8 Gooey Mac ’n’ Cheese Dishes You Must Try in Honolulu
From the traditional macaroni and cheese to a mac ’n’ cheese pancake, we rounded up the best versions of this classic comfort food.
1. Mac ’N’ Cheese, Downbeat Diner, $5
PHOTOS: JAMES CHARISMA
This month, Chinatown’s Downbeat Diner added mac ’n’ cheese to its menu—rich and gooey, made with traditional macaroni curls and a very creamy cheddar mix.
The new dish ends up something like alfredo, served in a bowl. This hearty beast is available for just $5, with bacon, sausage or Portuguese sausage available for $1.50 more. It’s a welcome addition to the diner’s regular burgers/salads/milkshakes fare.
“I feel overly passionate about mac ’n’ cheese,” says Downbeat Diner co-owner Serena Hashimoto. “My parents were these 1960s-era Berkeley hippies, so I wasn’t really allowed to eat normal childhood food growing up. But my babysitters would always serve Stouffer’s mac ’n’ cheese when I was little, and it is my favorite food even to this day.”
Co-owners Hashimoto and Joshua Hancock were such fans of the dish, they delayed putting it on the menu rather than risk preparing it badly. “We wanted to do it right. The chefs kept asking if they could make it, and they finally just developed a recipe on their own, and it was perfect,” Hashimoto says. The dish hasn’t been on the Downbeat menu long, but it’s fast become a staple.
“Every batch is made from scratch and to order,” says Hancock. “People add it as a side onto our chili, our omelets, the nachos. I’m glad they like it.”
Sampling Downbeat’s mac ’n’ cheese got us feeling nostalgic for the childhood favorite and in the mood for more. So we found a few more awesomely cheesy takes around town that you definitely need to try.
42 North Hotel Street, 533-2328, downbeatdiner.com
2. Baked Macaroni + Cheese, 12th Ave Grill, $8
Our own Best of Honolulu 2011 heavyweight champion, 12th Ave Grill’s mac ’n’ cheese is small but dense: elbow pasta, homemade Parmesan-cheese sauce, topped with breadcrumbs and baked. And for just $8? It’s a knockout. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, add Hāmākua mushrooms or house Shinsato ham for just a couple of bucks extra.
1120 12th Ave., 732-9463, 12thavegrill.com
3. 7-Cheese White Mac ’n’ cheese, Mac 24/7, $16
With not one but, count ’em, seven different cheeses including blue, Boursin, Fontina, Gouda, mascarpone, Velveeta and white cheddar, Mac 24/7 in Waikīkī offers the United Nations of mac ’n’ cheeses, served with shells instead of the eponymous macaroni. A wide list of add-ons is also available, including bacon ($2), truffle oil ($3), grilled chicken ($4), short ribs ($5) and even lobster ($8). Mac’s mac (’n’ cheese) is hearty but, with so many different cheeses crammed into one dish, they quickly become indistinguishable. The cheddar and Velveeta stand out, but the rest are somewhat of a blur. Or maybe it’s just the Velveeta overpowering the more subtle cousins in a struggle for dominance, reclaiming a dish that is rightfully its own.
2500 Kūhiō Ave., 921-5564, mac247waikiki.com
4. Truffle Mac ’n’ cheese, Kissaten, $10.75
The 24-hour coffee bar Kissaten offers a truffle mac ’n’ cheese featuring aged white cheddar and truffle oil, topped with roasted chicken breast, bacon crumbles and torched bread crumbs. It’s hearty and gigantic and comes served on a massive plate, perfect for sharing. Purists beware, though: Kissaten opts for penne pasta instead of macaroni and, with the bonus chicken and bacon, the meal feels like more of a cheesy pasta dish rather than your conventional mac ’n’ cheese.
88 Pi‘ikoi St., 593-1200, kissatencafe.com
5. Beermade Mac ’n’ cheese, Honolulu Beerworks, $8.50
At Honolulu Beerworks, macaroni, cheese and beer all go hand in hand (in hand) with the signature Kaka‘ako Kolsch cooked right into the generous cheese fondue, the entire thing covered in a panko crust, baked and served in an aluminum pie pan. Straightforward and tasty, Beerworks’ mac ’n’ cheese is best combined with other menu offerings, such as miso pork sliders or Bavarian pretzels, which can mop up the remaining cheese sauce. No shame.
328 Cooke St., 589-2337, honolulubeerworks.com
6. Macaroni + Cheese Pancakes, Morning Glass Café, $9
A ridiculous yet genius interpretation of the classic, Morning Glass Café offers mac ’n’ cheese pancakes for weekend brunch and its once-a-month “night breakfast” event, using elbow macaroni, pancake batter and aged Vermont cheddar. The result is crispy on the outside, gooey and melty on the inside, and tastes amazing. Where have mac ’n’ cheese pancakes been all our lives? Served with complimentary maple syrup, and bacon on top for just $1.50 more.
2955 E. Mānoa Road, 673-0065, morningglasscoffee.com
7 & 8. Honorable Mentions: Morton’s The Steak House and Yard House
Incredible mac ’n’ cheese offerings are also available at Morton’s The Steakhouse with a renowned recipe featuring bacon, onions and large cheese crumbles, and at Yard House with cheddar, Parmesan, truffle oil, chicken, bacon and wild mushrooms. Both are national chain restaurants, whose mac ’n’ cheese offerings are identical across the country. So, yes, worthy, but we tend to prefer those created closer to home.
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