macbar is a tiny tiny food spot in the area of Manhattan known as NoLIta (north of Little Italy and just east of Soho). There are a lot of fun bars, lounges and eateries around there, and macbar’s small size almost blends into the landscape, but the big flavors and color set it apart.
macbar is so cute. It’s small and to the point— mac&cheese. From the bright yellow color of the walls to the curved shape of the eatery, it’s a mac attack, in a very sweet, quirky and creative way (not the aggressive way that attack generally connotes). Even the to-go containers are fun yellow noodles, great mementos from the home of mac and cheese.
But macbar isn’t about your typical macaroni and cheese. They offer something cheesey and delicious, but also innovative and unique. Their menu is comprised of 12 different varieties of the comfort food, ranging from the classic to mac quack, all coming in three different sizes (small, medium and large). Macbar starts out with the concept of macaroni and cheese, but adds elements of excitement like, different kinds of cheeses, or chicken and spices, or ground beef, or lobster and cognac, or even tomatoes and basil.
Of course I tried the mac reuben, because I can not resist any thing reuben, especially with corned beef. I was excited to see what they would come up with, morphing the popular diner and deli sandwich into a creamy, cheesy dish. There was a heavy foundation of cheese and elbow noodles, mixed with stringy strands of corned beef and sauerkraut, topped by a hefty layer of more swiss cheese. Rye bread crumbs and cubes of pickles dotted the cheese. And to top it off was a smattering of thousand island dressing.
Oh boy. It was a lot (and I even got a small). It was rich from the baked swiss and the other creamy cheeses, but that heavy crisscross of the thousand island was far too much. I would have liked it much better had there been less. There was also hardly any trace of corned beef. I love the saltiness and texture of corned beef, but it was lost in the sea of the other elements, drowning in noodles. This was similar to the miniscule amount of ground beef in the cheeseburger mac my friend ordered that night. The sauerkraut, another one of my favorite parts of the classic reuben sandwich, was not perceptible at all. There were no hints of tangy tartness, which I think would have helped to cut the richness of the mac dish. I really enjoyed the addition of the tart pickles and the crisp rye croutons. They added great variety of texture to liven up the abundance of slimy noodles and cheese; the pickles, pucker and the bread, crunch.
Overall, despite my friend’s love for the place and my general admiration of mac&cheese, I am not sure I need to go again. It was too heavy, too rich, too cheesy, and just too much. The concept is fun and creative, mixing some of our favorite comfort foods with the king of comfort, mac and cheese. Skimping on the meats and some of the add-ins definitely does emphasize the macaroni and cheese, but it also can lead to minor disappointment.
However, I do see many more mac and cheese adventures in my foodie future. My friend, the creator of JE’s Mac & Cheese Challenge, has recruited me to come with her to some restaurants that feature the infamous macaroni and cheese. So stay tuned for oodles of noodles and mountains of cheese. Also, if you have great mac and cheese places you think we should check out for her challenge email me or leave some food for thought…. Mmm mac&cheese.