I was a vegetarian in New Orleans for a very long time, so I became an expert at going out to eat and only ordering sides, as there was a pretty massive dearth of vegetarian options here in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. It’s been almost ten years since I’ve been relegated to side-dish-only hell, but I thought it might be fun to dedicate a column to my all-time favorite side: macaroni and cheese!
Rue 127 (127 N. Carrollton Ave.)
Not on their normal menu per se, but offered during restaurant week (and literally every other time I’ve been there, as a special), Rue 127 has fried mac and cheese bites. I assumed that these bites would be coated in breadcrumbs, so that every bite would taste like the top of a pan of macaroni and cheese. And then they’d be deep fried! So obviously, they’d be crunchy- ish on the outside and gooey on the inside. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Well, it’s not. These aren’t coated in anything (that I could tell) so the grease from the deep fryer soaked into the bite itself. It’s like eating a salty, oil-filled gusher. Biting into a gooey, bland, pasta ball that squirts grease into your mouth is absolutely disgusting. The atmosphere is fancy in that hodgepodge, we visited the Green Project, bought some disused millwork, and slapped it on the wall kind of way. So there’s that, I guess. 0/10 Architectural Brackets
Piccadilly’s Cafeteria (various locations)
I’m not sure if it was me or my boo that had the idea that we should spend one weekend dining exclusively at Westbank chain restaurants, but one of us apparently came up with the idea and the other ostensibly agreed to it, because several weeks ago, we ate at Picadilly’s in Gretna. I’d never been there before, and even though I like to think of myself as open minded, I was immediately not feeling the cafeteria concept. Why not just make this a buffet? I don’t get it. Anyway, I tried the macaroni and cheese and it was pretty bland, and the cheese was maybe a knockoff Velveeta, but maybe it wasn’t? I don’t know, but I ate one bite, and I was perfectly happy to eat no more. The music was on point, though. We heard the Cranberries and Bonnie Raitt and the waitress was really pleasant. Also—and this is really random—the artwork here is really good. 1/10 Knockoff Velveetas
The Joint (701 Mazant St.)
Okay, let’s be real: you’re not going to The Joint for the sides, and that’s a good thing because the salad is totally abysmal, the beans are just okay, and the coleslaw is nothing to blog about. But the macaroni and cheese is not bad. I mean, I wouldn’t go there just to eat that, but, well, it’s totally edible. The cheese is creamy, but not overly so; the pasta is almost to the point of losing its structural integrity, but not quite there yet. Seriously, it’s fine. 5.5/10 Somewhat Superfluous Sides
Rocky and Carlo’s (613 W Saint Bernard Hwy, Chalmette)
Rocky and Carlo’s is locally famous for having the best macaroni and cheese in town. Now, I’ve never been to Rocky and Carlo’s before, mainly because my family was always touchy about the various salmonella outbreaks through the years. My aunt literally looked horrified when I told her I was going there. Nonetheless, I bravely went, and ordered the macaroni and cheese (with gravy) and fried shrimp. I love when people use the long strands of macaroni, because that means that the cheese-to-pasta ratio is always perfect. Everyone in my party ordered the macaroni but with different main courses. This is important to note, because I was the only one who got sick. And I got really sick. About an hour after I ate, my stomach started churning and it was all downhill from there. I ended up laid out on the sofa for the rest of the day. My lady friend, assuming it wasn’t the food, because she was fine, ate my leftovers that night, and likewise fell ill. I’ve eaten a lot of fried shrimp in my life (from some pretty sketchy locales), and this was my first bad shrimp experience. It’s sad because Rocky and Carlo’s is the sort of cute, fun, generally tasty spot I want to recommend. You get to keep your cup! There’s signs everywhere that say “Ladies Welcome!” Alas, it made me violently sick and now I’m sort of heartbroken. Too sad to rate this one.
High Hat (4500 Freret St.)
I would have thought that pimento mac and cheese couldn’t fail, but holy crap, this is so intensely greasy. Why is macaroni and cheese so hard for restaurants to get right? Ugh. I’m not much of a cook, and mine is better than all this. 0/10 Things Are Just Getting Sad Now
Mid City Yacht Club (440 S. Saint Patrick St.)
Bacon mac and cheese poppers are on the menu but apparently not served anymore. The outrage! Luckily, they had a macaroni and cheese special that was better than I expected, considering all of my experiences up to this point. There were mushrooms, crawfish, bacon, elbow macaroni, and a very creamy, strongly-flavored cheese sauce. There was no hard crust which, for me, is the marker of a truly superior macaroni and cheese, but otherwise good. 7.5/10 Missing Poppers
Cowbell (8801 Oak St.)
I’m not a fan of cutesy ‘funny’ things on a menu, so I was immediately annoyed by Cowbell’s “*CORKAGE FEE is $1,ooo,ooo.oo (1oo% goes towards National Debt. Honest.).” I’m sure someone thinks this is the height of hilarity, but whatever. I’m joyless. I don’t need jokes on my menus. Nonetheless, Cowbell has easily the best macaroni and cheese I tried anywhere. It was creamy without being milky, and the always- important cheese-to-pasta ratio was perfect. There are breadcrumbs on this one but still no hard crust! Also, that jokey menu is dragging their rating down a touch. 8/10 People Who Will Point Out That I Make Pointless Stupid Jokes All the Time With My Silly Rating System