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?

14 comments:

gautami tripathy said...

Delhi is famous for street foods. One finds the best of food in the lanes and by lanes. Those are fresh, piping hot and do not cost a fortune.

There is a barbeque behind Jama Masjid. Some big hotels are known to order food from there and sell it at exorbitant prices.

That made hungry. Michele says hello too.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Michele sent me today!

I really like the idea of a neat experience instead of cash for good grades; I'll have to remember that one.

As for an upscale version of a classic... We have a fantastic brew pub near us that used to be a church. They serve a buffaloaf that's to die for. Yep, buffalo meatloaf.

Now I'm hungry...

Belizegial said...

In my little corner of the tropics, we are famous for seafood dishes which include lobster, crab, fillet king grouper and conch.

I'm sure you'd find something to love at one of our many and varied restaurants found here and there.

Michele said to tell you good morning...

Enid

TBG said...

Not just gourmet, yello... they've got their own restaurants:

Daughter and I ate at S'Mac in the East Village in April. Then we visited Supermac, in June, but the hoity-toity people we were with that day wanted wine and an actual table with their lunch and if you've seen Supermac, you'd know that wasn't possible.

We loved S'mac; they serve an unlimited number of choices of mac 'n cheese in a personal-sized cast-iron skillet with or without bread crumbs. We can't wait to give Supermac a try on our next visit to NYC.

craziequeen said...

The only version we get of mac 'n' cheese in the UK is pasta with cheese sauce - usually called something posh in Italian.

But pasta 'n' cheese is one of my fave meals when MB is away and I'm cooking for one :-)

Michele sent me to say hello, yellojkt.

cq

Adouble said...

There are a bunch of comfort-food-oriented restaurants in NYC. I assume they are target marketed at all the trust-fund 20-somethings looking for a warm hug since things are so much different here than Ohio. And thus, a rich hipster and his $20 are soon parted.

It's funny that you name-check Stella Artois as a hoity-toity beer. In England it's nickname "wife beater" and as far as I can tell is the cultural equivalent of PBR in the US. But I guess their ad company spun it right when it came over here and it became classy.

yellojkt said...

I friend went to Greece a couple of years ago and Bud was sold for five bucks a bottle as a premium import.

Leigh in Atlanta said...

wow...that soiunds amazing

michele sent me to tell you so

Mooselet said...

I was floored when Choice magazine (the Aussie version of Consumer Reports) rated Budweiser highly, with a score of 15.5 out of 20. WTH??? Stella Artois rated a 15. I don't get it, but then again I don't drink beer.

Some of the hip restaurants here charge over $8.00 for a side of hot chips (steak fries). Bit steep for me.

DemetriosX said...

Are you sure that was American Bud? Don't forget, there's a Czech beer called Budweiser which is the original. It comes from Budějovice (German Budweis) and is a fairly standard central European Pilsner.

Cedar said...

abouble--I was under the impression that trust kids were more or less from New York. I grew up in the midwest, and the kids I thought were SOOOO RICH when I was younger I realize now were just upper middle class.

Adouble said...

Cedar -- fair enough point, but a lot of those kids used to live in certain areas of Manhattan (e.g. UES, UWS) and are now everywhere. Without going off on to a total tangent, I'll just point out the previously mentioned S'Macs is in a neighborhood that 20 years ago was far better known for crack than comfort food.

Needles said...

I have an entire cookbook devoted to mac and cheese. I'm glad to see that you've choosen your favourite as the one with the gruyere cheese topping. Of the 3 versions from that cookbook, the one with the gruyere is the winner. So far.

Its hard to believe that asort of stinky cheese can taste so good...

Anonymous said...

Try Fred's on the UWS:
http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&safe=active&um=1&q=fred's&near=New+York,+NY&fb=1&view=text&latlng=40785644,-73976509,8487935280904739267

I think they're mac and cheese is one of the best.