The most important dish in the entire eating-your-feelings-and-the-weather category? Yup, mac & cheese. You already know about the all-time, fan-favorite, top mac & cheese places in the city, but there are some absolutely must-eat newcomers -- all opened in the past year. These are those newcomers.
Root & Bone is going big on pasta and flavor here, with XL elbow macaroni steeped in a hyper-rich cheese blend -- a combo of both white and yellow cheddar, plus some Parm. It’s all topped with crumbled-up, thyme-scented biscuits, generating the perfect blend of down-home and highfalutin-home.
This place is not playing. Aside from having some of the best fried chicken of 2014, WJ's got mac & cheese that's a total classic, made with Vermont white cheddar and topped with toasted, buttered panko breadcrumbs -- the perfect combination of ooey-gooey and crispy-crunchy. The dish is a little unusual -- in lieu of béchamel, the folks at Wilma Jean add evaporated milk, giving it less of that casserole feel, and you all kinds of other feels.
This brand-new combination restaurant-and-brewery is delivering Greek-style goods to Chelsea, and among them is the bangin’ mac & saganaki, which is stuffed with hilopites pasta and cheese, and topped with fried cheese. Man, everything should be topped with fried cheese.
Chef Thomas Chen places “mac & cheese” in quotes on the menu, but not because it's some weird molecular gastronomy experiment that’s actually just a wildly disappointing cheese-scented foam. Rather, the flavor profile is just totally unusual: he uses shell pasta, which holds boatloads of the thick béchamel and Gruyere sauce, spices it with a Thai yellow curry, and dots it with blue crab. If you’re going to play with a classic, this is the way.
Pitmaster Tyson Ho? He puts his mac & cheese IN A WAFFLE IRON. End of conversation.
Chef Patti Jackson describes her take (a new main course on the lunch menu) as a "fantasy Mom’s mac and cheese from my childhood, combining a lot of cheddar, a little cream sauce, and some tomatoes." It’s topped off with perfectly crispy, homemade potato chips, because of course it is.
You’re coming here for totally solid cocktails, but if you leave without the mac & cheese, you assed up your trip. It’s packed with three cheeses (white cheddar, Parm, Pecorino) and béchamel sauce, broiled, and brought out in a cast iron pan. It’s classic, yet layered, and it’ll help you drink more drinks.
Grand Army Plaza
Yes, you go to Four & Twenty Blackbirds for the insanely amazing pie. But check out the new location inside the Brooklyn Public Library for great -- and thoroughly affordable -- lunch options, including a new mac & cheese. Going the traditional comfort food route, this M&C is ultra cheesy and topped with crunchy breadcrumbs. Pair with one of the green salads, or, you know, more mac & cheese.
Top Chef veterans Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth dominate Alphabet City's fried chicken scene with Root & Bone. It's a Southern kitchen doing takeout-able, down-home (yet sneakily refined) eats, in a spot that could easily be the ground floor of some country B&B somewhere. Irresistible offerings include gooey corn spoonbread, BBQ brisket biscuits, and, of course, fried chicken.
Armed with Southern hospitality, Wilma Jean in Gowanus serves up stackable portions of double cheeseburgers, fried bologna sandwiches, fried pickles, and its signature fried chicken, the latter of which is served atop a potato bun, on a stick, and in half-portions. Run by a husband and wife duo, the counter-service spot is a solid option for brunch, happy hour (its daily beer and wine deals are an added bonus), or for a late dinner, with the kitchen open until 10pm seven days a week.
With a 3.5 seasons of the year garden and food like mac 'n saganaki, 8-hour octopus, and a feta burger, this spot probably didn’t even need it’s 1,500sqft brewery to entice you to come, but there it is, enticing the crap out of you.
Asian-influenced contemporary American fare from Thomas Chen, formerly of Eleven Madison Park and Commerce. The menu is concise, and broken down into categories like "cold small," "hot small," and "big;" it also features a pork "Pig Out" for two.
This beer hall and home of all things pig from chef Tyson Ho brings a boat load of traditional North Carolina BBQ to the city along with enough whiskey and beer to float said boat on. The space is pretty sparse with ten small tables and a large bar, but when it gets warmer there's a patio where you can chow down. One of their specialties is the Western North Carolina Outside Brown, or pork shoulder. But probably their most unique offering is their mac and cheese waffle, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Northeastern cuisine with an old farm feel fits this small Williamsburg restaurant well, where chef/owner Patti Jackson serves a prix-fixe, family-style menu nightly. Seasonal fare isn't a trope at Delaware and Hudson, and there are no gimmicks, just superbly prepared dishes that are rustic in character but artful in presentation, like braised short rib with squash puree and duck breast with corn polenta. Brunch is an à la carte and more casual affair that draws heavily on mid-Atlantic recipes for dishes like Pennsylvania Dutch scrapple and buckwheat pancakes with blueberry syrup. Pass the pretzel rolls.
If you live in Astoria and have been on the hunt for a neighborhood bar, look no further than Sek'end Sun (pronounced Second Son). The laidback cocktail bar serves riffs on classic drinks, like an amaro Old Fashioned, and seriously good bar bites like chili butter grilled cheese and grilled wings with cilantro, lime, and soy. A giant neon "Queens" sign completes the rustic and industrial decor, proving that the bar scene in the outer boroughs is alive and well.