A Man n’ Cheese Heaven


Maggie Johnston

Smoked bacon, creamy white cheddar cheese, shaved parmesan. Distinct smells fill your nose, a paradise for mac and cheese lovers as you enter a macaroni and cheese paradise. The idea of a festival centering around 40 different types of pasta and cheese combinations sounds like a dream: a long narrow building packed with hundreds of people and 40 tables displaying some of Houston’s best restaurants. This competition featured chefs gourmet takes on the childhood favorite–mac and cheese General admission tickets were $55 per person and a portion of ticket proceedings went to the non-profit Washington Avenue Arts District. The leftover food was donated to Second Servings of Houston.

I almost didn’t try this particular mac and cheese because the restaurant Jonathan’s The Rub is not specifically known for it. However, they had the most votes for best mac. Their Smokey Mac and Cheese With Bacon ended up being my favorite out of all 12 that I tried. It was perfectly creamy and rich without being overbearing, and had the perfect balance of white cheddar and gouda along with a underlying hint of bacon. Although it did not end up winning the best mac and cheese award at the festival, it was a crowd favorite. If you have never been to the restaurant Jonathan’s The Rub, I highly recommend it.

I was very skeptical of this mac and cheese due to its unappetizing appearance. The restaurant This Is It Soul Food gave each person a large scoop of mac’ n cheese and then topped it with a dollop of watery, brown liquid meat labeled “Oxtail.” Oxtail, the culinary name for the tail of cattle, is often slow-cooked and served with a rich sauce or as a garnish. Little did I know, Oxtail is one of the most popular and unique dishes on the menu at This Is It Soul Food.

Despite my hesitations, the meat provided a central smokey flavor once mixed together. Despite the fact that it was cold by the time I got to try it, it was still one of the best mac and cheese dishes I had ever had because of an interesting twist I cannot fully describe. This mac and cheese won the award of “BEST MAC & CHEESE” dish of all 40 different restaurants featured at the festival.

Main Kitchen provided a basic mac and cheese dish topped with bacon and lots of cheddar. Anyone would see their dish and want to stand in line. From the surface it looks like the original cheesy and rich mac and cheese that comes to mind when ordering macaroni at any restaurant. Although I was very excited for this sample, it did not meet my standards in the slightest. It was watery, cold and lacked any original flavor. Although it was very simple and bland, some people seemed to enjoy it due to the simple cheesy taste.