Macaroni and cheese is one of our ultimate comfort foods, a dish quintessential to our youth, since most parents -- even the ones who didn't know how to cook anything that didn't come from a box -- could whip up a batch of the stuff for a play date. And usually it was the kind made from orange cheddar, butter, cream and elbow macaroni, a glistening pile of noodles that held no nutritional value whatsoever, fulfilling all of our childhood dreams.
Our tastes have grown up, but it's still the simpler versions of cheesy pasta that really win us over. Here are four more favorites:
Interstate Kitchen & Bar The Interstate version of mac is fairly straightforward, and it's also ideal: elbow macaroni in a little clay pot, sharp and stringy with English cheddar, mozzarella and house-made béchamel, and dusted with scorched breadcrumbs. Scallions pepper the top, and the bites that include the fresh nip of those onions are the most satisfying of all. And if you like extras in your dish, the kitchen will happily add bacon, mushrooms or any vegetable it has on hand.
Rackhouse Pub The secret to the mac and cheese at Rackhouse Pub is beer -- specifically, Railyard Ale. That amber gets poured into the blend of five-cheese roux before the concoction gets topped with breadcrumbs and baked. Beer and cheese are a match made in heaven, and here, the ale adds depth to the crispy, stretchy mess of pasta on the plate. Hops and Pie Hops and Pie might be a beer-and-pizza joint, but we often forgo the pie entirely for the IPA mac & cheese. Peas and smoky ham stud the elbow macaroni in a cheddar roux. Breadcrumbs add crunch, and the hops of the beer give the finished product a little bite.
The Copper Pot We like the macaroni and cheese at the Copper Pot for the same reason we like the stuff at Tom's: It's a nostalgic throwback to our childhood. But the version at this restaurant isn't served cafeteria style: Instead, the mess of elbow macaroni, gooey with a blend of cheeses and topped with a toasted crust of breadcrumbs, comes heaped in individual skillets.
Know of other great dishes of mac and cheese? Tell us about them in the comments.
More Best of Denver Lists: - Denver's five best restaurants for blind dates
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.