100 Favorite Dishes

100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 100, Chili Cheese Mac at Jus' Mac

This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

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.

And this is only the beginning of the 2012 list of our 100 Favorite Dishes. Not every dish will make you as comfortable as this one: Some might push you outside your comfort zone, but they'll all be worth trying. But plenty more will be old, familiar favorites that you just might need to fall in love with all over again.

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Katharine Shilcutt