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We found the creamiest and tastiest mac and cheese in Hampton Roads

By: Patty Jenkins

March 25, 2016

When you think of macaroni and cheese, do you think of one of our Founding Fathers? If not, you should. In its earliest form, the dish was often served at presidential dinners. Thomas Jefferson became fascinated with the elbow-shaped noodle while visiting Italy and France, so fascinated that he had a special delivery of the pasta shipped to Virginia. Now, how do we make this dish even more Virginian? It was Jefferson’s distant relative, Mary Randolph, who included a three-ingredient version in her 19th century cookbook “The Virginia House-Wife.”

By the late 1930s, macaroni and cheese had become nationally popular through the sale of inexpensive and convenient box brands.

On a recent chilly but sunny Saturday, four taste testers set out to find the best nominated mac and cheese in South Hampton Roads. This is what they discovered.

Our testers

Sarah Young, 28

  • From Virginia Beach
  • Occupation English instructor, Old Dominion University
  • Nominated Chow, Terrapin in Virginia Beach and Zoës in Virginia Beach
  • On mac and cheese “Macaroni and cheese has always been one of my favorite dishes simply because I love both pasta and cheese. When combined, they make the perfect indulgent comfort food. Also, mac and cheese is special to me because my great-grandmother’s recipe for homemade, oven-baked mac and cheese was passed on to my grandmother, and she makes it every year on certain holidays. I hope to carry on the tradition of making it for the family one day.”

David Morrison, 33

  • From Portsmouth
  • Occupation cardiac radiology technologist
  • Nominated Gosport Tavern in Portsmouth
  • On mac and cheese “The sweet and savory taste of the ivory and golden dish called mac and cheese has the unique ability to transcend time and taste buds. That’s why I love, and everyone should love, mac and cheese.”

P. Augustus McKeon IV, 35

  • From Virginia Beach
  • Occupation law enforcement officer. McKeon is a former chef at Big Easy Grill and Oyster Bar, 219 an American Bistro, Bodega on Granby and Mannino’s Italian Bistro. “After 13 years of working in the kitchen, I made a career switch to follow my father’s footsteps into law enforcement.”
  • Nominated Chow and Belmont House of Smoke
  • On mac and cheese “One of my many favorite memories as a young boy was visiting my grandparents on the weekends, where my Grampy and I would make scrumptious cheesy mac with kielbasa. The elements that I look for in a savory mac and cheese are the quality of cheese, texture and creativeness.”

Sharon Thoma, 53

  • From Virginia Beach
  • Occupation owner of Traded Spaces
  • Nominated Yard House in Virginia Beach
  • On mac and cheese “Since my grandmother served me my first mac and cheese at the age of 2, it has remained my all-time favorite food. I have made it a lifetime mission to find the best mac and cheese recipe in the world.”

Our winner!

The Public House (Score: 82)

The Public House
The Public House

The mac and cheese served at this Ghent eatery comes two meal-size ways: Blue Collar (cheddar and American cheeses topped with panko breadcrumbs) and White Collar (Parmesan, white cheddar, chevre goat and blue cheeses topped with black truffle dust).

  • 1112 Colley Ave., Norfolk
  • 757-227-9064
  • Prices $8.99 for Blue Collar, $9.99 for White Collar

What they said

  • “Get both Blue and White collar, so you can try both and take leftovers home.” – Sarah
  • “To be honest, I would pick Blue versus White.” – David
  • “Looking for a great night snack to hold you over after a few drinks? Head to The Public House and get their cheesy mac.” – Augustus
  • “Very good, but wish the dish was cheesier. The panko and truffle dust on top added texture and unique flavor.” – Sharon

Best of the rest

Belmont House of Smoke (Score: 67)

dbh dbpjtastetest032716 1
Belmont House of Smoke

The mac and cheese comes as a side dish or in a “BBQ and cheese fusion” known as the Special Mac & Cheese topped with a special Soo-ey Sauce that’s smoky and extra sweet. Want more barbecue flavor? Choose from a six-pack of sauces, including the in-house varieties of Carolina and Smoke House Hooch.

  • 2117 Colonial Ave., Norfolk
  • 757-623-4477
  • Prices $2.99 for a side, $8.99 for the fusion.

What they said

  • “Smells like BBQ, but the mac aspect isn’t that noteworthy. “ – Sarah
  • “Golden texture on top, but the cheese is subtle next to the barbecue.” – David
  • “I felt that the (cheese) sauce was creamy. I do wish, however, that they would add a little extra cheese to enhance the flavor.” – Augustus
  • “It lacks a cheesy flavor. If you like noodles with your barbecue, then you may like it.” – Sharon

Chow (Score: 65)

Chow
Chow

This Southern-inspired restaurant offers its mac and cheese as a side item. Served in a square bowl with a textured appearance, the dish can also be added to the plate and sandwich options on the extensive blackboard menu.

  • 5103 Colley Ave., Norfolk
  • 757-321-2923
  • Prices $3.95 a side.

What they said

  • “It’s my favorite mac and cheese in the area, but, as I discovered, it is sometimes hit or miss.” – Sarah
  • “It’s a bit grainy, though very cheesy.” – David
  • “I realize it’s a side dish to accompany their main dishes, but it should still stand out. I’ve been here before and enjoyed their cheesy mac, but today was lackluster.” – Augustus
  • “Well-seasoned, but I don’t think it was freshly made.” – Sharon

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