True confession: How often have you opened a box of even the most organic of mac-n-cheeses and thought: I can do better than this? We get it, but boxed mac-n-cheese just doesn’t cut it when you compare it to the delicious concoction you can make from scratch. To lessen the guilt you might already feel about the juggle fest that is your life (and isn’t meal-making up there on your packed to-do list?), let a chef cook up some mac-n-cheese for your kids. There’s just no comparison. We’re talking real cheese, tender noodles and the whole concoction made crunchy on top with just the right sprinkling of breadcrumbs.
#1: Big Daddy’s Diner
This old-school diner, perfectly perched in three kiddie-packed neighborhoods, oozes fun and more than enough booster seats. You’ll appreciate the ‘70s memorabilia lining the walls (and ‘80s flashback music piping through the space) while your kids gulp down Ma’s Mac & Three Cheese ($9 for a small portion; $14 for a big plate), a just-right combo of cheddar, American and jack, plus a crispy crunchy breadcrumb topping. Head here on Monday (otherwise known as Half-Price mac-n-cheese day) and get ready to chow down.
Upper West Side: 2454 Broadway (at 91st St.); 212-677-2004
Gramercy Park: 239 Park Avenue South (between 19th and 20th Sts); 212-477-1500
Upper East Side: 1596 Second Avenue (at 83rd St.); 212-717-2020
#2: Gastronomie 491
Don’t be daunted by what looks to be a fancy European-inspired market and cafe. This Upper West Side newbie loves kids (note the kiddie-sized shopping carts parked up front) and executive chef, Steven Gutterman, a dad of twins himself, knows to serve your kids their mac-n-cheese at just-right temps. A delightful blend of Japanese panko-topped cavatappi pasta that soaks in the white cheddar and béchamel, this mac-n-cheese ($6 for a kids portion) even comes in an adult version (yours is made with a slightly tangier taleggio cheese and garnished with radicchio). Locals take note: Everything is available to go.
491 Columbus Avenue (between 83rd and 84th Sts); 212-974-7871
#3: Hill Country Chicken
If you can keep your kids from dashing downstairs to play foosball in the coolest rec room in town, they’ll be excited to taste the Pimento Mac-n-Cheese ($3.00 for a small portion) in this Texas-inspired Flatiron-area eatery, a tangy blend of gooey spiral pasta and pimento cheese.
1123 Broadway (at 25th St); 212-257-6446
#4: The Mermaid Inn
Fish may be the name of the game at this restaurant, but the homemade mac and cheese, an artful blend of mozzarella and parmesan ($6 on the kids menu), will keep your kids enthralled (the gratis chocolate pudding that everyone gets at the meal’s end will keep them pretty happy, too).
96 Second Avenue (between 5th and 6th Sts); 212-674-5870
568 Amsterdam Avenue (between 87th and 88th Sts); 212-799-7400
Taking mac-n-cheese obsession to a whole new level, the team at S’MAC (Sarita’s Macaroni & Cheese) gives downtown families multiple ways to enjoy the crispy, creamy treat. You can build your own ($6.75 for the nosh size) and then watch as it arrives bubbling in a cast-iron skillet. Or, opt for the All-American (a tasty blend of American and cheddar cheeses, $4.75 for a ‘nosh’ size) or Cheeseburger (cheddar and American cheese blended with seasoned ground beef, $6.25 for a ‘nosh’ size). Best of all: All dishes can be served with either regular, multi-grain or gluten-free elbow macaroni (additional costs for multi-grain or gluten-free) and served with our without breadcrumbs.
345 East 12th Street (between 1st and 2nd Aves); 212-358-7912
3 First Avenue (at Houston St.); 212-358-7917
Did we miss your fave mac-n-cheese spot? Let us know in the comment section below!
— Lambeth Hochwald