the macaroni is rich and filling. Enjoy it at the bar with one of Tuck's house cocktails or as a starter during a date in the romantic dining room. Want to take it up a notch? Tuck Shop's mac 'n' cheese costs $11, but you can add lobstah (that's real lobster for you non-East Coasters) for $6 more.
Lux is the quintessential morning-to-night hangout in Central Phoenix. Start your day with a cup of joe and finish with a cocktail from the bar, but be sure to make time for a serving of the restaurant's famous mac 'n' cheese, too. Lusciously creamy and with an added layer of melted cheddar cheese on top, Lux's staple snack is baked and served in an oversize coffee mug. Priced at $5, you can add jalapeños and bacon for an additional $1 each. We recommend doing both, but just be careful not to spill any mac on your Mac.
We might not have imagined that a side of mac 'n' cheese would be a menu standout dish, but Windsor in Central Phoenix manages to do just that. The $4 serving comes packed with a surprising amount of flavor. Salty, cheesy, and crunchy from a coating of crispy breadcrumbs, the uptown gem's mac 'n' cheese makes a great snack in its own right. Pair it with a beer at the bar or add it to your entrée during a sunny afternoon on the patio.
The Main Ingredient
Who knew macaroni baked in a sheet pan could be so good? Mindy's Mac & Cheese ($8) at The Main Ingredient comes sliced and steaming with a side of toasted bread. The addition of mild green chiles adds a subtle but satisfying kick to the dish, and the generous layer of baked cheddar on top makes Mindy's Mac a for a cheesy and delicious meal.
We're here to introduce the newest culinary odd couple in town — mac 'n' cheese and Brussels sprouts. Welcome Diner manages to bring the duo together in a uniquely delicious combination. Without a hint of bitterness, the sprouts add a nuttiness to the dish, while also lending an extra oomph of texture and density. Better still, we almost don't feel bad gorging on macaroni and cheese when there are vegetables involved. When one takes into account the deliciously charred top, Welcome Diner's creation is certainly one to go back for time and again.
Southern Rail's menu is what would happen if comfort food dressed up and went to church, so naturally the restaurant's mac 'n' cheese ($7) is a buttoned-up version of our favorite childhood meal. The creamy cheese is anything but bland, and Southern Rail's "pigtail pasta" is perfectly al dente and sturdy. The additional spices and cornbread crumble round out the mac 'n' cheese into a well-balanced, flavorful dish that almost makes us forget we're eating what technically amounts to a guilty pleasure food.
Normally, we bristle any time Guy Fieri stamps his seal of approval on a local dish we love, but we'll make an exception for the mac 'n' cheese muffins ($9) from The Duce. Rolled into bite-sized balls, lightly fried, and dusted with Parmesan cheese, the mac 'n' cheese muffins come in a little basket that makes their comparison to muffins readily apparent. Though they're not quite suited for eating with our hands, we did it anyway while enjoying brunch on the Duce's patio.
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Lon's at the Hermosa
Mac from Lon's at the Hermosa is as refined as macaroni and cheese might ever get. Made with truffle goat cheese, the dish is light, slightly tart, and easier on the cream than many of other versions. Though $13 may seem steep for macaroni and cheese, the goat cheese makes it a decadent treat. For $6 extra, you can also add grilled chicken or crisp house bacon for a little added protein to make it more of a meal.
Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles
We go to Lo-Lo's for the chicken and waffles and end up staying for the mac 'n' cheese. Like a home-cooked classic served up in a cozy eatery, Lo-Lo's mac 'n' cheese is creamy, rich, and comes with a heap of grilled shrimp, bacon, and onions. It's hearty in the best way possible, and good enough as a meal in its own right.