Sunday, August 12, 2007
Best Mac in New York
One of the great treats about visiting New York is getting to eat the many varied types and styles of foods. During my recent visit, I kept noticing one particular menu item coming up again and again: macaroni and cheese. This comfort food staple has gone gourmet. I ended up eating it three times in five meals. Here are how some of the Big Apple’s cheesy noodles stack up.
Spankys. Normally New York is not where you go for barbeque, but this Times Square mega-restaurant had some convenient features. It was quick, inexpensive, and located between our hotel and the theater for Les Miserables. Our expectations were low, but the food was consistently excellent. Their Royal Flush Platter contains chicken, brisket, pulled pork, sausage, corn bread and three sides. It was billed as big enough for two, but with a side order of sliders, it filled up our family which includes an always-hungry teenager. For one of our sides, we picked the mac and cheese. The waitress warned us that it had vegetables in it. We saw that as a bonus, not a minus. Sure enough, there were small flecks of broccoli in it. The taste was slightly sharp and the cheese was smooth and even.
BLT Steak. For an excellent report card, rather than paying out in cash, we take our son out for a steak dinner. We often combine the reward with one of our trips to New York. This time he picked BLT Steak, a modernist take on the traditional steakhouse. Owner Laurent Tourondel is a celebrity chef with unoriginal names for his bistros. His other places are BLT Prime, BLT Fish, BLT Market, and BLT Burger. Like most fancy steak places, the sides are ala carte and one of the specials that night was macaroni and cheese with truffle topping. The truffles were there to justify charging seventeen bucks for mac and cheese. Since it was a treat for my son, we sprung for it and split it. The mac and cheese was well done and the thinly sliced potato chip-sized truffles were plentiful, but I have to add truffles to the list of foods I Just Don’t Get. Let’s leave the fungi off the comfort food.
Dumont Burger. On our way out of town, we had planned to visit Coney Island, so we decided to have lunch in the trendy Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, the area that all the artists, musicians, and hipsters moved to when they couldn’t afford Greenwich Village or the Lower East Side anymore. Dumont Burger was a narrow hole in the wall with no tables. You can sit at the bar or at one of the three long counters. And despite the rough appearance, don’t mistake it for a dive. The beer list includes Stella Artois and several brands too hotty totty for me to recognize. I had to have the mac and cheese entrée. Their version was baked in a oversized oval dish and was made with radiatore (corkscrew) pasta in a bacon and cheddar sauce with a thick gruyere crust. Clearly the winner of my weekend tasting spree.
It goes to show that you don’t need to go to a fancy Manhattan restaurant to get a great variation of an American staple.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: Where have you found an upscale variation of a classic dish?