In subzero temperatures, it’s all about the basics: pasta, cheese, and heat. That foundation inspires interpretations far outside the box (literally), and chefs around town are game, helping the city warm up to both familiar and new takes on the childhood classic mac and cheese. From the Côtes du Rhône–required to the finger-licking good, here are five fabulous renditions of this soul-warming winter dish.
Elevating mac with duck confit was a no-brainer for Holly Willoughby, who uses the ingredient throughout her French-inspired menu. The rest of the recipe required a little more thought: cavatappi for its funky shape, fontina for its magnifique melting capabilities. $10. 2221 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-698-8456
This BBQ hangout is all about the fixings, starting with free chips and pickles. Then the pit master invites you to amp up the signature brûléed mac from a smorgasbord of Southern staples—including pulled chicken, brisket meatballs, smoked corn, and baby back rib bites—that turns the traditional meat and three on its head. $12 to $19. 1160 N. Dearborn St., 312-642-1160
It took some folks a little while to get on board with Bo Fowler’s intentionally heavy hand with the garlic. But once they did, the rest—penne baked to order with aged fontina, Romano, Parmesan, cheddar, and breadcrumbs—was history: This mac has held its spot on the menu for 13 years. $13. 2416 W. Schubert Ave., 773-782-1800
No stranger to the Italian culinary landscape, Giuseppe Tentori nails the whole pasta-and-cheese thing with his bowl of Rustichella d’Abruzzo orecchiette with sharp and mild cheddars, fontina, and a secret ingredient. He taps his seafood skills to top it with a buttery lobster tail direct from Maine. $19. 531 N. Wells St., 312-929-3501
This side dish jumps front and center, thanks to zippy pimiento peppers, sharp cheddar cheese from Wisconsin’s Pine River, and daring amounts of buttermilk. Jonesing for protein? Opt for the off-the-menu Buffalo Mac with fried chicken and the house dressing of hot sauce, butter, salt, and—because you’re on their turf—honey. $3.75 to $9. 3361 N. Elston Ave., 773-478-4000
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