He Said/She Said: Say cheese and ... macaroni

Emily: Ah, macaroni and cheese, it’s the staff of life.
Dennis: You know, when you’re 7. I am, however, not even a multiple of seven.
E: Stop that confusing math-speak and focus on the cheese. And the noodle-iciousness. And the important issues at hand: Would our research lead to fond childhood memories?
D: Yes.
E: Would the stuff in blue boxes be left in the dust during our research?
D: Yes and no.
E: Would Dennis enjoy the ride, or do nothing more than perfect his whine?
D: We shall see.

Emily’s macaroni and cheese profile: The more cheese the better. But not too much. (Now, commence pleasing me.)
Dennis’ macaroni and cheese profile: Crunchy, smooshy, savory and cheesy.

Sweetie Pie’s
4270 Manchester Road, St. Louis 314.371.0304
Tue. to Sun. – 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

E: When I saw the “closed” sign from our car window, I was freaking out. All that cheesy goodness – Colby, Monterey Jack, sharp Cheddar, mild Cheddar, American – was being kept from me.
D: Now who’s being whiny?
E: Then we looked closer and noticed the restaurant was already half full with customers, apparently in the same boat as us, having arrived early. Desperate for a fix.
D: Methinks this portends good things for the quality of food, and I couldn’t have been more right. You know another prediction that worked out? When you’re seventh in the food line and there’s only half a pan of mac and cheese left, you’ve got a winner on your hands. Again, nailed.
E: Evidenced by the way you shamelessly stole our son’s portion as well.
D: Don’t blame me, I was all drunk on that top layer of crusty melted cheese. It was the color of a magical, cheesy (in a good way) sunset, all gold, orange and amber. The noodles were soft and the fluffy inner cheese was bountiful and delicious. Above this, though, fortune smiled on me, because some of the mac and cheese had drifted off to soak in excess gravy from my mashed potatoes. This was as sublime a bite of food as any.
E: And so his conversion began.

Big Sky Cafe
47 S. Old Orchard Ave., Webster Groves 314.962.5757
Sun. – 4:30 to 9 p.m., Tue. – 5 to 9:30 p.m., Wed. to Thu. – 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., Fri. – 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., Sat. – 5 to 10:30 p.m.

D: It hit three of four prerequisites of greatness. It was very cheesy, smooshy and crunchy, but it wasn’t savory. In a peculiar twist, it was the crunchy that ruined the savory of this mac and cheese. If it weren’t for the cloyingly sweet corn-bread crumbs on top, this would be first-rate.
E: The corn bread sprinkled on top was perfect. I love carbs with my carbs.
D: Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a nice version, you just have to get beneath and away from the sweet. Underneath were hearty cavatappi soaking in cheese with bacon bits acting as little salty oases.
E: It was totally dreamy.
D: Did you say dreamy?
E: Yes. And the sweet corn bread with salty bacon? Dennis, this should be our ideal relationship side.
D: But what if they replaced the corn-bread crumbs with crunchy bacon-bit topping? It could take over the world.

Tin Can Tavern & Grille
1909 Locust St., St. Louis ∙ 314.241.9330
Mon. to Wed. – 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., Thu. to Sun. – 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.

D: Tin Can Tavern. A bar with countless beers available by the can? Excellent idea. Adding honey to the mac and cheese? Not so much.
E: Still, in the midst of all the baked fancy-schmancy varieties, I was pleased to meet a serving of traditional elbow noodles swimming in good old-fashioned Velveeta.
D: Good old-fashioned Velveeta laced with that weird sweetness.
E: (Deep resigned sigh.) As a champion of all things sweet, it pains me to admit that the honey was a bit jarring. Just not my cup of tea, if you know what I mean.
D: Tea? Why bring up that good-for-nothing drink? The mac and cheese would be far better paired with an Old Style. I suppose the mistake was ours, getting it to go and taking it home to a place without a bartender on duty.

Cardwell’s at the Plaza
94 Plaza Frontenac, Frontenac ∙ 314.997.8885
Mon. to Thu. – 11:15 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. – 11:15 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sun. – noon to 9 p.m.

E: By time we pulled up in front of Cardwell’s, even I was starting to reach the end of my mac and cheese rope. In fact, I didn’t even order my own portion, agreeing to share an order with Dennis so we could sample other items, too. Such a bad decision.
D: Here was something worth ordering without the kids around. It was easily the best of the bunch: complex, cheesy, crunchy, smooshy and delicious.
E: Yes, you heard it here, folks. My husband, who usually can’t be bothered to eat more than a forkful of the stuff, suddenly became a mac and cheese hog. I could barely get a fork in edgewise.
D: You are such a drama queen.
E: I speak only the truth. This is a bowl-scraper, people, topped with bread crumbs. Even though it’s billed as a side dish, it’s worth ordering as its own meal.