Some swear by the comfort power of mac and cheese. Others believe in the solace of a gooey melted-cheese sandwich. The two factions can come together at this clever and casual spot.
At Mac & Melts, you order at the counter and your food is brought to your table. You may have to request serving utensils and extra plates, since the mac and cheese (in both small and large sizes) easily feeds more than one.
It's commendable that the pasta in the bubbling cast-iron skillets is uniformly al dente, no small feat. The key to ordering well is to keep things simple. Which is why the top mac and cheese choices are the "all American," made with two kinds of Cheddar, and the 5-cheeses, adding smoked mozzarella, Gouda and Gruyère to the mix.
Multicolored crushed tortilla chips top the Southwestern, a molten meld of mac, Cheddar, pepper Jack, jalapeño and andouille sausage. Unexpectedly, this combo comes together well. But the Alpine, made with Gruyère, smoked Gouda, caramelized onions and bacon, seems a bit cluttered. So, too, the "make shroom," with mushrooms, Gouda, Gruyère and truffle oil. There's way too much of everything in the "mac of all daddies," whose roster of ingredients includes jalapeño, garlic puree, bacon and zucchini. About the "dirty water dog" and "Buffalo chicken" versions: Why get mac and cheese if you really want a frankfurter or hot wings? Still, you may be curious. So order the M & M sampler, a large segmented skillet showcasing eight varieties.
Not surprisingly, the most successful melted cheese sandwiches have the fewest components. It's hard to surpass the classic Wisconsin melt, featuring Cheddar on Pullman white bread; pair it with a bowl of the eatery's first-rate tomato bisque and you've got a slam dunk. Best of the sandwich combos is the Adam's rib, braised short rib, Cheddar and brown gravy on sourdough -- mellow and meltingly good. But you'll want to forego the PBNJ dessert sandwich, a deep fried amalgam of peanut butter, bananas, Nutella and grape jelly with Cool Whip.
Instead, remember what drew you here: a craving for the simplest of comfort classics.