It’s too good to be true. That’s what most of us say about the dish itself, but we’re talking about its inventor. One story has it that Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, deserves credit. He did apparently serve it at the White House, but that’s because he’d fallen in love with what would become America’s favorite comfort food while in Europe, where baked macaroni slathered in melty cheese and a creamy sauce had been a hit for decades.
In 1937, James Lewis Kraft, founder of Kraft Foods, was the first to dry and pulverize the cheese and sell it with macaroni in the trademark blue box. Today, Kraft sells more than 20 versions of the original, including Buffalo Cheddar, Garlic & Herb Alfredo and Grilled Cheese Explosion. Chefs, too, love to riff on the classic.
Here are a few mouthwatering examples.
More: Deeply Rooted: Cuisines Simmered in Local Traditions
Caesars Atlantic City Hotel & Casino
The Continental in The Pier Shops at Caesars has a Rat Pack ambience and high-style abandon when it comes to our humble dish. It uses a sophisticated combo of fontina and gruyere cheeses and studs the macaroni with luscious chunks of lobster. The private Sammy Davis Room seats 50, and a full restaurant buyout accommodates 500 for a reception.
This resort’s outpost of Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, a house of worship for farm-to-table cooking in the tried-and-true Southern manner that is just steps from Sands Convention Center, tarts up its rendition of our classic by using trottole—Italian pasta in a shape resembling spinning tops—five artisanal cheeses and a crispy herb crust. Other Yardbirds reside in Los Angeles, Miami and Singapore.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Everyone’s a kid again at a Disney venue, and that’s why at Jiko-The Cooking Place, which features vibrant African cuisine such as Botswana Seswaa-style Beef Short Rib, you should not hesitate to order off the kid’s menu. Why? Because Orlando Sentinel says it has one of the 10 Best Mac ’n’ Cheese in Orlando—and it comes in a yummy but nontraditional white cheese sauce.
The Linq Hotel & Casino
TV chef Guy Fieri loves the over-the-top life. So, Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar features eight different frozen liquor shots on tap and his infamous Bacon Mac-n-Cheese Burger. It’s a mighty meat patty with all the usual toppings, plus crispy applewood bacon, Guy’s own donkey sauce and a heap of sixcheese comfort pasta, all stacked on a garlic-buttered brioche bun.