by Julian Brunt
Mac and cheese is among the most popular comfort foods in the Deep South.
The first recorded recipe was in 1769. In 1802, Thomas Jefferson supposedly served the dish in the White House, as the concoction was referred to as “a pie of macaroni.” Kraft introduced its boxed version in 1937, but Italians, as you might guess, have been combining pasta and cheese for centuries.
If you want to stir the pot (no pun intended), ask your friends which Jackson restaurant makes the best mac ‘n’ cheese dish.
Jackson has a version of this classic comfort meal for everyone, from timeless home-style to modernized and vegan. Here are a few restaurants in the city that many folks claim as their favorite.
The Manship – 1200 N State St.
Most culinary and cheese experts agree that Parmigiano-Reggiano is the king of all cheeses, but why don’t more restaurants use this cheese in making their mac and cheese? It’s a good question, and there’s one place that answers: The Manship.
To prepare their house-made cream sauce, The Manship uses the hardened rinds from Parmigiano-Reggiano, a common practice in making an Italian style red sauce. But they steep the rinds in cream to create an amazingly rich Parmigiano-Reggiano sauce, and that, of course, is the base for their otherworldly mac and cheese.
Save the rinds from the Parmesan you use at home and simmer them in cream to give this recipe a try. themanshipjackson.com
The Pig & Pint – 3139 N State St.
The Pig & Pint has a creative and innovative menu with fried green tomato tacos – complete with bacon, comeback coleslaw and BBQ sauce or even their pork belly corn dogs.
But the smoked mac and cheese, as simple as it might sound, is too good to pass up.
Only a restaurant known for their delectable pulled pork, slow-cooked brisket and smoked chicken could come up with a house-smoked mac and cheese. The secret may lie in the white cheddar cheese and the poblano peppers that balance each other out, but it’s the smokiness paired with the decadent, creamy sauce that does the trick. pigandpint.com
Soul Wired Café – 4147 Northview Plaza Dr.
Soul Wired Café calls itself the “coolest café in Jackson,” which might be right.
Soul Wired’s take on vegan mac and cheese is all their own and has been a crowd favorite since their opening in 2010. The mac contains superfoods, over 20 grams of protein and probiotics–all ingredients to make your mac and cheese experience rewarding for the soul and body.
The restaurant was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” television show, a culinary accolade that you can’t overlook. The café is an art, music, and performance place with fresh, nourishing vegan cuisine to fuel both regulars and visitors’ creative minds.
This place may be known for banana pancake breakfast and a great grilled salmon salad, but the mac and cheese is the dish to try during your trip here. soulwiredcafe.com.
Drago’s Seafood Restaurant – 1005 E County Line Rd.
Drago’s is a New Orleans-based restaurant, famous for its Creole and Cajun offerings and generous portions. House dishes include signature items such as red beans and rice with shrimp creole.
However, the restaurant is well known for its seafood, specifically lobster.
So, it seems a natural step to combine mac and cheese with lobster, right? Well, maybe not for most of us home cooks who tend to play it safe, but it made sense to the folks at Drago’s. It is one of the most popular items on the menu, featuring large chunks of Maine lobster, pasta soaked in a creamy cheddar cheese sauce and topped with garlic and herb breadcrumbs. How can you go wrong? dragosjackson.com
Other Jackson standouts include Godfrey’s, Wellington’s at the Hilton, Bully’s Soul Food and Sugar’s Place downtown, who describes their mac and cheese as “wonderful, homemade like momma’s.”
If you lean more towards the Kraft version of this classically American dish, take a walk on the wild side and check out some of the novel versions of this classic comfort food recipe in Jackson.