…that I need to be better about my blogging!!!

To tell you the truth, I really got burnt out on mac & cheese, so I put the whole thing to bed.  I couldn’t look at noodles without feeling queasy for months!  It made me somewhat depressed.

Today I was re-inspired! Not only will I pick this back up, but I have started a sister blog with a different purpose to split up some content.  I am picking this blog back up with a slight twist: I will now use it to keep lists of my favorites at various restaurants as well as all around “bests” of Dallas.  The sister blog, AvenueBistro, will focus on local food news, opening restaurants, articles on healthy eating, dining out experiences and overall food trends.  Check it out!

So, moving forward, I will pick up where I left off by including my notes and pictures from previous mac & cheese experiences.  I will then continue on to the next quest: best BRISKET dish in Dallas!

The Highland Park Cafeteria

"America's Cafeteria"

So, Andy and I decided to continue the quest for the best mac & cheese at a golden oldie: the Highland Park Cafeteria.  That’s right, geriatrics are cool and we caught the early bird special.  Originally off of Knox (down the street from the Highland Park Pharmacy), the family owned and operated cafeteria expanded to several locations in Dallas over the years; now they are back to only one, nestled deep in the heart of the Casa Linda Shopping Center off of Buckner Blvd.  This traditional-style cafeteria touts authentic comfort food with “come-have-some fragrances.”  Having grown up frequenting the HPC with my parents (especially on Sundays after church), I remembered their macaroni & cheese and figured it should definitely be revisited.

So what was on the menu?  I went with the Choice Plate: 1 entrée, 2 sides and a roll for just over $8.  Of course, the mac & cheese was the first thing on my plate to be tasted, and subsequently scarfed down.  So here goes the critique:

  • For an individual dish, the portions were more than plentiful.  You get your money’s worth in my opinion.

    HPC Mac&Cheese

    Choice Plate

  • All of the vegetables I’ve ever had are really good.  They are fresh, well seasoned (for a cafeteria), rich in flavor – overall very satisfying.  The mac & cheese is not to be forgotten in that category.
  • This isn’t your food snob’s mac.  The HPC doesn’t use artisan cheeses, truffle infusions or fancy imported noodles.  It’s simple, creamy and cheesy (American and Cheddar are my guess).  It’s basic and scrumptious, taking  you to the last bite.
  • The mac is definitely thick and rich – not too runny or watered down.
  • I found the noodles to be a little on the mushy side.
  • The crunchy, cooked cheese topping the dish is the best part!  Make sure to ask the server for plenty.

So, overall, I highly recommend the mac at “America’s Cafeteria,” a nick name given to the HPC in a New York Times review.  The price is right, the dining is casual and quaint, the friendly service is a plus and most importantly the food, mainly the mac, is very good.

Until next time…

The Porch

Comfort Food

The Porch’s Smoked Ham Macaroni & Cheese Casserole:                CHECK PLUS

In my first entry, I already described how it all started over a warm dish of mac at one of my local favorites.  I will not get into the ambiance details again, but instead dive right into the important stuff.  There’s not much that can be said regarding The Porch’s mac & cheese (especially since your mouth should be full), other than that it is A-MAZING.  While a mere side item on the restaurant’s menu, this dish should definitely not be overlooked.  In taking your first bite, enjoy…

  • The velvety, rich texture with a golden brown, crisp top layer of toasted parm and panko bread crumbs.  It truly is a decadent dish.
  • The less than subtle, but definitely appreciated, smoked ham flavor departs from the trend of adding applewood bacon to everything.  It takes you back to a creation that sings of mom’s home cooking.
  • The noodles are soft and melt in your mouth along with the cheese.  I’ve never had an experience where the macaroni has been too chewy or tough.
  • The cheese is not grainy or too thick.  In fact, I sense a faint taste of sour cream to even out the complex cheesy sauce.  However, too much sour cream might water down the dish and throw off the flavors.
  • Nice portion size – definitely means to share btwn 2-4 people (depending on appetite).
  • Of course The Porch’s atmosphere which is bubbly and warm, helping one to enjoy their meal even more.

Quote de Jour:  “I can’t picture going to The Porch and NOT ordering the mac & cheese.” -Andy Hyde

Nota Bene: the ham is actually optional.  I would definitely recommend trying it with, even if kosher is more your style.  It is not overpowering by any means, and really ads to the dish overall.  My mother, who is what I like to call a “food purist,” does not usually enjoy such things added to a masterpiece; however, she is a total fan.

Not to get off topic, but since you are eating mac & cheese and are already in the red for your calorie count, you might as well top off the meal with one of The Porch’s desserts.  They are all fabulous versions of American classics.

Alright, where to next…???

Greetings, food fanatics, and welcome to “quest for the best: AvenueBistro.”

Let me start by explaining what Ave. B is, exactly.  It is (or will be) your pathway to discovering the best of the best in Dallas dining.  We have all been there.  Your cousins are visiting Texas and you want to treat them to the best BBQ the DFW has to offer; where should you take them?  Maybe you are trying to impress someone special in your life by showing off your developed palette and taste in trendy restaurants; you ask your friends for advice.   Or, perhaps you and I share a distinct craving for pasta doused in creamy cheese, and Kraft just won’t cut it.  In comes Ave. B.

While sitting at one of my favorite hot spots for comfort food, I had a revelation.  Knowing it’s one of the best in town, I ordered a side of The Porch’s smoked ham mac & cheese; the waitress was quick to comment about how it’s by far the best mac she’s ever tasted.  I responded by telling her not to forget Neighborhood Services’ 3 Jack&Mac, not even meaning to argue and fully acknowledging that Neighborhood’s head chef created The Porch’s menu.  Andy, my partner in crime, pointed out that I should consider critiquing food as a side hobby because, after all, I’m always on a quest for the best of something to satisfy my appetite.  I am “that friend” whom most ask for restaurant suggestions.  I love being “that friend!”  When close ones who have moved away return to the DFW area to visit, they know I am a reliable source for information on the best diners and favorite dives (not so much the drive-ins, though).  I love sharing a good conversation over an amazing meal.  Food brings people together, and I love knowing where to find great food.

So, after tossing some ideas around and inhaling our order of mac & cheese, Andy and I decided I should start a blog centered around discovering “the best of…” in the Dallas area.  Each month will focus on a new food, and I will document my culinary experiences in each restaurant where I try the featured food.  Once the dish of the month has been announced, I will depend on readers’ comments and suggestions for alternate locations to dine in.  At the end of the month, I will announce my pick of favorite.  The rest is documented history for you to read and encourage you to try as well!  Since the idea of such a feat dawned on me over a casserole dish of mac, it only seems fitting to start there.

So stay tuned for the next blog kicking off the description of the important stuff: THE MAC.   As for now, it’s suggestion time!  Fill me in on where I should go to get the full mac & cheese experience!