The GB Mac and Cheese Crawl
Today my eating partner and I set forth to determine the impossible; we ventured through the city to find Chicago’s best macaroni and cheese. As my arteries are only so wide, we tested just three locations. I acknowledge that there are more locations to add into the mix, but I really believe that the restaurants below should be included when grouping the best mac in the city.
Contenders: Cafe Selmarie, Stanley’s and Handlebar
Winner of GB Mac and Cheese Crawl: Handlebar
(Smoked Gouda Mac ‘n Cheese)
Location: 2311 W. North Avenue (North and Western)
Cost: $3.50 (side dish price)
– Simplicity: In this case, less is most definitely more. Just macaroni covered with a gouda cream sauce. No breadcrumbs, no baked cheese, just the basics. This dish tasted truly homemade, helping to reiterate the fact that mac and cheese is the epitome of comfort food.
– Cheese: Smoked gouda’s taste is distinct without being overpowering. Handlebar’s gouda sauce resembles an alfredo sauce. Believe it or not, going this route makes the dish feel lighter and fresher than baking the macaroni with cheese.
– Size: It’s a side dish, not a main. I wanted more. It gave me so much love.
Second Place: Cafe Selmarie
4729 N. Lincoln (Lincoln and Lawrence)
(Macaroni and Cheese)
Cost: $9.25 (entree size)
– Complexity of Taste: So this dish uses six cheeses (gruyere, swiss, white cheddar, queso rico, pecorino romano and bleu). You can detect each of those cheese while you’re working your way through the dish. Additionally, they put leeks in. It’s more subtle than an onion, but still provides added flavor.
– Texture: Selmarie bakes bread crumbs on top of each serving, which provides the right amount of crunch. The cheese does that thing where because the cheese is warm, it’s stringy between your mouth and the plate (this is a good thing, think “Cheese-y, Cheese-y from those old Little Caeser ads).
– Bottom of the Dish: The big issue was that there was a milky oil liquid at the bottom of the dish. I understand that’s a by-product of the cheese, but it was kind of gross.
Loser: Stanley’s Kitchen and Tap
(Toasted Macaroni & Cheese)
1970 N. Lincoln (Lincoln and Armitage)
Cost: $8.95 (entree size includes 1 side)
– Portion: It’s big. Like really big.
– Side Dish: The entree comes with a side. As we were at Stanley’s, we chose their famous tater tots and were not disappointed.
– Oil: There’s a whole lot of oil in this dish. When you have macaroni and cheese, you expect your cholesterol to rise a bit, but Stanley’s take on mac and cheese could send you to the ER. The level of oil and grease made the dish almost unappetizing to me. I bet this dish could cure a hangover in seconds.
– Bland: They use just one cheese, cheddar (granted there’s a whole lot of cheddar in the dish). Compared to the cheese profile at Selmarie and Handlebar, the taste was a bit pedestrian.