A Deep-Fried Mac & Cheese Duel Du Jour"/>
Some things are not meant to be fried, like this for instance. But macaroni and cheese? That's a given. You've already got the pasta, cheese and bread crumbs in a traditional mac and cheese dish. A few seconds in the deep fryer will only make it better and easier to dunk in sauce. When we noticed deep fried mac and cheese was on the menu at several restaurants around town, we figured this would be the perfect time to go-a-samplin'. A little known fact: there's both a high-brow and low-brow version of fried macaroni and cheese. One is homemade, the other comes out of a bag. Which one is the mac daddy?
1933 Fifth Ave., 441-6330
Aroused Americana cuisine is what Icon prides itself on dishing up, and that includes fried mac and cheese. At Icon, the chefs take their standard mac and cheese, lay it into a sheet pan, and let it cool completely. They then cut it into squares and bread it with flour, egg and Panko crumbs. The winning combo is in the cheeses -- sharp yellow cheddar, extra sharp white cheddar, dry aged jack and the ever surprising Velveeta. The fried cubes are served with a sharp cheddar con queso and a spectacular smoked tomato bacon rouille. A small plate costs $8.95, but during happy hour it's half-price.
|Fried mac and cheese? Not exactly the anchor of Captain Blacks' menu.|
129 Belmont Ave. E., 327-9549
Captain Blacks has an interesting menu, and none of it pirate themed, thank God. It's actually heavy on southern fare, like po' boys (tofu or chicken), chicken and waffles, fried okra, and -- you guessed it -- fried mac and cheese. The time to snag these little gems is during happy hour when you can get a generous dish for just $3. If you've ever had the fried mac and cheese wedges at The 5 Point, you've had the fried mac and cheese at Captain Blacks, right down to the red-and-white checkered deli paper. In fact, the chef at Captain Blacks used to work at The 5 Point and told us both establishments get their fried mac and cheese frozen from Sysco, a national food distributor for restaurants and other hospitality industries. The fried mac and cheese wedges are basically battered pockets of Kraft macaroni and cheese, only much more orange than you remember, which is weird. The ones served at Captain Blacks are soft and creamy, bursting with fake cheese, and not as greasy as we imagined they'd be. They also came with a nice chipotle-mayo dipping sauce. Still, there was nothing special about this dish, except for the fact that we were five beers deep before eating them, which may explain why we enjoyed the taste.
The winner is Icon Grill, by a cheesy mile (or ten). Not only did they have a winning cheese combination (which didn't look synthetic), the breadcrumbs were light and airy. We actually had to ask if the mac and cheese spent time in the fryer as opposed to an oven. We appreciate Captain Blacks' version as a sobering snack, but as a dish by itself, Icon nails it. What Captain Blacks excels at is being a neighborhood bar that serves up stiff drinks, like the kick-ass Captain's Tea. Once you go to Blacks, you'll probably never go back -- for the mac and cheese.