Posted by Carten Cordell / Monday, March 4th, 2013
Whether you find pure cheese and noodle the best, or want it loaded with meat, we have just the right mac and cheese for you.
For the Meat Lover: Dogfish Head Alehouse.
Sitting between the ahi tuna and wood-grilled salmon, Dogfish Head Alehouse‘s mac and cheese is a sleeper hit on the menu. This big mac dish is prepared with three different types of cheese—Gouda, pepper jack and Parmesan—with chopped applewood smoked bacon, red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, squash and zucchini mixed in. There’s an option to add chicken or steak, but it’s not needed: the sheer size of the mac plate made me wish I hadn’t eaten anything previously that day. The gomito (elbow) noodles are pleasantly drenched in cheese, which stayed flavorful until the very last bite. / 3041 Lee Jackson Memorial Highway, Fairfax; 6220 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church.
For the Purist: Cheesetique. Having macaroni at a cheese boutique seems like it should be a no-brainer, and Cheesetique does not disappoint. The cheese shop has five options of mac: classic, lobster, cauliflower and pancetta, broccoli and cheddar and cordon bleu. Cheesetique’s original and classic “Mac ‘n Cheesetique” was selected as one of the best mac plates by Food & Wine last December. The award-winning mac starts with a combination of four nontraditional cheeses: goat, Gouda Asiago and Cacio di Roma. Cacio di Roma is what gives this mac and cheese its mild but unique flare. If that foursome of cheese wasn’t convincing enough, I have three words for you: truffle bread crumbs. Here are another three words: I love Cheestique. The crispy bread crumbs combined with the array of cheeses creates great flavor and texture. / 2411 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria; 4056 Campbell Ave., Arlington.
For the Perfectionist: Maple Ave. Vienna is packed with great, local restaurants, one of which serves some serious mac. Maple Ave‘s baked mac comes with Gruyere, Vermont cheddar mornay, fusili, and herbs de Provence panko crust. Though the pasta, in writing, looks very similar to Cheesetique’s mac and cheese, the al dente noodles are larger and the dish—noodles, cheeses, crust—are thrown together and then baked. It’s glorious. /147 Maple Ave., Vienna.
For the Salt Craver: Rustico. In Rustico‘s Alexandria location, a pretzel-crusted mac and cheese uses orzo, a short-cut pasta shaped like inflated pieces of rice, instead of macaroni noodles. The effect is a softer and chewier texture when compared with other mac dishes. The orzo soaks up the rich Parmesan and nutty fontina easily, which contrasts with the baked and salty pretzel crust topping. Bonus: Arlington’s Rustico has its own version, a chili mac topped with a cracker crust. / 827 Slaters Lane, Alexandria; 4075 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.
For the Seafood Soldiers: Rays To The Third. Rays’, the popular and presidentially approved local empire owner, knows more than steak and burgers. The seafood mac and cheese is a hot plate of cheesy pasta with jumbo lump crab. This makes for an interesting flavor combination: the cacophony of creamy cheeses with the salty, thick clumps of crab is completely satisfying. / 1650 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.
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Tags: Cheesetique, Dogfish Head Alehouse, Gut Check, Lindsey Jenkins, Maple Ave, Michael Landrum, Northern Virginia Magazine, NoVA, Ray's Hell Burger, Rays The Steak, Rays To The Third, Retro Ray's, Rustico