Truffle oil is one of those polarizing ingredients that people either love or hate. If you love it, then the delicately white truffle oil–accented macaroni and cheese at 60 Degrees Mastercrafted is just for you. For added texture, small, crispy croutons are strewn throughout the ziti, which wonderfully captures the abundant cheese sauce.
Glass Wall owner Shepard Ross’s bacon-studded Cracklin’ Mac & Cheese contains crispy pork chunks that are so thick, he could have called this “Lardon Mac & Cheese.” The dish is spectacular. And don’t miss the great version at sister restaurant Brooklyn Athletic Club, which features braised short ribs.
Yes, there is a local restaurant chain that specializes in macaroni and cheese—if you’re an aficionado and you haven’t been there, correct course immediately. Jus’ Mac’s base macaroni and cheese recipe is rather mild, so we recommend trying one of the creative recipes from the “Radical” section of the menu. Get the Buffalo chicken iteration—the hot sauce works extremely well with the mac—or the Cheese and Chong, which features a surprisingly sophisticated blend of French fried onions, chicken, pesto, and mushrooms.
What could be more decadent than macaroni and cheese with lobster? Kata Robata takes half of a whole lobster, cuts out the meat, mixes it with the pasta and sauce, and adorns the dish with the bright red shell for dramatic effect. This dish should be the star of your meal, rather than relegated to the side.
Liberty Kitchen’s owners must really, really love macaroni and cheese, because the menu features four types. In addition to aged cheddar and lobster varieties, as well as a rotating daily special, there’s an over-the-top offering called Gulf–Hill Country mac and cheese, a Cajun-influenced surf-and-turf interpretation with cheddar, shrimp, sausage, bacon, chiles, and onion. Be warned, though: you’ll need help finishing it unless you’re completely starving.
Max’s serves one of the most luxurious, flavorful macaroni and cheeses in Houston, with a blend of provolone, Gruyére, and Parmesan seasoned with lots of black pepper. The cavatappi’s curly shape is perfect for holding onto the rich sauce.
A single bite, and you’ll be left wondering how Oceanaire got so much cheesy flavor into one dish. The secret: smoky Gouda. For added texture and interest, Oceanaire mixes in bacon and jalapeño, tops its mac and cheese with breadcrumbs, and uses both regular semolina and red-hued tomato pastas. It’s not listed on the menu, but you can add lobster meat for an additional charge.
If over-the-top macaroni and cheese dishes aren’t your thing, try the simple country-style version at Punk’s. It’s an old-fashioned, creamy dish with no fancy additions, just American cheese and sharp Cheddar, and goes well alongside the excellent fried chicken.
Shade is a restrained, elegant restaurant, and its bacon mac and cheese follows suit, satisfying without going over the top. There’s plenty of bacon to go around, but it doesn’t take over. Chopped green onion gives the dish color and a pop of freshness. It’s a treat, yet the reasonable portion size won’t leave you feeling like you broke the calorie bank.
If you’re going to serve some of the best steaks in Houston, you’d better serve macaroni and cheese that is worthy of the meat. Vic & Anthony’s has never failed in this capacity. Its version, made with cavatappi, features a light dusting of bread crumbs in a rich sauce of white and yellow cheddars. Pro tip: if you want to be decadent, add lobster for $14.
What to Drink with Mac and Cheese
Sommelier David Keck of Montrose wine bar Camerata says you need a wine with high acidity to cut through the creaminess and fat of mac and cheese. Try a Chenin Blanc from Loire Valley, go for the bubbles, or break out an earthy Champagne, which helps with weighty additions like bacon. For beer, choose a saison. Its funky, spicy, citrusy character balances flavors rather than letting them get lost.