Show me someone who doesn’t love macaroni and cheese, and I’ll show you a liar. The dish is warm, creamy, and comforting… It’s basically a bear hug in a bowl. So strong is my affinity for the stuff, I had a mac-n-cheese bar at my own damn wedding. Sweet! Not that I was really able to partake.
But I had mixed feelings when I heard about Jus’ Mac, a new restaurant based entirely on macaroni and cheese, opening in the Heights. On the one hand, macaroni and cheese is awesome, and it’s great that creative versions are there for the taking. On the other hand, do we really need a gimmicky place that’s destined to fail when the trend grows old? Hmmmm... I was intrigued enough to give it a whirl last week for lunch.
The menu at Jus’ Mac offers a fairly extensive list of creamy mac ‘n cheese options. They’ve got an All-American and a Chili Cheese. The Popeye has spinach, mushrooms, and onions, while the Pit Master is topped with beef brisket. The Rustic comes with basil, roasted tomatoes, garlic, and mozzarella, and the Puebla features roasted poblano peppers. There’s a Buffalo Chicken, a Four-Cheese, and a Bacon Bliss. Along with a handful of other iterations.
As best we could tell, the kitchen just cooks up huge vats of mac ‘n cheese, then adds the toppings to order. I tried the Mexi-Taco, a fake cast-iron skillet of mac-n-cheese topped with ground beef, tomato, onion, avocado, and tortilla chips. And my friend Victoria got a bowl o’ nostalgia: mac-n-cheese topped with hot dog bits and a squiggle of yellow mustard. We both agreed that the toppings were nice -- interesting and creative options, a little something for everyone. But we also agreed that the pasta could use some help in the form of seasoning. As Victoria said, “There’s just something nice about that saltiness that comes from good ol’ American cheese.” And she’s right -- that’s what was missing. The delight here is not the mac-n-cheese, itself, but rather the mask of additional flavors. At $9, the portions seemed pricey; however, neither of us was able to finish our serving and ended up packing up about half to go.
Is this the best mac-n-cheese in town? No, I’d still give those honors to Beaver’s. But if you can get past the annoyingly small parking lot, disposable utensils, and fake cast-iron skillet dishes, Jus’ Mac is fun for a try. Once. Are there enough people to support the spot throughout the years? I have my doubts, but only time will tell.