Along with grilled cheese and chicken noodle soup, Macaroni and Cheese is probably one the best comfort food inventions human kind has ever known. It is simple, yet it offers endless possibilities: from basic elbow macaroni and yellow cheddar to gourmet cheeses and added lobster. This is serious business and it all comes down to this crucial question: Where to go for the best Mac and Cheese when in need of comfort?
One of the first places that comes to mind is Burgoo. After all, this restaurant is known all around town for its comfort food menu. Some cannot stop raving about their creamy Mac and Cheese made of aged white cheddar and baked until golden brown while others think it does not live up to its reputation. A more complex version of the dish is the Macaroni and More which includes bacon, onion, thyme, peas and seasoned breadcrumbs. While this last option is not exactly cheap, it is filling and will leave you with a feeling of contentment.
Chances are the warm countryside ambiance at all four Burgoo locations will fill your heart with happiness. Everything from the wooden furniture to natural accents makes you feel comfortable as soon as you come in. The two Mac and Cheese dishes are also available as family take-out large enough to feed 10 to 15 people.
Four locations: Point Grey, Kitsilano, Mount Pleasant, North Vancouver
At Acme Cafe, you can enjoy your Mac and Cheese with a side of greens, which is not a bad thing since such a hearty dish can use some lighter bites in between. All in all, a good vegetarian option! For carnivores, bacon bits can be folded in the traditional Mac and Cheese topped with green onion and a crust of baked cheddar and breadcrumbs. Here too, the success of the dish is not unanimous. What does add to the experience is the display of mouth watering pies and pastries at the front of the restaurant: a nice set-up that makes you start mentally debating whether a lemon meringue pie or a chocolate cake will follow your Mac and Cheese. The charming cafe is located in a historic building on East Hastings and has a small number of seats. Take-out might be your only option when visiting during peak hours.
Location: 51 W Hastings St, Vancouver
The Mac Shack has taken the Macaroni and Cheese to the next level. While their classic version is a blend of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses with homemade cream sauce, the Kerrisdale restaurant has reinvented the popular pasta dish several times to come up with variations like Bacon and Cheeseburger, Lobster, Creamy Pesto Chicken, and the Brooklyn which includes slowly roasted beef brisket and blue cheese.
If none of the signature creations grabs your attention, you can build your own Mac and Cheese. You get to pick your pasta (white, whole wheat or gluten free quinoa pasta), your sauce (cream, tomato or rosé), and then you let your taste buds go crazy and choose from an array of cheeses, veggies, meat and seafood types, and seasoning. All dishes can be made gluten free and vegan. The fast food style (pay at the counter and seat yourself concept) and the food itself can disappoint. The decor is simple and cozy, there is plenty of seating and the staff is friendly. This spot is popular amongst families and high school students hungry for an afternoon snack.
Location: 5395 West Blvd, Vancouver
One of the new kids on the block in the Vancouver food truck scene, Reel Mac and Cheese cooks up gourmet Mac and Cheese all tied in a movie themed menu. Creativity is definitely not something they are lacking with dishes like the Slumdog Millionnaire seasoned with mild curry, peas, and crispy onion, the Run fat boy Run — a deep fried version of the classic Mac and Cheese — and the Godzilla dressed with all things Japanese. For sleepless nights or hangovers, you may want to try the Breakfast Club: your traditional Mac and Cheese with an egg. Seven cheeses, real butter and whole milk make the rich dish. Despite that high fat content, its creaminess is debatable.
Reel Mac and Cheese’s followers on Twitter can find out about the movie title that should be mentioned when ordering at the window to get discounts or a free pop. The food truck first visited the festival crowds in Surrey, Cloverdale and New Westminster but you will most likely find it parked downtown Vancouver on Hamilton street on weekdays this summer.
Follow them online to find out about their location.
Too bland, too hearty, too watery, too much going on, overcooked, not warm enough, not gooey cheesy, not creamy: achieving the perfect Mac and Cheese is not an easy thing to do! We have high expectations when it comes to a dish so strongly tied to our childhood memories. Preferences may vary but we all need something to comfort our soul on a wet Vancouver day. Where do you go for the perfect Mac and Cheese?
Written by Véronique St-Antoine, food contributor to Vancity Buzz. Connect with Véronique on Twitter @vstantoine.