Our love of mac and cheese is a deep-rooted affair, grown from a seed planted by our parents with a blue box and neon orange cheese powder. Velveeta upped the pre-fab ante, boxing up cheap pasta with a foil pouch of pre-melted cheese food product that introduced us to a new level of ooze.
Or perhaps you were luckier as a child and your parents baked a homemade version in the oven with real queso. My mom used to fold canned stewed tomatoes sparingly into the mix, and I used to think that this was how mac and cheese was supposed to be made. When the tomatoes were missing I'd reach for a bottle of ketchup to the horror of my table mates (try it, I swear).
My ketchup habit has withered but not died. I'd never eat a box of Kraft without a bottle of Heinz, but I truly hope to never encounter that blue box again. Here are five local renditions I'd never desecrate with ketchup, including our recent Best of Dallas winner for best mac and cheese. Get more of Dallas' best with our Best Of app, available for the Droid and the iPhone.
Screen Door The understated but refined, home cooked mac and cheese (pictured above) What else would you expect from a restaurant that boasts fried chicken, meat loaf and other homey dishes. Buttered bread crumbs are the only embellishment on an otherwise simple but stellar version of this classic comfort food.
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Local The best mac and cheese to drink with a nice Chardonnay Tracy Miller is on her way to becoming one of my favorite chefs in Dallas, and her mac and cheese is a simple show-stopper. Mascarpone lends its creamy texture in a dish that's refined without being over the top.
Tillman's Roadhouse The best bacon-y mac and cheese It's sad, but more often than not it's true. Bacon makes everything better, and cheese-soaked pasta is no different. The picture above is out of date; they've tweaked their menu recently. Tillman's version is understated and simple (no sea of oozing cheese here), but a sprinkling of bacon puts it over the top.
Anvil Pub Best mac and cheese to drink through a straw Soupy mac is not my thing, but I've talked to too many people who love Anvil's nearly drinkable version to not include it in this list. My advice: stop by an Asian restaurant that serves bubble tea and nab one of those wide gauge straws. Use it to vacuum up every drop of runny cheesy goo.
Oddfellows The bar food meets comfort food mac and cheese It almost looks like a mess, but there it is: a tangy coat of buffalo sauce, fried chicken and crumbles of blue cheese. It's completely over the top, but that's what this dish is all about, and it's good enough for to call Oddfellows' the best mac and cheese in Dallas.