Cheesy, creamy, carby…It’s macaroni and cheese, and I’m pretty sure it’s humankind’s best creation. We cannot say with certainty who first put pasta with butter and cheese, but it was a power move. It was also genius. Plunging a fork into a vat of creamy pasta, and seeing that cheese-pull upward, and then tasting an overwhelming cheesiness, is an experience that satisfies like little else. It’s pure hedonistic decadence, and we’re 100 percent here to bust our diets for it.
Thankfully, chefs throughout Buffalo have been perfecting mac and cheese, churning out their own creations for us to enjoy. Some say it’s a winter comfort food, but we like to think of it as an all-the-time food, perfect for barbecues in the summer, and really anytime the craving hits. It’s simple enough to make at home, but having it at a restaurant just makes it extra-delicious and extra-special. We’ve compiled a list of places you need to go STAT to get some. (Pro tip: wear stretchy pants.)
1. Mooney’s Sports Bar & Grill
WNY locations in Depew, Kenmore, Lancaster, Tonawanda, West Seneca
Mooney’s is the mac and cheese gold standard in Buffalo. Ask around where to get the best mac and cheese, and most will say, “Mooney’s.” In fact, their slogan is, “Home of the Mac n’ Cheese.” With five locations in Western New York, there is no reason that you cannot find some of their stupendous mac and cheese in all corners of the region. They get creative with their varieties, offering up versions highlighting the best of Buffalo foods. Their mac and cheese iterations include beef on weck, stuffed banana peppers, pizza, stinger, broccoli and cheese, taco, lobster and bacon cheeseburger. Most are topped with panko bread crumbs, and all are baked.
21 South Park Ave., Buffalo
716-240-9901 / buffaloballyhoo.com
Ballyhoo doesn’t shout about its mac and cheese the way Mooney’s does, but some argue it’s the best in Buffalo. It’s sold as a side for $4, and it’s outrageously delicious. (The same mac and cheese, FYI, is also served at Lucky Day Whiskey Bar.)
3. Fat Bob’s Smokehouse
41 Virginia Place, Buffalo
716-887-2971 / fatbobs.com
Some pledge their macaroni and cheese fealty to Fat Bob’s Smokehouse and say it’s the absolute best. Whether you agree or not, you cannot go wrong eating at this amazing barbecue joint. You be the judge. Full entree mac and cheese is $9.99. They also offer “Memphis Mac” ($12.99); Texas Mac ($13.99); “Buffalo Chicken Mac” ($12.99); “Stuffed Pepper Mac” ($11.99); and a gluten free pasta option (add $2.50).
4. The Place
229 Lexington Ave., Buffalo
716-882-7522 / theplacebuffalo.com
The macaroni and cheese here is listed under “Appetizers,” but don’t be fooled. These dishes are entrees in their own right. They offer traditional ($10); braised pork belly ($13); shrimp ($12); and mushroom and truffle ($13). Of the four, we recommend the mushroom and truffle. The flavor is unreal, and one not often seen on mac and cheese offerings.
5. Griffon Gastropub
Locations in Niagara Falls, Clarence, East Aurora, Lewiston
The Griffin Gastropub’s smoked gouda macaroni and cheese ($15) deserves an indisputable spot on this must-try macaroni and cheese list. In fact, if you live in Buffalo and haven’t had this dish, you’re doing Buffalo wrong. These al dente shell pasta are tossed with the restaurant’s signature gouda cheese sauce and topped with crushed Ritz crackers for extra buttery goodness. According to their menu, “You’ll never want boring mac n’ cheese again!”
6. Shango Bistro and Wine Bar
3260 Main St., Buffalo
716-837-2326 / shangobuffalo.com
This eatery serving New Orleans style food dishes a three cheese mac — smoked gouda, goat cheese and cheddar — cradled in a bubbling cast iron cauldron ($20) of goodness. The cheesy penne pasta is topped with a rosemary panko crust and baked, and it’s basically the next best thing to hopping on a plane to The Big Easy. You can add Andouille sausage for $3, a move we highly recommend.
7. This Little Pig
4401 Transit Road, Williamsville
716-580-7872 / thislittlepigeats.com
Look under This Little Pig’s “Sides” section, and you’ll find a mac and cheese shining star deserving of its own space. Their mac and cheese ($8) comes with pulled pork, Kansas city barbecue sauce, four cheeses and crispy onions. If you’re not hungry yet, you’re simply not human.
8. The Delaware
3410 Delaware Ave., Buffalo
716-874-0100 / delawarepubandgrill.com
This classic American comfort food spot knows how to do mac and cheese, and they do it dang well. They offer smoked gouda mac and cheese, a spiral pasta baked with diced tomatoes, gouda cream sauce and a breadcrumb topping ($12.95). They also offer “Mac and Andouille Sausage” ($15.75); “Mac and Chicken” ($16.75); and “Mac and Pulled Pork” ($15.75).