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The Classic Comfort Food You'll See More of at Chain Restaurants

It's the one dish that never fails to make customers happy.
mac and cheese

Every restaurant chain has its own unique take on cuisine, however, a few chains appear to be prioritizing adding this one particular dish to its menu: Mac and cheese.

The appeal with mac and cheese? The dish, no matter how you prepare it, is a comfort food classic, which is exactly the type of meal people across the nation have been craving since March. After all, during bleak times we often gravitate toward foods that bring pleasant memories to light. (Related: 15 Classic American Desserts That Deserve a Comeback)

For example, Noodles & Company just added its fifth variation of mac and cheese to its "Macs" line—a Ham & Gruyère Mac with shredded french cheese, black forest ham, green onions, and toasted breadcrumbs.

Danielle Moore, Noodles & Company's director of communications, told Nation's Restaurant News that this new addition, "expands the possibilities of the classic comfort food even more, taking it on a new, international adventure with the Gruyère. The dish was created in collaboration with our longest-term cheese supplier, Wisconsin-based Sartori Cheese, using a rich Gruyère made with milk from local Wisconsin dairy farmers and developed exclusively for Noodles & Company."

Now think about all of the things you could put on top of a bowl of mac and cheese or make with mac and cheese that would distinguish it from a traditional bowl. Executive Chef Bryan Forgione at Buddy V's Ristorante in Las Vegas had shared his unique spin on the classic comfort food dish with Eat This, Not That! His advice? Swap out elbow macaroni for cavatelli pasta and include egg yolk in the cheesy sauce.

Many restaurant chains jazz up a bowl of mac and cheese by adding a protein such as lobster, buffalo chicken, and pulled pork. Others take a more non-traditional route. Slater's 50/50, a 12-unit burger chain on the west coast makes its own Bacon Mac and Cheese Balls with panko and Tapatio ranch for dipping, for example.

Independently-owned restaurants may even benefit from adding the dish to their menu with their own unique twist. The menu at the Homeroom, in Oakland, California features 14 different types of mac and cheese including one that has Elote swirled into it and another with all of the key toppings from a Hawaiian pizza. The restaurant has survived through the pandemic thus far largely because of its ability to offer takeout, but also because of its extensive list of funky mac and cheese dishes. (Related: The Surprising Type of Restaurant That's Thriving During COVID-19)

At the end of the day, a traditional bowl of mac and cheese will more than likely satisfy a customer's craving on its own—no elaborate toppings or fixings necessary. Big Daddy's Burger Bar, primarily located in southern states, recently added a mac and cheese side dish to its menu and what makes it exclusive to the restaurant is that its made with the chain's house-made American cheese.

For more, check out 13 Delicious Ways to Upgrade Your Mac and Cheese.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more