Jus' Mac Friday Special: Crab Macaroni & Cheese

"It's Friday and Lent," I said to my husband, with an undeniable air of self-importance, "so no meat for me."

"Last Friday I watched you eat a double Whopper," he responded without missing a beat.

So much for my (lapsed) Catholicism.

All right, my motivation for trying Jus' Mac's Friday-only special, Crab Mac and Cheese, had little to do with religious devotion. I was attracted to the dish primarily because of its relative novelty; while lobster macaroni and cheese has popped up in a few Houston restaurants, crab mac 'n' cheese is still a bit harder to find. (In fact, I can't think of a single other establishment that serves it, though I'm sure readers will enlighten me in the comments.)

What also drew me to try the Crab Mac and Cheese was, ironically, the dearth of any description on Jus' Mac's menu. While the listing for every other variety of macaroni and cheese (including the other special, Sunday's "Chicken and Waffles") offered a few words detailing the dish, the Crab Mac and Cheese had nothing.

I mean, I assumed crab would somehow be involved...what else remained to be tasted.

Although Jus' Mac now has three Houston locations, I wasn't going to be near any of them around dinner time when I planned to sample the crab macaroni and cheese, so I picked up a takeout order in the late morning. I eschewed the $0.75 upgrade to whole-grain or low-carb pasta, even though getting the latter might have enabled me to make endless "it's high-crab but low carb" jokes in my review. (You're welcome.)

I did opt for bread crumbs (free) because a layer of bread crumbs is to mac and cheese as caramelized sugar is to crème brûlée; without it the texture is just too smooth.

When I finally tried the crab mac and cheese (which nicely heats in a skillet placed in the oven), I definitely tasted crab yet encountered few pieces of actual meat. Perhaps Jus' Mac relies more on a seafood stock rather than meat for flavor? Regardless, the briny notes in combination with the gooey American cheese was terrific and I proceeded to gobble along.

Then, the spice struck. It was a mild heat, certainly nothing to complain about, as it added another dimension of flavor to the dish. Upon closer inspection, I saw flecks of jalepno pepper (?) in the pasta sauce, which explains the latent burn.

Jus' Mac's crab mac and cheese is well worth trying, though for $9 they need to up the portion (only the smaller "personal" size is available) and add more discernible chunks of shellfish. Mention of the pepper ingredient on the menu listing might be good for those who aren't into spicy surprises, though the air of mystery does do wonders in attracting buyers.

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Joanna O'Leary