Buttons’ Mac and Cheese
Nothing speaks to a child’s heart like macaroni and cheese. That delectable ooey gooey cheesy taste has been rediscovered and is popping up on many local menus. It seems like almost everyone has a new take on the old standby. Some of our Fort Worth favorites have elevated the humble side dish to new heights, incorporating interesting cheeses, unique additions and new flavor combinations to the perennial home-style favorite. These adult variations will tempt you — bringing back fond memories, while taking your taste buds on an unexpected journey — boldly going where comfort food has never gone before.
Capital Grille - Lobster Mac ‘N’ Cheese ($16)
800 Main St.
Baked in a black cast iron crock, your eye is immediately drawn in by the crimson-colored chunks of lobster meat. The otherwise traditional formula, folds tender elbow macaroni with buttery dices of fresh lobster tail. And, the lobster addition is plentiful throughout. It is served bubbling from the broiler, where the cheese receives its tantalizing golden brown crust. While the steaks that accompany it are equally delicious, guests at the table will be sure they have a fair portion of this shareable side dish on their plate, before ever picking up a steak knife to survey their beef.
Capital Grille Lobster Mac ‘N’ Cheese
Eddie V’s - Truffled Macaroni and Cheese ($6 small, $9 large)
3100 W 7th St.
What goes better with a light and flaky Chilean sea bass or some North Atlantic lemon sole than a rich and creamy truffled macaroni and cheese? It is one of their most popular side dishes. The béchamel sauce is enhanced with heavy cream, and then lots of salty and bold Parmigiano-Reggiano is stirred in to melt. Campanelle pasta (which is Italian for little bells) is added to the sauce before baking, and then the finishing touch and namesake is added. White truffle oil is drizzled to garnish, as well as pricey shavings of whole white truffles to adorn the top.
Wild Mushroom - Mac and Cheese with Jalapeños & Alderwood Smoked Bacon ($6 small, $9 large)
1917 Martin Drive, Weatherford
This one was voted the best by our readers in 2011. The combination of flavors is what makes it special. The smoky and salty flavor of bacon and the spicy kick from diced jalapeños are always a winning combination. Gooey American cheese is reduced along with garlic, diced jalapeños, and crumbled oven baked Alderwood smoked bacon. Classic elbow pasta is added into the cheese sauce. Finally, a lovely crust of evenly browned panko crumbs completes the composition.
Wild Mushroom Mac and Cheese with Jalapeños & Alderwood Smoked Bacon
Buttons - Buttons’ Mac and Cheese ($4)
4701 West Fwy., Ste. 100
This is one of Buttons’ old-school side dishes. Chef Keith “Buttons” Hicks says, “Our version is like your grandmother used to make, and we use the kinds of cheeses you likely have around the house. I combine small elbow macaroni and a basic béchamel sauce; then I ‘Buttonize’ it with a strong blend of cheddar, Parmesan, Asiago and Monterrey Jack cheeses.” The cheesy filling has a crunchy topping. Seasoned butter-based breadcrumbs are baked until the topping is a glowing amber color.
Brewed Bacon Mac ‘n’ Three Cheese
Cousin’s BBQ - Macaroni and Cheese ($1.89 per serving)
5125 Bryant Irvin Road
This homemade delicacy has been the joy of both little and big kids alike for decades. It is one of the most tantalizing side dish items on the line. They bake fresh batches every morning in each location. Elbow macaroni is blended into a rich cheese sauce made from Velveeta cheese (giving the dish a good salty flavor). It is thickened up with eggs, sour cream, and butter, making it a super creamy and decadent dish. A dab will do ya’.
Brewed - Bacon Mac ‘n’ Three Cheese ($7.50)
801 W. Magnolia Ave.
If you have already had your fill of their duck fat fries, try the Bacon Mac ‘n’ Three Cheese as a side dish or order it as a small but filling meal in itself. Locally sourced ingredients combine to magnificent effect.
The three cheeses on display are Texas aged cheddar, smoked Gouda and Parmesan cheese. They are melted into a rich house-made béchamel sauce, then tossed with macaroni. The interesting additions are crispy bacon crumbles and chunks of freshly roasted tomatoes.
