Monday, November 15, 2010

Jus' Mac and Cheesy

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.


Stacy said...

I tried this place recently too and while it was can you have a whole restaurant dedicated to mac and cheese with not one dish featuring anything with gruyere or truffle oil?! It's a travesty, I tell you! A travesty! The best mac and cheese ever is the Max and Cheese at Max's Wine Dive! Well, one of the best.

Sunny said...

While I agree with you that Beaver's has had some of the best mac n cheese I've had, I lament the fact that it is inconsistent lately. =(

Anonymous said...

Jasper's in the Woodlands has an amazing mac n cheese that puts Beavers to shame. But if you want serious comfort food, come to my house -- MY version (secret recipe) is better than ANY thing.

Gregg C said...

I also ate here as well last week. I thought the mac was great....had the pit master. From what I saw all the macs had the ingredients in them...not on top of them. Also, I actually picked up the skillet because I do a lot of camping and was curious what brand it was and it was a Lodge Skillet...far from being fake. What is a fake skillet anyways? Anywho...I enjoyed the experience and the food even if it was a little crowded and parking tight.

My girlfriend also had the Bacon Bliss which we were told was made with Gruyere based cheese sauce.

Ruthie Johnson Miller said...

Hi Gregg -- I'm glad you had a good experience there. Curious to know if you're planning to go back. My experience was fine... I just can't imagine going multiple times, ya know?

Re: mini skillets, although cute, they were definitely lighter than the real thing. Plus, while we were there, someone dropped a tray of them, and they broke. True cast iron skillets would have survived.

Re: mac, I could be wrong, but I do think they make a basic mac with a mild cheese, and then mix in the ingredients per order... that includes other cheeses -- like the gruyere on the Bacon Bliss or the blue cheese in the Buffalo Chicken. It's a smart and efficient business model; I just wish the basic version had a little more flavor.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I was dragged here by a friend. Too salty for me. Wouldn't return

Anonymous said...

I have been to Jus' Mac twice in one month. I look forward to going there again. I live within walking distance so parking is no issue for me. The place is always happening.

Anonymous said...

Apparently you were the inspiration behind Houston Press's recent blog about 2010's most disappointing openings.

Katharine Shilcutt used your blog to base her entire article. Boy did she fail doing that. She got blasted and rightfully so.

Sorry but skillets dont break. There is no such thing as fake skillets to begin with. Its okay if you are wrong but don't lie about a skillet breaking.

And yes...I'd go multiple times. Why not, its good food. I cant go every day but at least once a month or two.

Ruthie Johnson Miller said...

:) That's funny. Why would I lie?

The skillets were dropped, and they broke. End of story. They looked cute and all, but they were not true cast iron skillets. I haven't been in the past few weeks -- maybe they've upgraded -- but I stand by my assessment. In fact, I'm glad to hear they're now offering regular silverware instead of the plasticware they were using before.

No such thing as fake skillets? Buddy, you can find fake anything these days. And restaurants often do.

Ruthie Johnson Miller said...

From Alison Cook's review of Jus' Mac:

"They’ve already switched from just-for-show plastic replicas of iron skillets to the real thing, and from plastic forks to real silverware."

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