Ah, mac and cheese. Whether it comes from a blue box or your mother's oven, few childhood comforts can compare. These days, your cheesy noodle perfection can be customized with additions ranging from the gourmet (pancetta, panko bread crumbs, and lobster) to the not-so-gourmet (hot dogs, ketchup, and noodles shaped like cartoon characters). To commemorate the classic casserole, here's our list of the nine best mac and cheeses in metro Phoenix.
Cowboy Ciao The mac and cheese at Cowboy Ciao is anything but plain and simple. Known for delivering comfort foods outside the comfort zone, Cowboy Ciao's Truffled Mac and Cheese brings creamy truffle sauce, housemade potato chips, and chunks of pancetta. If that's too tame for your taste buds, the restaurant also offers a dinner alternative -- the Whack Mac and Cheese, featuring cavatappi noodles in a Brie, fontina, and béchamel sauce with rosemary, Spanish chorizo, and Cap'n Crunch-coated rock shrimp.
Lux Central The mac and cheese at Lux Central is a popular pick among hungry hipsters and the late-night study crowd. Offered up as is or with the addition of thick-cut bacon and freshly sliced jalapeños, this mac and cheese is more or less made and baked to order nearly all day, everyday till midnight. On rare occasions, you might also catch an appearance of the pesto mac and cheese with chicken, but like most offerings on the Lux menu its availability is sporadic and short-lived.
Zinc Bistro When Phoenix francophiles crave French cuisine, Zinc Bistro is usually a no-brainer. The North Scottsdale restaurant is known for offering full-flavored French food with American adaptations -- case in point, the mac and cheese side dish. Served in a rich creamy sauce with long thick strands of ham baked inside, this mac and cheese is well worth the drive and the calories.
Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe There's nothing pretentious about the mac and cheese at this soul food staple. This straightforward side dish is good for those in search of something more traditional -- no seasoned bread crumbs or fancy meats and cheeses here. Best of all, it pairs well with the foods that Mrs. White has truly made a name for like Southern fried chicken and smothered pork chops.
The Main Ingredient Ale House & Café Whether you're a regular or not, it's pretty easy to feel immediately at home at The Main Ingredient Ale House & Café, with its welcoming patio, generous beer list, and a homestyle helping of grub. Take the Mindy's Mac and Cheese -- a sizable wedge of XL noodles and cheddar cheese, packed with mild green chiles, then baked and served with a side of crunchy bread. It's a portion size only a mother would approve.
Windsor Trendy food meets equally trendy people at this Central Phoenix gastropub. With its rocking music playlist, craft cocktails, and twisted traditional dishes, it's easy enough to overlook one of the most mainstream menu items in the joint -- the mac and cheese. Contrary to its hip surroundings, the mac and cheese at Windsor is simple -- super-creamy, damn near runny, sauce-coated noodles topped with a light coating of bread crumbs and served in a tiny tin casserole dish. It's edible proof that some things never go out of style.
Roaring Fork The green chile mac and cheese at Roaring Fork is a perfect Southwestern spin on an American classic. Served in a small kettle that keeps the dish hot till the last bite, the green chile mac and cheese offers spinach-dyed noodles, a subtle but spicy cream sauce, and a generous topping of seasoned panko bread crumbs. And since it's green, we can only assume it's healthy, right?
Switch This contemporary Central restaurant lists its mac and cheese as a "kitchen speciality" with customizable options for the meat and seafood lover alike. Penne pasta is baked with three types of cheese, topped with Parmesan and bread crumbs, and it comes with your choice of adding either turkey, bacon, Canadian bacon, or lobster and crab. Think of it as the choose-your-own-adventure of mac and cheese.
Tuck Shop Literally tucked away in the historic Coronado district, this DJ Fernandes establishment offers a seasonal menu of eclectic comforts with several hearty favorites offered all year round, including the Times Mac and Cheese. This gourmet take on mac and cheese delivers crispy chunks of prosciutto, herbed bread crumbs, and the option of adding "lobstah." It's a dish that's meant for sharing but rarely ever is (not by us anyway).