The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 5 Macaroni & Cheese

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Photo by Troy Fields
3. Jus' Mac

I never expected to like a mac and cheese dish that's covered with Fritos and chili. I'm sort of a mac and cheese purist. But this is by far the best macaroni and cheese incarnation (in my own mind) that Jus' Mac serves. The Chili Cheese macaroni and cheese is a thing of beauty: The meaty homemade chili is wound through the creamy sauce and pasta in a way that combines the two yet keeps them separate enough not to be confused with chili-mac. A handful of Fritos on top works in combination with crunchy bread crumbs -- unnecessary in this context, but still delicious -- to provide a nice contrast of textures between the springy pasta and silky sauce, making for an altogether perfect dish.

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Photo courtesy of Carlos Rodriguez
The wonderfully simple macaroni and cheese at Vic & Anthony's.
2. Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse

The reason I love the mac & cheese at V&A so much is simple: It's simple. Chef Carlos Rodriguez explained to me that when the steakhouse first started coming up with mac & cheese recipes, everyone wanted to take the dish over the top: adding bacon, crabmeat, whatever they could gild the lily with. But Rodriguez was determined to keep it simple, and it paid off. The bechamel sauce only has three cheeses in it: American, white Cheddar and a pinch of Romano for saltiness. The plump cavatappi pasta is blanched to order and served in a white dish that makes it look, at first, as if it's been baked. But Rodriguez doesn't believe in baking macaroni and cheese: "It makes it tough," he says. So he just adds a sprinkle of crumbled croutons on top for texture and appearance. The result is the most perfectly unfussy mac & cheese in town.

UPDATE: In honor of earning a spot on the list, chef Carlos Rodriguez just Tweeted that today's Friday burger special is V&A's Mac & Cheese Burger. Get it while it lasts.

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Photo courtesy of Shade
1. Shade

This little side order of macaroni and cheese is not your typical version. Made with Gruyère, with a drizzle of truffle oil (just a faint drizzle; any more than that ruins a dish) finishing off the creamy pasta, Shade's mac & cheese is distinct, yet not pungent. The overall impression is of a dish rich but delicate in flavor. It usually accompanies the grilled pork chop, but you can order the Gruyère mac & cheese as an individual side dish, an appetizer or even as a dessert.



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Location Info

Jus' Mac

2617 Yale, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

BRC Gastropub

519 Shepherd, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse

1510 Texas St., Houston, TX

Category: Music

Shade

250 W. 19th St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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25 comments
Clair H
Clair H

I also agree the Hearsay has excellent Mac n Cheese!

trisch
trisch

I'm with you, Katherine, Luby's mac 'n cheese is what I want when I need a pick-me-up (as part of the Luann Platter with fried fish, extra tartar sauce, a side of whatever the greens of the day are with a shot of Tabasco, and sweet ice tea -- same thing I've been getting there since I was a toddler and needed a high chair).

My best mac 'n cheese memory in Houston, though, is the lobster mac 'n cheese at Pappas Bros. steakhouse. That was some insane, beautiful, incredibly rich stuff.

Eminence Grise
Eminence Grise

You must have a hole in your head the size of Texas if you think Luby's had good M&C.  The fell off the face of the planet the day the Pappas people took over.

Carlos Closinhtown
Carlos Closinhtown

I love your food blog, but putting Luby's at the top of any list makes me question your ability to judge the quality of a dish. Luby's Mac and cheese is just one step above Kraft Mac and Cheese in the box.

LauraS.
LauraS.

I had mac n cheese (although it wasn't called this on the menu, something much fancier) with gruyere and braised short ribs in it at The Queen Vic Pub a couple of weeks ago. Pure bliss.

The Marlboro Woman
The Marlboro Woman

Luby's?  Yeeeeew, the cheese sauce is watered down and bland.  I would eat Kraft Mac n Cheese before eating theirs.

Brooke Viggiano
Brooke Viggiano

Will def be trying Vic & Anthony's. I agree sometimes baking can dry it out and change the texture, but Ibiza manages to do it perfectly. They quickly broil it in a little cast iron skillet, so it comes out gooey and creamy in the middle, and browned and crisp on top. It's freaking incredible.

ksgs
ksgs

Jus' Mac has to be THE BEST EVER!

