Food Fight: Battle Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese at Reef
Mac & Cheese at Reef
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt

​It was with a heavy heart that we set out to procure the two macaroni and cheese dishes for this week's Food Fight. As you'll remember, we asked our readers to tell us their favorite macaroni and cheese in hopes that we would discover some heretofore unknown restaurant serving mac & cheese just like our mother makes and fall head-over-heels in love.

Perhaps if we'd gone with Central Texas Style BBQ in Pearland, we'd be happier today. Instead, we went with the two restaurants that received the most write-in votes: Reef and Ouisie's Table. Our hearts were heavy with the knowledge that neither place was going to turn out a down-home dish of mac & cheese, and that both places would be charging far more for the dish than anyone should ever really pay for such comfort food.

It's worth noting that one restaurant received nearly twice as many votes as either Reef (with four) or Ouisie's (with five) did. Beaver's Ice House appeared to be the hands-down favorite of our commenters, and that was no surprise to us: They were coincidentally chosen as our Best of Houston® winner for Best Macaroni and Cheese this year. We already know that stuff is like cheese-covered crack in a bowl. We dream about it. If it were a historic person, it would be Macaroni and Jesus.

So in the spirit of friendly competition, we decided to pit the runners up against one another (despite the extravagant pricetags). Which restaurant's mac was the cheesiest? Find out below the jump.

The cube itself
The cube itself

Penne pasta in a sauce of despair
Penne pasta in a sauce of despair

Ouisie's Table

First thought upon seeing the mac & cheese: "Eh..."

First thought upon finishing the mac & cheese: "What the hell was all that fuss about?! Jesus, people! I mean, goddamn!"

We called ahead to Ouisie's Table, knowing that the last thing we should be doing is battling with the Ladies Who Lunch (we don't own the purses or shoes for it) and paying $3 for someone to park our car. The man who took our order was very nice and even packaged the mac & cheese for us in a lovely to-go box that we will totally use as "nice" Tupperware at home, along with an assortment of three kinds of breads and butter. Which, in retrospect, we suppose is the least they can do if the mac & cheese is $14 and tastes like poorly made penne alfredo.

Penne is a terrible, terrible choice of pasta for mac & cheese. You want a pasta -- like Beaver's, for example, with its corkscrew-shaped fusili noodles -- that the sauce can coat and cling to. The slimy, separating "cheese" sauce on Ouisie's mac & cheese slid right off every bite we took. It's clear that the sauce started out promisingly as a Mornay sauce, but along the way someone added far too little cheese and no salt (that we could taste).

The breadcrumbs on top of the mac & cheese had been baked into a hardened mass, which made eating the top part unpleasant. And the bottom of the mac & cheese was bland and boring and rather messy. Overall, a wholly unenjoyable macaroni and cheese experience -- and mac & cheese should always be enjoyable. Hell, even eating a box of Kraft that you made in the microwave is ten times more enjoyable than that mess was.

Winner

Our No. 1 mac & cheese in Houston will always be Beaver's. But in this battle, Reef handily dismissed the clumsy advances of Ouisie's Table. And with a significantly cheaper price tag, it's certainly easier on the wallet. But, hey, at least Ousie's will always have shrimp grits.


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