Denton's Newest Eatery Only Does Mac & Cheese.
1221 Oak Street, Building 2, Suite A
Ambiance: 3 out of 4 macaroni.
Food: 2.5 out of 4 macaroni.
Service: 3 out of 4 macaroni.
According to Mac Daddy's web site, there are only four locations of the burgeoning mac-and-cheese-devoted chain in the States. Three of them are in Connecticut. One, which opened its doors for the first time last week, is in Denton. More are coming — the company is working on opening 10 locations throughout Texas — but, yes, Denton got the first.
The new macaroni and cheese bar can be found right off Hickory Street, just across from Lucky Lou's and Rip Rocks. It's something of a prime location: With an offering of over 25 different gourmet macaroni and cheese dishes, the new Mac Daddy's, which is right near Denton's infamous Fry Street area, could be your new go-to sober up spot in Denton. The owners are actually assuming as much, too: Mac Daddy's currently plans on keeping its doors open until 3 a.m. each day.
But how are the dishes themselves? Are they any good, or does the mouthwateringly great concept fall flat when pushed beyond the theoretical? On Wednesday, September 12, I snuck into the store's VIP taste testing to find out, and I spent a good two hours devouring tiny samples of gourmet mac and cheese. I was fairly impressed then, but, because free pretty much always tastes better, I went back to the official grand opening on Thursday the 13th to pay $7 for a “snack” size skillet in hopes of deciding whether it was actually worth that price.
Here's the big reveal: It was.
I mean, who can go wrong with mac and cheese? Not counting Velveeta, I mean. The good news? Mac Daddy's does not use Velveeta. This is a confirmed fact.
The new shop's owner, Mike Burdick, describes his kitchen's process of making their macaroni as follows: The chef, Brandon Wertz, sautes a creamy cheese mixture and then adds the noodles. If the dish has cheese on top, it goes in a cheese melter. Pretty simple stuff, but fancier, certainly, than the steps on a 99-cent Kraft Mac & Cheese box.
The plentiful servings at Mac Daddy's are more expensive than that, though. But that's to be expected. Here, you'll pay $7 for the aforementioned “snack” size, $13 for a medium and a whopping $24 for a large. It makes more sense once you know that the macaroni and cheese comes in a skillet right off the pan, all in an attempt to keep the dish as warm and fresh as possible.
They even spent more money for their microwavable take out containers so that their college-centric audience, whose only kitchen experience is the microwave, can enjoy their Mac Daddy however many days later.
Here's the thing about Mac Daddy's, though: This is not the thick, cheesy and probably even baked mac and cheese your southern soul probably craves.
But if creamy is your thing, you'll probably dig it.
After tasting 10 flavors and collecting the opinions of other customers present at the tasting and grand opening, it's pretty clear that the “mac pulled pork” and “mac bufflao chicken” are the most ordered and most delicious of the 26 varieties.
I highly advise against ordering the “mac zeppole,” which is Mac Dadd's version of dessert. The description reads as follows: “Deep fried macaroni elbows tossed with powdered sugar.” It's basically a dried, crunchy noodle boasting the faint taste of funnel cake. It's not at all savory nor worth the $4-$10 price range it comes in, depending on size.
Another interesting note: The restaurant's traditional mac and cheese with cheddar is actually one of the weaker dishes of the menu.
As atmosphere goes, Mac Daddy's offers a relaxed ambiance with open breezeways through the patio and indoor areas. The brown and orange painted walls, with their dark wood accents, really sets you in the mood for a cheese overload, too. Oh, and we cannot forget the golden yellow and orange mum plants that fence the patio area giving the place even more of an extra cheesy vibe. They'll definitely have to improve their music playlist, though. After all, this is Denton.
Still, let's be fair: Mac Daddy's has only been open a few days at this point. There's plenty of potential here, though — and even more so if you crave mac and cheese for your hangover cure. As owner Larry Klinghoffer put it when we asked him about his hopes for the place: “College students love mac and cheese. It's the most craved comfort food in the U.S.”
In other words: Cheese it, and the college students will come. And, if an adult is in a bind, maybe them, too. Me? I say it's worth a couple of tries.
Just probably not on back-to-back days as I gluttonously chose to do.