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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
1. Barrelhouse Flat2624 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago
2. Feast Restaurant & Bar1616 N Damen Ave, Chicago
3. Chicago Q1160 N Dearborn, Chicago
4. Spritz Burger3819 N Broadway St, Chicago
5. Mindy's Hot Chocolate1747 N Damen Ave, Chicago
6. The Smoke Daddy1804 W Division St, Chicago
7. Cheesie's Pub & Grub958 W Belmont Ave, Chicago
8. Kuma's Too666 W Diversey Pkwy, Chicago
This two-floor throwback cocktail bar in Lincoln Park churns out classic tipples like Sazeracs, Old Fashioneds and Manhattans alongside lesser-known drinks like the Jimmie Roosevelt, a blend of cognac, green chartreuse and Champagne. Choose from 60+ varieties of shaken or stirred drinks.
Feast's got pn-point Bloody Marys and brunch that you can enjoy indoors or out, plus a standout mac & cheese with roasted tomatoes, bacon, green onions, Parmesan, bread crumbs, and a healthy dose of cream.
A solid member of Chi's increasingly crowded smoked-meat scene, Chi Q gets fancy with spartan black leather furniture and white linen light fixtures. The gut-busting plates feature fare like bacon/cheddar hushpuppies, pork-infused "pig powder chips", and seriously good Brussels sprouts.
A burger joint with a burger named The Pub Crawl(cheddar, chutney and roasted tomato) is going to understandably peak your interest, and rightfully so. A menu made up of deep-fried comfort food(of which 13 items are burgers) awaits you amongst seltzer spritz cocktails like the spritzed Malort and pastries.
Pastry chef Mindy Segal's Bucktown restaurant is synonymous with comfort food from both the sweet and savory sides of the spectrum. Open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, Mindy's Hot Chocolate serves soul-warming dishes, like the Slagel Farm beef burger topped with a fried egg, creamy mac & cheese, and daily soups with crusty sourdough bread. Of course, a meal here isn't complete without dessert, which should include an order of the amazingly rich hot chocolate and a slice of the daily cake (or anything off the dessert menu -- it's all addictive).
Smoke Daddy is a BBQ emporium in Wicker Park serving up sauce-slathered eats like ribs and brisket, while also showing its more delicate side with brunch that includes something called a "Big Daddy Breakfast."
Available in massive 12" iterations plus smaller chump-ready sizes, Cheesie's riffs on grilled cheeses include the Mac (American & Merkts w/ actual mac & cheese), and the bacon/ cheddar/ cream cheese Jalapeno Popper.
From the flames of hell that spawned Kuma’s Corner, Kuma’s Too has arisen at (of course) 666 W Diversey, nearly doubling the original's size while duplicating its metal-inspired, pretzel-bunned burger options like the Metallica (Buffalo sauce, bacon, bleu cheese dressing) and the Black Sabbath, made with blackening spice, chili, pepper jack.