For many people, mac and cheese equals comfort. It’s a childhood food, perfect for picky eaters: even if you hated spices or weird textures as a kid, you probably still loved mac and cheese, whether homemade or from the blue box. As an adult, eating the dish is an easy way to go back to a simpler, cheesier time.
In the Bay Area, there are are plenty of restaurants that recognize mac and cheese’s homey appeal. There are countless versions, some gussied up with stinky cheeses, others hewing to tradition with the classic bright orange cheddar. Here are five of our favorite versions in Berkeley and Oakland. Did we miss yours favorite Let us know in the comments.
You can't mention mac and cheese in the Bay Area without mentioning Homeroom, the Temescal restaurant dedicated to the stuff, a place so popular they had to open a second location, offering only to-go orders, in 2014. They also have a cookbook--they know what they’re doing when it comes to mac and cheese. Their restaurant offers unique versions of the dish, with enough combinations of crunch, spice and proteins to please any group, and there’s even a tofu and nutritional yeast version for vegans. Their most popular, the Gilroy Garlic Mac, came out so hot it was bubbling, with an abundance of molten cheese and crispy lid of panko breadcrumbs topping a mix of al dente macaroni and a comforting sauce of gouda, pecorino and a date-threatening amount of garlic. It’s big enough to share, and if you don’t, you’re likely to fall asleep in the school-themed restaurant, their line of custom, mac and cheese-themed postcards (“Not to be be cheesy but I miss you”) the last thing you see before dreamland.
400 40th St. [Map]
Oakland, CA 94609
Ph: (510) 597-0400
Hours: Tue-Sun, 11am-10pm; closed Monday.
Price range: $$ (Entrees $11-$17)
Angeline’s in Berkeley immediately advertises the fact that you’re in a New Orleans-style restaurant. There’s a brass brand soundtrack, Crystal on the table and walls covered with alligators and Mardi Gras signs. Their menu offers beignets, gumbo and muffalettas, and a side dish of mac and cheese. It’s a better version of the kind of classic, no-frills mac and cheese you get at Southern soul food restaurants across the country: it’s baked, so it’s less gooey than other versions and it features a classic cheddar and parmesan blend instead of something wacky like gouda or (god forbid!) goat cheese. Angeline’s version is topped with a delightfully crunchy layer of well-seasoned bread crumbs and the optional addition of bacon adds welcome bursts of texture and flavor.