Macaroni and cheese: easily the most comforting of comfort foods. It’s a simple enough dish, noodles covered with cheese, but just consider how your favorite childhood meal can be made better with adult ingredients. Lobster! Smoked Gouda! Any cheese that’s not powdered! Move over boxed stuff, these Memphis places have you beat at the mac game.
This is possibly the number one mac in the city. Corkscrew noodles swim in a heavenly, oh-so-creamy blend of Monterey Jack, white cheddar, and colby cheeses. The dish is offered as a side, not an entree, but it’s definitely filling enough to be considered a meal on its own. And it’s topped with crispy bacon. We all know everything is better with bacon.
The restaurant’s whimsical grade-school cafeteria theme is only enhanced by the addition of an adult version of a classic mac on its chalkboard menu. It’s made with cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan, and cottage cheeses and baked in a single-serve tin. For a twist on a club sandwich, LUNCHBOXeats adds a scoop of this cheesy deliciousness atop hickory-smoked pork butt for its Leadership MAC & PORK Club.
This place has a nice variety of salads, flatbreads, and sophisticated entrees, like chicken piccata and bourbon-glazed Cajun beef tenderloin, but the mac is where it’s at. Ooey-gooey goodness made with white cheddar, Parmesan, smoked Gouda, truffle oil, and bacon.
Downtown and Overton Square
Whether or not you’re looking for a great beer bar, it’s still worth stopping at Local for the mac and cheese “bar.” Spiral noodles topped with Gruyère cheese and truffle oil are baked in a mini cast-iron skillet. It's delicious on its own, but you can (and will want to) choose add-ins: lobster, chorizo, bacon, short ribs, tasso, and/or blue cheese.
Cooper-Young, East Memphis, and Germantown
Offering Southern comfort food staples, like smoked pork chops and fried catfish, it’s no surprise Soul Fish has a creamy, classic macaroni on its menu. For the choose-three vegetable plate, some opt for triple mac. (You know who you are! No worries, we aren’t judging you.) And yes, we do consider mac and cheese a vegetable here in the South.
No, cheese isn’t vegan, but vegans need comfort food, too. Imagine serves up two types of mac: yellow mac made with melted “Teese” cheddar, and white mac drenched with a house-made garlicky white sauce that includes vegan mozzarella -- so good, omnivores would never know the difference.
Alchemy offers a refined menu of small plates, with entree options like diver scallops with corn coulis and lemongrass cilantro salsa. From the “to share” menu: a fancified version of macaroni and cheese made with a three-cheese blend, buttered bread crumbs, and andouille sausage.
This is pretty close to the mac you grew up on, with noodles so cheesy they stick together. Eclectic tops it off with lightly toasted ciabatta croutons and bacon. It’s a hefty serving and comes with a side. Choose the side salad to feel better about the carb-loading.
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1. Bleu Restaurant & Lounge221 South 3rd Street, Memphis
2. Automatic Slim's83 S 2nd St, Memphis
3. LUNCHBOXeats288 S 4th St, Memphis
4. Local Gastropub2126 Madison Ave, Memphis
5. Imagine Vegan Cafe2299 Young Avenue, Memphis
6. Alchemy940 South Cooper St, Memphis
7. Cafe Eclectic603 N. McLean Blvd., Memphis
If you haven't stopped by for a bowl of their mac and cheese yet, you have no idea what you are missing.
For a swanky, boozy downtown brunch, settle in at Automatic Slim's for its 100oz mimosa towers, plus entrées like Seared Scallops & Grits and Chorizo-Potato Hash. Choose from pancakes or waffles in flavors such as red velvet, Oreo, cinnamon roll, Manhattan (with bourbon syrup), mint-chocolate chip, and the Elvis (peanut-butter syrup and sliced bananas).
It's like eating in your grade-school cafeteria, except the food is way better.
This tavern commands a solid local beer selection, as well as a large area downstairs where communal tables bring large groups to socialize and partake on nightly specials on select bottles and drafts. Upstairs, comfortable couches, TVs streaming athletic events, and above-average bar appetizers like beer cheese fondue and goat cheese & crab enchiladas help retain the bar's local following.
This family owned and operated cafe in Cooper-Young offers hearty (and meat-free) fare out of a bungalow style space. Comfort food favorites like pizza, barbecue sandwiches, and burgers get the vegan treatment courtesy of seitan, tempeh, and tofu, yet still manage to taste like the real thing. The creamy vegan mac and cheese is a standout.
The appropriately-named Alchemy offers the kind of dim, sexy atmosphere and sophisticated cocktails you might associate with Manhattan rather than our Midtown area. From behind the spacious bar, bartenders produce craft cocktails with ingredients that might be new to you, like The Alchemist (Eagle Rare, Antica, Aperol, and Peychaud bitters), and there're bourbon and scotch lists and a small plates menu.
The original location of the Memphis area brewhouse is a cozy neighborhood locale offering up unique, caffienated drinks -- often with Memphis-inspired names. The Star & Micey (named for a local indie band) features two shots of espresso, a mixture of white and dark chocolate syrups, and whipped cream. The massive coffee shop offers plenty of working space and a separate room for private meetings.