Mac n’ Cheese: A Quest To Find The Best


Susannah Bennett, Junior Writer

Fall has now come and with fall comes the tasty foods that are comforting in the chilly weather. Countless comfort foods are perfectly fitting on a cold autumn day, but no dish can compare to a piping hot bowl of mac and cheese. Many restaurants in Grand Rapids have tasty mac and cheese though I have noticed that some people prefer Panera, Twisted Rooster, and Noodles for mac and cheese.

Panera Mac & Cheese

Various Panera restaurants populate the Grand Rapids area, but the closest one is on the corner of 28th Street SE and Kraft Ave. SE. Their menu is filled with scrumptious cuisine, like sandwiches and bakery items. The options are endless, but I always choose their exceptional mac and cheese. Though the price for such a small portion was $7.99, the mac and cheese was worth the cost.

Any description you may read about Panera’s Mac & Cheese won’t do it justice. Every creamy bite brings a new mouthful of tangy cheddar flavor. Panera’s mac and cheese is the kind that makes you sigh and lick your lips in satisfaction. Each spoonful is pure bliss. The only downside is that because it’s so rich, too much of it will make you feel sick. Although the dish is very straightforward, its simplicity only adds to its deliciousness. The homemade mac and cheese vibe reminded me of being at home, cozied in a corner on a cold autumn day.

The texture only adds to the perfection. All of the shells are firm, and neither crunchy nor soggy. Despite the firmness of the noodles, the creamy sauce stays smooth and it filled the pasta shells, bringing a rich burst of flavor to each bite. Panera’s mac and cheese has only two main components, but its simplistic design only adds to its heavenly flavor.

Twisted Roosters House Mac & Cheese

The beloved Twisted Rooster has a variety of foods and a welcoming atmosphere; before I even set foot in my booth, I knew the meal and service would be outstanding. Twisted Rooster has many locations all over Michigan, but the closest one is the located on East Beltline. Uniquely, Twisted Rooster offers four types of mac and cheese: Twisted Mac and Cheese, Lobster Mac and Cheese, Kimchee Steak Mac and Cheese, and House Mac and Cheese. I chose the classic House Mac and Cheese. At a price of $9.29, it was expensive, but absolutely worth it.

The House Mac and Cheese was quite different from the Panera Mac and Cheese. As I took my first bite, my teeth crunched through the soft spiral noodles and as I chewed, there was a slight crunch from the cheese and bread crumbs. A sharp taste of cheese filled my mouth; the five different shredded cheeses were spread over the whole dish, half melted and half set. Every bite was as delicious as the first. Almost instantaneously, I fell in love with the House Mac and Cheese. The taste was familiar in the way that it echoed a baked mac and cheese, yet it was different with all of its complex parts. This mac and cheese has its own edge.

Under the distinct baked noodles and cheese, there was cheesy sauce. All these components deliciously contrasted in my mouth: the crunchy crumbs and cheese, the soft noodles, and the creamy sauce. Each part of the dish had a purpose and specific feel. Protruding from the pasta was a wafer of parmesan, which was quite chewy. Though it was very tasty, I believe a crunchier cheese flake would have made it even better.

Noodles Wisconsin Mac & Cheese

As a chain restaurant, Noodles and Company can be found just about anywhere, but the one I visited was on 28th Street in Cascade. Costing only $5.89, the Wisconsin Mac and Cheese is a fantastic meal for a great price and portion. As I waited for my meal to come, my excitement grew. Before my first bite, I knew the Wisconsin Mac and Cheese would be amazing.

Differing from the other two, the Wisconsin Mac and Cheese mirrors a typical mac and cheese, with the added appeal of melted cheese coating each noodle. Although its simplicity enticed me, I am true lover of all things cheesy, and this mac and cheese was lacking in the creamy, cheesy area. Delicious melted cheese covered the top layer of elbow-shaped noodles, but near the bottom, there was a great absence of cheese. Other than the shortage of cheese, the overall flavor was pleasing to my taste buds.

One word to describe the texture of the pasta shells would be “al dente,” which means cooked to a point of firmness when bitten. Each elbow-shaped noodle was perfectly cooked and its firm structure only added to the taste. Piquant, melted cheese hung off each forkful of mac and cheese; as a lover of cheese, the effect of melted cheese spanning the whole bowl was mouthwatering. Though I loved the melted cheese, it was fairly disappointing that the cheese wasn’t nearly as rich and sharp as the other two mac and cheeses were.

Being my favorite food, mac and cheese has a special spot in my heart. Eating these mac and cheese dishes only heightened my love for it. I was overwhelmed with a boredom for boxed mac and cheese, which can be good, but why have the same sub-par mac and cheese when you can have the amazingly delicious mac and cheese from Panera, Twisted Rooster, or Noodles? With cold weather just around the corner, go snuggle up with a hot bowl of delicious mac and cheese that will satisfy your warm food cravings.