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Mac and More

This spot started out serving its namesake dish and nothing else. Expanding the menu was a good idea.

Take a look around Jus' Mac's cramped but cute dining room.

I don't know why it's never occurred to me to combine a Frito pie with macaroni and cheese. Nor would I have thought merging the dishes — two of my own idolized comfort foods — would taste so wonderful. Perhaps even if I'd thought of it, I'd have dismissed it as a bridge too far, even for me.

But in execution, the Chili Cheese macaroni and cheese at Jus' Mac is a thing of beauty and never once over the top: The meaty homemade chili is wound through the creamy sauce and pasta in a way that combines the two yet keeps them separate enough not to be confused with chili-mac. A handful of Fritos on top works in combination with crunchy bread crumbs — unnecessary in this context, but still delicious — to provide a nice contrast of textures between the springy pasta and silky sauce, making for an altogether perfect dish.

The chili cheese mac is a thing of beauty, and the wedge salad is a meal in itself.
Troy Fields
The chili cheese mac is a thing of beauty, and the wedge salad is a meal in itself.

Location Info

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Jus' Mac

2617 Yale
Houston, TX 77008

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Heights

Details

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays.
House salad: $5.95
Wedge salad: $5.95
Puebla: $6.35
Chili Cheese: $6.35
Buffalo Chicken: $7.50
Polpetta: $8.95


READ MORE:
SLIDESHOW: More Than Mac 'n' Cheese at Jus' Mac
BLOG POST: The Rise of Single-Dish Restaurants in America


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Enjoying any of the dishes this much is something I never would have expected from Jus' Mac, the Heights restaurant that opened in October 2010 serving — true to its name — only macaroni and cheese. I had rather substantial expectations for the place upon first hearing about its concept, which left me disappointed with the reality for many months after it opened. I had initially imagined a menu that ran the gamut of all that pasta-plus-cheese had to offer: a standard mac 'n' cheese with elbow macaroni in a Mornay sauce perhaps offset by more striking dishes like fusilli, farfalle or conchiglie combined with spinach and pine nuts or roasted chicken, peas and carrots.

The menu that Jus' Mac eventually opened with wasn't so far off, but I still felt it was a bit of a disappointment: The same cavatappi pasta was in every skillet (as with the odd Kraft commercials currently airing on TV, the mac 'n' cheese here is served in cast-iron skillets), and it was clear that the macaroni and cheese base for each skillet was pre-cooked and then assembled before getting a quick run under the broiler to crisp up the bread crumbs on top.

There were good options, to be clear: a Puebla, for example, that combines roasted poblano chiles with Swiss cheese, and the choice to customize your skillet by selecting ingredients from a comprehensive, if pricy, list. (Bacon? Got it. Goat cheese? Got it. Broccoli? Got it.) But the menu stopped there. Jus' Mac really did serve nothing but macaroni and cheese, and it was a shtick I saw wearing out its welcome pretty swiftly. After all, how many times can a person want macaroni and cheese for dinner? And at anywhere from $5 to $8 for only a cup of the stuff? I had a feeling that unless something changed, Jus' Mac wouldn't be long for this world.
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And then something did. Jus' Mac did that wonderful thing that restaurants occasionally do and listened to its customers and to critics who warned of macaroni and cheese exhaustion: Add some other menu items, they warned. Any other menu items. No one wants to order deep-fried macaroni-and-cheese balls as an appetizer before their entrée of macaroni and cheese. This isn't the Texas State Fair.

So slowly but surely, Jus' Mac introduced more options. First, salads. Then panini. And in addition to sodas and iced tea, it started stocking an excellent supply of locally produced beverages like Kickin' Kombucha and Saint Arnold beer. Now the selection is broad enough that a night out at Jus' Mac doesn't have to mean just macaroni and cheese — and that means a broader audience for its food.

The additions are actually good, too. I had feared that the restaurant would haphazardly add a few extra items to please the complainers, but that hasn't happened.

All three salads I've tried at Jus' Mac are worthy standalone items, especially the enormous wedge salad topped with an avalanche of blue cheese, hunks of bacon, diced tomatoes and slivers of red onion. It's far too large for one person, making its $6 price tag easier to swallow. The house and Caesar salads are both of a more manageable size and gain bonus points for consistently offering up fresh, crispy produce topped with house-made dressings that are better than expected. I wish that more restaurants made their own dressings in-house, as it's an easy item to make and stock that elevates even the most unassuming piece of lettuce.

The panini, too, are excellent. The bread is nicely toasted, crispy enough to provide a welcome crunch but not so tough that it crushes the delicate ingredients inside. A meatball — or polpetta here — panino here comes filled with soft meatballs in a tangy, not-too-sweet marinara under a soft blanket of mozzarella cheese. A dusting of parmesan on top gives the sandwich exactly the added salty oomph necessary, and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself marveling over it one afternoon. After polishing off one big half, I told my dining companion that it was among the best meatball sandwiches I'd ever had in the city.

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5 comments
Estelle711
Estelle711

I basically make about $500-$1,000 a month online. It's enough to comfortably replace my old jobs income, especially considering I only work about 10-13 hours a week from home ,read more on this web site... makecash16.comONLY

GreeneG
GreeneG

I ate here two weeks ago and enjoyed it very much. @Corey....boring is getting Mac and cheese with a naturally bland vegetable. They have over 15 versions and you got the most boring version. You know how oil tastes when a month old???

I will be going back"

Corey
Corey

Pregnant wife, nuff said right?

Corey
Corey

In a word: boring.. We went last weekend, waded through the hipsters for a take out order, macaroni and cheese with broccoli was bland tasteless, fried macaroni balls even worse, greasy, oil tasted a month plus old. Seriously you're better off at home with a skirt steak a can of rotel and a velveeta package.

John
John

God can't even eat in the Heights without all those annoying hipsters!

 
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