Wineandfood247
Wineandfood247

Can't overlook the cheesy, truffled goodness that is Max's Wine Dive's mac-n-cheese - they were kicking it up in a gourmet style before any of those places listed here except Luby's.  The finishing squirt of lime juice totally makes it pop.  The new chef over there is doing some fantastic things on the "chef-driven" side of the menu too - great new food.

Gregorym1291
Gregorym1291

Good list but I would have thought Jus' Mac is number 1.  I've had other combinations like their Hangover and Crab that blow the other two away.  Either way...strong picks.

Chance
Chance

Although not technically in Houston, I have to throw Killen's mac and cheese into the ring.

Josh
Josh

Has Jus Mac stepped up their game somehow? When I went (after 3 attempts, 45 minute wait, not open, not open) I got a decent kraft mac and cheese (that's not a total insult) competitor with unbaked panko on top for $9. If all you do is make one thing, I'd expect more passion and creativity.

Beavers, Hearsay, Hay Merchant and Petrol Station are all vastly different from each other and all worth checking out. Hearsay is probably my favorite of the group. Petrol is the value winner, $8 for a massive chorizo mac and cheese. Hay Merchant comes with a side dish of amazing fried half chicken. You can always do beavers mac and cheese on your burger. All winners.

Eric S
Eric S

I'm not much of a mac and cheese guy, but my wife is low-level obsessed with the blue cheese mac and cheese at Sophia near the Menil. If you're looking to expand your m&c options, that's one place to start.

Also, I'm a little surprised this list isn't 10 venues long to include Reef's m&c cube and Beaver's. I only had it once, but Stockyard BBQ's was pretty good, too.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

It's not at the top of the list. It's at No. 5. Which, unless the list starts at -- oh, I don't know, No. 10 -- and ends at No. 5, does not in any universe mean that it's at the top of the list. Shade is at the top of the list -- that's No. 1 -- with Luby's actually (for the purposes of this list) coming in last place.

That doesn't mean I don't still love it hard anyway. And if you think Luby's mac and cheese is in any way similar to Kraft, allow me to introduce you to a bechamel sauce: It's what Luby's uses as the base of its cheese sauce, just like everyone else on this list. Kraft don't make no bechamel.

imneverfull
imneverfull

I agree. Killen's makes my favorite mac & cheese.

ksgs
ksgs

 Are you kidding?  They had so many varieties (and NONE of them were Kraft-like) that I didn't even get to look through them all.  It's the best ever!  Parking's hard and not much room in the dining area but if you can get in, you'll be happy.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I was very surprised at how much I liked Jus' Mac on a few recent trips. They have, indeed, somehow stepped up their game.

PatriciaO
PatriciaO

I agree, Beaver's & Reef seemed to be overlooked.  As well as Hersay Gastropub, one of the best mac & cheese next to BRC.

bjiosolutions
bjiosolutions

@Katharine Shilcutt Here is the issue with Lubys being on any list.  Its not fresh, its overcooked pasta, soggy, its under a heat lamp or on a steam table and its bland as bland can be.  Bechamel sauce or not, it shouldnt be on the top 5 in Houston.  It shouldnt be considered even top 20.  As for the other choices...clear cut.  Not very difficult to pick those, but then again, they were all the easy choices.  For a top 5, I would think you would be a bit more creative. 

The Marlboro Woman
The Marlboro Woman

Katherine, if Luby's is using a bechamel sauce it's the powdered variety and they're mixing it with water.  Either that or you and I are eating at different locations.

Carlos Closinhtown
Carlos Closinhtown

 Thanks, Einstein. Its a top 5 list which could mean that the author considers the Luby's mac and cheese to be one of the tops in Houston. That's what I meant. Thanks for the long explanation though. he he

PixPlatesPlaces
PixPlatesPlaces

Because of bad childhood culinary experiences with elbow mac and cheese I've avoided it for over 4 decades ... I'm an adult and you can't make me eat it! 

I can't believe I've been to Jus' Mac 3 times in 2 weeks and LOVE their versions - cheeseburger, bacon, spinach ... and look forward to today's crab mac and cheese!!! Fourth time here I come! 

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

The last couple of times I've been to Reef, the mac & cheese Borg cube that I normally love has been tough and chewy and altogether unappealing. If the list had been 10 mac & cheese places long, however, Beaver's would definitely have been at No. 6.

Elaine M.
Elaine M.

I'd like to correct The Marlboro Woman - I work at Luby's and can assure you that our cheese sauce is made from scratch startingwith a light roux that is made in house.

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