Does macaroni and cheese automatically taste better in a skillet? My vote is yes. Why? Think of it like braising (except not really, but just go with me here): first you mix up all the ingredients on the stove and then you let everything meld and melt and copulate in the oven. It is the platonic ideal of cooking. I guess the short answer is that serving mac in a skillet generally means it’s gotten a nice tan under the broiler, which, in turn, means a crispy, salty, cheesy crust.
So, S’MAC! This place is very dear to my heart. When I first moved to the city, my three roommates and I lived on E. 13th St., just around the corner. I didn’t even have to cross the street to place my order. This, as you can imagine, was extremely dangerous in its convenience. There were definitely days when all four of us would get carry out separately for either lunch or dinner (or both). My personal favorite was — and is — the four cheese, a complex mix of cheddar, muenster, gruyere and a little of pecorino. I would order it with the multi-grain pasta and no breadcrumbs and consider it low-carb. Ah, 22-year-old ignorance.
S’MAC has a few things going for it: first, the aforementioned skillets. When you dine in, your mac arrives still bubbling (and the skillet even has its own little pot holder). Second, this is a mac and cheese restaurant: they know their shit. They’ve tested their sauce and cheese blends to make sure everything is perfectly balanced.
Onto the actual product. S’MAC’s mac is probably 2/3 pasta to 1/3 sauce. The cheese blends are on the thicker side, so you’re not left with soupy sauce in the bottom of the pan. The high surface to height ratio also means that you have a wide expanse of crispy crust. They use classic elbow macaroni, which, if you own a macaroni and cheese restaurant, really is the only choice, no?
Many people ask how S’MAC compares to Macbar, since those are the two biggest mac-only spots in Manhattan. The major difference is the sauce: Macbar’s is much creamier, while S’MAC is more cheesy and less liquid-y. On the whole, Macbar has slightly more upscale mix-in options (duck confit, lobster) while S’MAC has more straightforward flavors with a few oddballs thrown in (masala spice!). Honestly, it all comes down to personal mac preference. Choosing one or the other would be like choosing whether I like Waffles or Biscuit better (those are my cats, by the way. Here is their Instagram).
S’MAC, 345 East 12th Street; 212.358.7912