The idea is simple, the execution more complex: open a restaurant dedicated solely to mac n' cheese. Synonymous with comfort food, mac n' cheese brings back memories gooey cheddar, blue kraft boxes, and pure indulgence, but when the husband-wife team of Caesar & Sarita Ekya opened S'MAC a scant week ago, they didn't stop there. Cheese purists and engineers on the wayside, S'MAC's menu boasts 10 deluxe mac n' cheese combos either on traditional elbow or slightly more healthful whole wheat pastas served in 3-different sized skillets endearingly named "nosh" ($4.25 - 6.75), "major munch" ($6.50 - $9), and "mongo" ($11-16), which Gothamist assures you is enough to feed an entire hungry family.
When Gothamist stopped by on a recent night, a line trickled out the door despite torrential downpour, and heat radiated from the non-airconditioned East Village dining room, painted an effusive orange and yellow. Husband and wife both bustled busily, moving bright orange chairs to accomodate waiting parties and clearing skillets while mac n' cheese was prepared to order in the kitchen behind them. Gothamist tasted four of the ten specialty macs: gruyere (swiss based mac with chunks of slab bacon), brie (creamy Brie, roasted figs, roasted shiitake mushrooms & fresh rosemary), garden lite (lite cheddar, parmesan, roasted cauliflower and portobello mushrooms, roasted garlic, broccoli and scallions), and cajun (cheddar & pepper jack cheeses, andouille sausage, green pepper, onions, celery, garlic and cajun seasoning), though purists may opt for the "All-American" or "4-Cheese." A mandatory salad, myriad juices and sodas, and dessert options make their way onto the menu, but the focus is really just mac n' cheese.
The gruyere offered the sharpest cheese flavor--salty and sharp--and, studded with breadcrumbs was a favorite of two of the four at the table. The garden mac, laced with roasted veggies, had a mild cheese flavor, and one dining companion likened it "to an old friend" -- reliably delicious without being overwhelming. The flavorful peppers and large chucks of andouille sausages added needed spice to the cajun mac, while the brie alternately offered the sweetness of figs and the richness of the cheese, and rang in second place amongst the group. In the end, even after consuming epic proportions, each skillet was at most half-consumed and we fell back in our chairs in cheesy defeat.
Many will delight in the enormous portions, friendly service, and most importantly--the tasty star of the show, but, overwhelming crowds and feeling of needing to exercise for the 24 hours following dinner may prevent you from weekly visits. A few additional touches such as free pickles, wine & beer, and air conditioning would make the experience more enjoyable though as colder weather rushes in, we can see ourselves running back for another helping.
S'MAC (Sarita's Mac n' Cheese) is located at 345 E. 12th Street, between 1st & 2nd Avenues. Tues - Saturday, 5:30 - 10 p.m., closed on Mondays. 212-358-7912.