Macaroni and cheese seems simple enough -- the ingredients are listed in the name of the dish. However, the varieties are endless.
Depending upon the pasta, cheese, and toppings, it can have a gourmet, Southern, Mexican, or French spin. The dish goes with everything from hot dogs to lobster and truffles. Even the crust can vary -- cornbread croutons or biscuit crumbs can add exciting flavors, as well as a textural crunch, to the cheesy goodness.
Before we bubble over, here are the ten best mac 'n' cheese dishes in Miami.
10. Mac Daddy Cheese Gratin at Burger & Beer Joint
Me so mornay. The three cheeses have quite the ménage à trois in this wonder of béchamel sauce and grated cheese. This appetizer of elbow pasta drenched in creamy cheese ($7) is decadent and indulgent enough to be a main course.
9. Mac Dog at Sweet Dogs
As a kid, did you ever experience hot-dog slices in your mac 'n' cheese? Take that, flip it and reverse it, and you've got a hot dog all covered with macaroni and cheese. The Mac Dog ($5.50) features a five-cheese mac with some garlic croutons for crunch. For extra childhood memories and a spoiler alert: One of the cheeses is Velveeta! If you want your version dogless, you can get a side for $3.
8. Mac 'n' cheese at Tasty's Soul Food
Chanivia Broussard may be one of the greatest women basketball players to compete at the University of Miami. But now she and her family are making slam dunks with soul food in Miami Gardens. A serving of mac 'n' cheese at Tasty's comes in a perfect slice like a piece of cake. You can get a side for $2.50, a version with shrimp for $3.50, or as a fixin' with the decadent fried chicken.
7. The Mac at Blue Collar
Lobster is too fancy. At Blue Collar, consider adding some rock shrimp or bacon to your mac 'n' cheese. It may not be kosh, but it sure is delish! If you wanna skip the extras, the main mac ($12) with cavatappi pasta and trugole, cheddar, and parm is pretty substantial on its own.
6. Macaroni and Cheese at Bo Legs BBQ
Mac 'n' cheese is almost always lacking in a hint of black pepper. It just makes the dish pop, and Bo Legs knows this fact and delivers the kick. This is not fancy mac 'n' cheese, but it tastes of home cooking -- the kind of dish you pray for at potlucks and family reunions. It also has a slight tang thanks to some Muenster cheese.
5. Southwest Mac 'n' Cheese at the Federal
Breadcrumbs or panko flakes are fine, but biscuit crumbs are the tops atop mac 'n' cheese. Thankfully, the Federal has made this natural pairing a reality. The eatery's award-winning biscuits give the dish some crunch. For heat and a Southwestern profile, poblano sauce is added to the mix, and a 2-year-old aged Vermont cheddar lends some sharpness and a touch of the Northeast.
4. Macaroni and Cheese at Yardbird
Served in its own crock with the lid off, this dish is formidable. Yardbird's macaroni and cheese ($8) is made with oversize torchio pasta. No small elbows here. The dish is thick and rich with five cheeses, but hey, this is South Beach, so a nice herb crust lightens it up.
3. Mac 'n' Queso at Huahua's Taqueria
Breadcrumbs and grated cheese may work for some, but you'll yap for Huahua's version ($3.99). Cornbread croutons are thrown inside for textural contrast to the ultra-creamy liquid queso. Touches of cilantro add freshness, and curly, corkscrew-shaped pasta will make your tail wag. Huahua's cute Chihuahua mascot should bark, "Yo quiero mac y queso."
2. Truffled Lobster Mac 'n' Cheese at Prime One Twelve
Every steak house seems to have a version of lobster or truffle mac. Prime One Twelve, the steak house fit for presidents and Miami's elite, beautifully marries the two. And in this home of $35-an-ounce Kobe beef, the $25 lobster- and truffle-laced mac 'n' cheese seems almost reasonable.
1. Homemade Mac 'n' Cheese Vega's Burgers
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Served in a ramekin, the cooked-to-order, homemade mac ($6.50) features small elbows in a four-cheese sauce. It's rich and tastes like heavy cream laced with bits of pasta. The price and the decadence are unbeatable. Bonus: The chili at Vega's is also delicious, so you can mix the two for a chili mac beyond compare.
Follow Carina on Twitter @CarinaOst