I walked into Sarita’s Macaroni + Cheese, aka S’Mac, with eyes wide open. I walked out really, really full. Like, 8-hours-later-not-a-hint-of-hunger full. That night I finally forced myself to have a hot dog around 11 pm because I was drinking beer and didn’t want to lose my head. I regret nothing.
My sister told me about this East Village branch of the two-restaurant chain. I can’t always get past the kitsch factor of some NYC restaurants, like Peanut Butter & Co, another invention of S’Mac’s founders, but this is mac-and-cheese. This is one of America’s greatest culinary offerings. And this is all that’s on the menu. Well, there is a mixed green salad to be had on the side but why kid ourselves?
S’Mac offers mac-and-cheese in every beatific form you could envision. If none of the 12 suggested flavor combos strike the right note, you can build your own with toppings that borrow inspiration from Italian cuisine….andouille sausage, roasted garlic, kalamata olives, fresh basil and figs. That’s right: FIGS. Do not try this at home with Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. You need quality macaroni and quality cheese to bear up under the irony of a delicate fruit. S’mac delivered. (And delivers, apparently!)
The boyfriend and I didn’t trust our building skills that day; I’ll have to live with never knowing if buffalo sauce complements tuna. We ordered the Mediterranean, the Parisienne, and the down-and-dirty 4-Cheese, in three “nosh”-sized portions to share. Upgrading even one dish to “major munch”, “mongo” or “partay!” size seemed like it actually might create problems walking out the door later. As it happens, even a “nosh” size of that much pasta and cheese should probably come with a warning for those with a heart condition.
Deceptively dainty cast-iron skillets were placed at our window counter seat with tiny custom oven mitts. Hot slabs of sunshine on a chilly day, in three skillets with two forks. NO REGRETS. The Parisienne kind of blew them all away for me, with brie, figs, roasted shiitake mushrooms, and fresh rosemary, but it was hard not to return to the siren song of the 4-Cheese…there’s something about an all-cheese m&c. In this case, replacing American hyper-orange cheez with grown-up dignitaries (cheddar, muenster, gruyere and pecorino) transports the dish leagues away from your college dorm room.
The Mediterranean was a lovely balance of goat cheese, sauteed spinach, kalamata olives and roasted garlic, equally at home here as on a pizza. S’Mac takes a basic homestyle dish to a transcendental level, but I liked that they kept the decor sort of old-style fast-food joint…plastic orange and yellow chairs and tables, root beer, ordering at the counter. Everything this satisfying should be this simple.
345 East 12th Street, New York, New York 10003 USA
Help me fight Alzheimer’s for my mother: donate in the US: Alzheimer’s Association; in the UK: Alzheimer’s Society