"The Popeye" with Hot Dog at Jus' Mac

For months, my friend Maggie has been gently trying to get me to accompany her to Jus' Mac. When we can't decide where to eat dinner (and this is often), she mentions Jus' Mac, and I, like clockwork, suggest another option.

This is not just because I'm a selfish control freak when it comes to restaurant choices.

First, I never found a hot skillet of pasta and cheese appealing in warm, let alone hot, weather.* Katharine Shilcutt and others have reasonably pointed out that there's more to Jus' Mac than macaroni and cheese, such as the tasty panini and robust wedge salad. But not eating mac & cheese at Jus' Mac seemed a bit pointless.

I also hesitated because I'm a huge carnivore. Lately, I have been trying to eat a high-protein diet and therefore was less interested in a carbohydrate-dominant meal.

*Like most neuroses, mine are irrationally selective, because I'm loath to turn down a sizzling plate of fajitas during the summer.

But a few weeks ago, patient Maggie once again named Jus' Mac as a potential dining destination. I resolved to be a good friend and get over my ridiculous hang-ups. (I mean, it's not like the place wouldn't be air-conditioned. Also, privileging dairy over flesh for my protein source certainly wouldn't kill me.)

We arrived about an hour before closing on a balmy weekday evening. I ordered the wedge salad and the "Popeye" (mozzarella and parmesan cheeses with spinach, onions, and mushrooms). And, then, at the last minute, I asked, "Um, and, may I have hot dog in that?" So, I wimped out on going veg by spiking my mac and cheese with the basest form of meat available. I know, WTF? The heat must have been getting to me.

My Popeye was very good. I worried the combination of multiple cheeses and processed meat would make the dish into a salt bomb, but the generous portion of vegetables balanced the starchier, fattier components. The average Yelp review says a personal size is best for one person; if, however, you believe moderation is a dish best served at home, then go for the regular. It's just a few bucks more, appropriately larger but not overwhelming.

Now, that I'm over my silly Jus' Mac hangups, I'll return for another go. I'm not quite ready to gorge on mac and cheese on the patio, but a pan of "The Hangover" under a continual blast of icy cold air sounds just right.

Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Joanna O'Leary