First there was elbow macaroni, then rigatoni, now cavatapi. As for cheeses, they can range from asiago to cheddar, even goat cheese. We found five tasty versions of this classic by Kraft all being served in an extremely casual grill pub along North Clark Street.
You would expect to find mac and cheese on just about any restaurant menu where they claim to be a "Grill Pub." That's certainly the case at Wrigleyville's Deleece Grill Pub, where they create comforting, homespun dishes with an eye on their five varieties of mac 'n cheese.
"I made a couple mac and cheeses and people seemed to really like them. We were selling a lot of them. So I added a few more on and they just keep on ordering them. So I just keep on making them," said Josh Hansen, the chef at Deleece Grill Pub.
They all begin with curly, ridged cavatapi pasta, the better to absorb and grab onto the creamy alfredo sauce that coats the noodles. Beyond the basic flavor, there's also a wild mushroom version; sauteed with garlic and thyme, the mushrooms are combined with Gouda cheese for an earthy mac - the dish is topped with breadcrumbs and a dose of porcini oil to finish it off.
Another version begins with hearty root vegetables -- carrots, turnips and parsnips -- all finely diced. The pasta and cream sauce are added to the skillet, then a handful of Swiss gruyere cheese. Once it's plated, Hansen adds a dollop of fried shallots to lend it some additional crunch. The combination is surprisingly good.
"You can't quite put your finger on it, but there's other flavors in there other than just cheese."
Another special features lobster. This decadent mac is topped with breadcrumbs and a hint of unctuous truffle oil, plus a few more pieces of cooked lobster meat. One of the restaurant's best sellers is a simple version, featuring asiago cheese and crumbled Nueske bacon, again, topped with seasoned breadcrumbs.
"That's what I try to do with every dish; I try to find the right vegetables, the right product that is going to taste good with the cheese. And so, it's really a composed dish as opposed to a build-your-own mac and cheese or something like that," Hansen said.
The mac and cheeses at Deleece Grill Pub can come either as an entree or a side dish for just a couple of bucks extra.
Deleece Grill Pub
3313 N. Clark St.