The Tavern Shells and Cheese
Del Frisco’s - Jalapeño Bacon Macaroni and Cheese ($12)
812 Main St.
This is one of their most popular side dishes. It serves 3-4 people and is “spoon-friendly for sharing,” according to General Manager Greg Kalina. Elbow macaroni blends with a three-cheese cream sauce, and then the stars of the show are added. Pan-sautéed jalapeño dices and bacon get folded into the mix. “It has just enough jalapeño to be Texas,” he says. The dish is baked with a golden Parmesan gratin on top.
Mac’s Bar & Grill - Seven Cheese Macaroni and Cheese ($4)
6077 I-20 Frontage Road, Arlington
Mac’s prides itself on making everything from scratch. So the sauce begins with a rich homemade béchamel, and then the seasoning and a little cayenne is added, along with some finely diced Roma tomatoes. The amazing variety of cheeses includes: Mild and sharp cheddar, Monterrey Jack, Muenster, Gruyere, Parmesan and American. Finally, elbow macaroni is blended in.
The dish is finished off with a panko topping, which gives it a nice crunch, and baked until it’s nice and bubbly.
Into the Glass Truffled Mac & Cheese
Brownstone - Crawfish Mac ($8)
840 Currie St.
Chef Vincent Mack takes his Mac in a totally different direction. Tiny tubes of ditalini pasta mix with interesting cheeses like house-made fresh mozzarella, creamy Fontina and salty Parmesan. Other unique ingredients feature nice-sized whole crawfish tails, which are seasoned with butter, garlic and shallots, and a fresh herb mixture like parsley and thyme, which changes seasonally. The top is then covered with buttered breadcrumbs before baking.
The Tavern - Shells and Cheese ($4)
2755 S. Hulen St.
Known for using the freshest ingredients and composing plates that are as beautiful to look at, as they are to eat, Chef Felipe Armenta takes his creation in a different direction. This cheese forward indulgence is made with small shells to soak up the maximum sauce. Cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, Fontina and other cheeses that melt easily are combined and folded over the shells. A garnish of homemade crumbled cornbread adds unexpected texture and sweetness to the dish, along with fresh ground black pepper, parsley and additional grated Parmesan.
Uno Chicago Grill Deep Dish Macaroni & 3-Cheese
Into the Glass - Truffled Mac & Cheese ($7)
322 S Main St., Grapevine
This simple but memorable recipe starts with a basic cream sauce. Heavy cream, garlic, salt and pepper form the base for melting 100 percent Manchego cheese. Oh...and a noticeable dose of white truffle oil. That is what gives the dish its signature scent and taste. The cheese mixture is folded into miniature elbow macaroni and presented in a Le Creuset cocotte pan. Although the list of ingredients is few, the result is rich and full of flavor.
Uno Chicago Grill - Deep Dish Macaroni & 3-Cheese ($13.52)
300 Houston St.
Skip the pizza and go straight for the Deep Dish Macaroni and 3-Cheese! They serve this hearty meal baked in one of their traditional deep-dish pans. The ingredients are unique and the outcome is surprisingly delicious. The béchamel base is made even creamier with the addition of their rich Alfredo sauce and three salty favorites: White cheddar, Parmesan and Romano. Before baking, they add their Newburg topping, which is made from buttery cracker crumbs (think Ritz topping) and then it is browned until bubbling. You can even add proteins like chicken or ham to the dish.
Truluck’s Crab Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Silver Fox - Macaroni and Cheese ($8.95)
1651 S. University Drive
Traditional elbow macaroni is blended with a decadent white cream sauce. The sauce is seasoned with salt and both black and white pepper, and garlic. Heavy cream and whole eggs are added to the mix along with white cheddar and Parmesan cheese, retaining the dish’s creamy pale complexion. Before serving, white truffle oil is added, and breadcrumbs are browned under the broiler.
