Mac samplings: (clockwise from top left) Crooked Spoon Gourmet Food Truck, Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops, Cask & Larder and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
Whether baked, boiled or grilled, macaroni and cheese has been around forever. And our comfort food obsession keeps growing: Cheese-ology in Missouri and S’Mac in New York City are just two of the country’s mac-only restaurants. Central Florida has no all-mac spots yet, but dining critic Joseph Hayes has found numerous tasty local takes on the cheesy, starchy treasure.
Hearty steak dinners cry out for equally sturdy sides, and at Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops at the Hilton Orlando, little cups of orecchiette pasta cradle a rich white cheddar sauce studded with—what else?—candied bacon. Main course and dessert all in one. thehiltonorlando.com/dining/spencers
For an artistic interpretation of mac ’n cheese, head to Café Tu Tu Tango, which offers penne pasta coated in a spicy jalapeño-horseradish Mornay sauce with pancetta, caramelized onions and oven-dried tomatoes. cafetututango.com
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store restaurants have the lock on the traditional, no-nonsense dish: elbow mac (the kind we all slurped as kids), butter, milk and Colby cheese, crisp from the broiler. Sometimes the old standbys are the best. crackerbarrel.com
The dish cooked up by Steve Saelg of Crooked Spoon Gourmet Food Truck combines provolone, asiago, parmesan, fontina, swiss and gorgonzola around ribbed radiatori pasta, peppers and crisp bacon for a moveable fromage feast. thecrookedspn.com
K Restaurant offers an alternating choice. There’s the hearty holdover from Chef Kevin Fonzo’s Nonna restaurant of fusilli pasta, fennel-spiced Italian sausage house-made from Palmetto Creek Farms pork, roasted tomato, green olives and parmesan cheese. And the white cheddar and lobster concoction that is a meal in itself. krestaurant.net