Top 10 macaroni & cheese dishes in the Twin Cities

Categories: Top 10

photo courtesy Haute Dish
High rent or lowbrow, the meeting of pasta and cheese is just so good
​If ever there was a loaded dish, it is this. A dish full of fat, cream, cheese, and nostalgia, and so hearty it can redeem the saddest, most downtrodden day. When eaters speak of comfort food, so often they speak of macaroni and cheese.  After scouring the Twin Cities for the dishes, armed with buffet pants and giant sporks, we've sussed out the cheesy best.

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I'll take my mac and cheese served on a stick
10. Mac & Cheese on a stick (at the State Fair)
It's easy to just hit up the obvious favorites when eating your way through the State Fair each year: the pronto pups, the pickles-on-a-stick, the sweet corn, the miscellaneous fried potato products, and of course, that golden cradle of fat known as the cheese curd. But sometimes the best food discoveries are those that remain a secret. The
macaroni on a stick definitely fits into that category. But worry not--this meal has all the makings of a fair classic. Deep-fried outer shell? Check. On a stick? Check. Cheesy goodness packed into each bite? Check. So don't judge a State Fair food based on the line of salivating consumers. For around three bucks, the carbs from the macaroni will give you strength while standing in the blockbuster-sized line for those deep-fried candy bars.

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9. Uptown Cafeteria and Support Group
The pop art zing of the décor is as entertaining as a People magazine cover story. Upbeat pop music reverberates through the room. The Tim McKee-influenced menu doesn't try to masquerade as anything other than fun, fried bites. Their mac and cheese entry is gobsmacked with cheese, a thick, yellow cream river with boulders of soft tomato chunks and splinters of Applewood smoked bacon. It's not elegant, it's not trying to show off, this is just happy, fun food. (3001 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.877.7263)

8. Twin City Grill, Mall of America
Of all the places a snooty gourmand would least expect to find a Top 10 dish, the mecca of retail sales might head the list. And yet ... the food at the Twin Cities Grille has been, year after year, consistently good despite the close proximity to the whirling Nickelodeon-sponsored theme park. The macaroni and cheese is hearty, cheesy, and includes a favorite foil, bacon. Plenty of good, salty, pork-fat-redolent bacon can elevate any simple cheese and pasta combination. This entry into the mac & cheese pantheon has a highbrow combination of salty, pungent and creamy cheeses tossed with fruity addition of diced tomatoes beneath a bed of buttery, crispy breadcrumbs. A thankfully tasty oasis in the land of Food Court wonders. (Mall of America, Bloomington; 952.854.0200)

7. Eli's
Eli's Food & Cocktails is the neighborhood restaurant that every neighborhood wishes it had. The bar is manned by folks who know a Manhattans from a martini, and it also sports a terrific wine and beer list. The food is straightforward American bistro, unfussy, unfoamed, and full of familiar flavors. The dish that draws regulars and newbies from across the metro is the mac and cheese. Fat tubes of penne are ensconced in a white cheddar sauce and coated with a spot-on and crispy crust. Served in a small casserole dish, it's homey, simple elegance. The cheese is a mix of gooey mozzarella, salty, aged Parmesan, and Asiago, with a finish of the melt master--American cheese. (1225 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.332.9997)

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6. Muffuletta's
One of the original fancy takes on mac and cheese, Muffuletta uses orichette pasta and adds in shaved shallot and bits of smokey, salty, delightfully porky nubbins of Fischer Farms bacon. The little ear-shaped pasta acts as a reservoir for the creamy, white cheese sauce. Baked crusty on top, the dish has a pleasant mix of textures and an ample supply of bacon. Served on a white, linen table cloth, it's a wink toward childhood, with a decidedly grown-up flair. This mac and cheese entry pairs beautifully with a nice glass of white wine, which offers a crispy acidity for the elegant decadence of the macaroni and cheese. (2260 Como Ave., St. Paul; 651.644.9116)

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