Hidden Gems: Where to Get Macaroni and Cheese
It seems like nearly every restaurant in the Boston area offers some form of mac and cheese on the menu. The options range from old-school dishes with basic elbow pasta and cheddar cheese to inventive takes using other types of pasta (conchiglie, for example) with meat, vegetables, and many types of cheese. And as with all dishes, some are better than others, including those offered by a handful of lesser-known dining spots—and even drinking establishments that are perhaps better known for beer or wine than for food. The restaurants and bars below are four such places, all featuring mac and cheese that will certainly warm your insides on a chilly night.
THE WINTHROP ARMS HOTEL
130 Grovers Ave., Winthrop. Info: 617-846-4000, winthroparms.com.
Ironically, one of the best places in the Boston area for macaroni and cheese doesn’t even have it listed as a meal on its menu. Yet the restaurant at the Winthrop Arms Hotel not only offers it if you ask, but it is actually a signature dish at this cozy old-world spot that sits on a tiny peninsula within a peninsula above the Atlantic Ocean. The baked mac and cheese at the Winthrop Arms is a bit of both classic and modern—though learning toward the former—with cavatappi in a creamy mix of several cheeses with a crispy, browned coating on top. By the way, for those looking for something other than macaroni and cheese, the place also offers an array of traditional American and Italian items, all of which are reasonably priced.
316 Cambridge St., Boston. Info: 617-523-2727, harvardgardens.com.
A slightly more upscale establishment for macaroni and cheese is Harvard Gardens, a place on the northern edge of Beacon Hill that actually used to be dive bar frequented by college students many years ago. Today, it’s a sleek, modern-feeling comfort food spot that’s mainly a neighborhood favorite (though folks from Mass General across the street also frequent the place), and their take on mac and cheese is certainly different from that of the Winthrop Arms, with broccoli, peas, shitake mushrooms, and a hint of truffles. Two sizes of the dish are available, with one being more of an appetizer or small plate and the other being a full meal.
173 Pearl St., Braintree. Info: 781-843-0999, tennesseesbbq.com.
Barbecue joints tend to have good macaroni and cheese, and while the Boston area isn’t exactly Memphis when it comes to BBQ, there are a few decent options in and around the city—and most include solid takes on mac and cheese. One such place is a little-known spot just outside of South Braintree Square called Tennesee’s, which offers a baked version featuring elbow macaroni and cheddar cheese, and while it’s only offered on the menu as a side dish, you can make a meal of it by doubling (or tripling) up on it. And because Tennessee’s is a barbecue joint, you have the option of adding BBQ sauce to the mac and cheese, with the hot sauce being a particularly good one to add to it. Note: Locations of Tennessee’s can also be found in Framingham and Peabody.
THE PUBLICK HOUSE
1648 Beacon St., Brookline. Info: 617-277-2880, thepublickhousebeerbar.com.
While not exactly a hidden spot, The Publick House in Brookline is really known more as a beer bar than a restaurant—and what a beer bar it is, with countless bottles and drafts on tap, as well as a cave-like bar within the bar called The Monk’s Cell. But The Publick House also has some very good food, including a terrific macaroni and cheese made with orecchiette pasta and five cheeses, along with a number of add-ons such as jalapeños, hot dogs, fried eggs, lobster, and short ribs. One especially good add-on is the truffle cream, which turns this already-excellent macaroni and cheese into something so memorable that the aroma of the dish alone is worth it.
Honorable Mentions: Ashmont Grill, Dorchester; Atwood’s Tavern, Cambridge; The Restaurant, Waltham; Ledge Kitchen and Drinks, Dorchester; O’Hara’s, Newton Highlands, Deep Ellum, Allston; Victoria’s Diner, Roxbury; Area Four, Cambridge.