According to a recent scientific study by scientists about science, the only way to combat Chicago's current cold temperatures and the depression that comes with them is... mac & cheese! Especially if it's from one of these eight spots, which include everything from deep-fried lobster mac to mac & cheese-stuffed grilled cheeses.
Lincoln Park It’s no secret that Barrelhouse’s craft cocktail list is among the best in the city, but it IS a secret that this Lincoln Ave watering hole's glorious, deep-fried lobster mac is up there, too. Each skewered block (there are six to an order) features a velvety interior packed with elbow macaroni, lobster béchamel, white cheddar, scallion, and red chile. Bonus: the side of spiced Louisiana remoulade is just the dipping sauce these bites demand.
Bucktown After a chef change-up in late 2014 and a “refresh” in January, this neighborhood-y spot is back and keeping its mac & cheese game strong with an ultra-flavorful rendition that's packed with roasted tomatoes, bacon, green onions, Parmesan, bread crumbs, and a healthy dose of cream. Mmm... healthy cream doses...
Gold Coast It’s no secret that mac & cheese is an ideal accompaniment to tangy, barbecue sauce-soaked meat, and chef/partner Lee Ann Whippen’s bruleed M&C is no exception. Served in a small cast iron skillet and coated with caramelized cheese and browned breadcrumbs, it’s the perfectest perfect complement to her award-winning St. Louis-style ribs.
Lakeview Looking for something... dangerously cheesy? This chef-driven burger joint has just the thing: Mac & Cheeto. Yeah, you read correctly: noodles smothered in a sharp cheddar and Romano sauce and topped with crumbled Cheetos. And for an extra few bucks, you can add pulled pork into the mix. Pro tip: add pulled pork into the mix.
Bucktown The menu at Mindy’s changes on the regular, based on what ingredients are in season, but the picture-perfect mac & cheese is a sure bet all year round. The magic here lies in the bubbly, partially charred layer of cheese of top, which imparts the dish a subtle smoky flavor.
Wicker Park Picture this: a smoky Bloody Mary decked in all kinds of meaty accoutrements in one hand, and a spoonful of melty, gooey mac & cheese in the other. Alright, now actually go and accomplish this at casual-cool BBQ stop Smoke Daddy on Division, where the mac is baked, bread-crumbed, and piping hot while the Bloodys are made from scratch using house mix, garnished with smoked brisket and pulled pork, and served beyond just brunch.
Lakeview The grilled cheese-stuffed sandwich here (dubbed "The Mac") comes with homemade macaroni and Merkts cheddar nestled between two slices of Texas toast, with a side of tomato soup for dipping. And since Cheesie’s is open ‘til 3am on weeknights and 5am on weekends, well, you get the idea...
Avondale/Lakeview Mac & cheese goes DIY at legendary burger spot Kuma’s, with bad-ass mix-ins like andouille sausage, bacon, jalapeños, sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, and more. Pair with a brew from the rotating draft list, like Lagunitas IPA or Metropolitan Generator. Hell, pour some brew on top while you're at it.
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Kailley Lindman is a contributing writer for Thrillist Chicago, as well as a food blogger, bacon enthusiast, and devout user of the Oxford comma. Follow her at @KailleysKitchen.