Cooper’s BBQ - Mesquite Smoked Mac and Cheese ($2.49)
301 Stockyards Blvd.
While it’s all about the meat at Coopers, this side dish deserves some attention too. General Manager Jake Rogers says, “Our mac-n-cheese has quickly become our second most popular menu item after brisket.” They serve a regular version or an adult version studded with bacon and jalapeño. What makes it unique? Rogers explains, “The basic recipe is simple and traditional enough, with one big difference: We ‘finish’ our mac-n-cheese on Cooper’s open pit over Texas mesquite coals. We close the lid and let the smoke do its magic! The result is a familiar, creamy, just-like-it-sounds, mac-n-cheese…with a hint of Texas smokiness.”
Lonesome Dove White Truffle Mac & Cheese
Reata – Jalapeño and Bacon Macaroni and Cheese ($8.95)
310 Houston St.
Keeping with their Texas cuisine theme, Chef Juan Rodriguez spices up his take on the legendary side dish. Two cowboy favorites, dices of jalapeño slices and apple wood smoked bacon, are folded into the mix. The cheeses include the spice of Monterrey Jack and the bold tanginess of sharp cheddar and Asiago. Rodriguez says, “Before baking in a cast iron skillet, we sprinkle a dust of paprika and Parmesan cheese over the top, which gives it a nice red crust.”
Truluck’s - Crab Mac ‘n’ Cheese ($16)
1420 Plaza Place, Southlake
Known for serving some of the freshest seafood (and especially shellfish) you can find, the addition of fresh jumbo lump crabmeat is a natural in this version of the classic. Locally sourced fresh penne pasta is mixed with a combination of Velveeta, cream cheese and Pecorino Parmesan imparting their creamy texture and salty flavor. The sauce is seasoned well with Coleman’s dry mustard, roasted garlic powder and Old Bay seasoning. Before serving, whole eggs are added and 4 ounces of fresh crabmeat gets a nice sear before being placed on top and baked in a pie shell, rising to an almost soufflé texture.
Tillman’s Roadhouse - Bacon, Cheddar, Scallion MAC & CHZ ($5)
2933 Crockett St.
Tillman’s recipes are never tricked out or heavy handed. That is what we love about the place. They let the ingredients speak for themselves and allow you to taste each individual component. This one is a sight to behold and colorful with flecks of fresh green scallion, orange strokes of creamy cheddar, and reddish-hued crisp bacon crumbles drizzled over the top. It’s a lovely lodge-inspired offering.
Lonesome Dove - White Truffle Mac & Cheese ($12)
2406 N Main St.
Chef Thomas Atkinson describes his version as rich and cheesy, but also aromatic with the distinct flavor of white truffles. “We start with a base of chicken stock and heavy cream and blend in Manchego and Munster cheeses,” he says. Next, blanched orzo pasta is tossed in white truffle oil and seasoned with salt and pepper before being mixed with the fresh cheese sauce. Each dish is made to order and topped with an interesting garnish of polenta crusted fried artichokes. This is not your mama’s recipe!
Grace - Macaroni and Cheese ($8)
777 Main St.
While the menu at Grace changes seasonally, you might be lucky enough to find Chef Blaine Staniford’s take on the perennial favorite. His “adult version” begins with standard elbow macaroni and a basic béchamel sauce. Each serving is made to order so that the cheeses don’t break. He folds in 3 different cheeses: an aged white cheddar, and either Parmesan or smoked Gouda depending upon his mood, and a buttermilk blue cheese. Staniford says, “The blue cuts through the richness of the other cheeses. We finish it off by microplaning Parmesan over the top and au gratin it under the broiler.”
Cast Iron - Green Chili and “Redneck” Cheddar Mac n’ Cheese ($4)
1300 Houston St.
This variation starts with a reduction of cream and then melts American, mozzarella and cheddar into the sauce. The real ingredients to highlight are a locally sourced Texas “Redneck” cheddar and diced green chili, which are folded into the mix. Elbow macaroni is added, and a topping of panko crumbs, mozzarella shreds, as well as fresh herbs are prepared. After a little time under the broiler in a cast iron skillet, you have a real Southern treat.
Photography by Jason Kindig