There are lots of perks to being an adult in New York. I get to stay out late at cool places like Ace Bar and Keybar, suiting up has a tangible benefit to my social life, and simply having a MetroCard gets me all around town.
But sometimes I still want to feel like a kid again. Sometimes I want to run through a great park with a Frisbee instead of lying on a towel and reading. Sometimes I want to watch cartoons, not some great music. Sometimes I want cheese sauce, not truffle sauce.
That’s when I go to S’MAC.
S’MAC—short for Sarita’s Macaroni & Cheese—is an odd mix. Its bright, orangey décor, while clearly designed to make you think about cheese, keeps the restaurant from feeling too adult. But the menu is anything but juvenile. Sure, they have the simple, classic mac-‘n’-cheese, bursting with cheddar, but most kids were never lucky enough to have their mac served with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, garlic, and basil.
The food here is baked and served in a skillet rather than boiled and spooned onto a plate or into a bowl, giving it a great at-home feel. The pasta, exclusively elbow macaroni, is always a great al dente with a texture that contrasts the gooiness of the cheese it’s slathered in. And you can top every order with breadcrumbs.
With a dozen premade recipes to choose from you can’t really go wrong. My go-to favorite is the 4 Cheese but I really love to tinker with new combinations. Building your own batch is a little more expensive, but mating brie with Gruyère and mixing in roasted garlic, buffalo sauce, and chicken … well, if I weren’t writing this review while I finish that exact meal, I’d be heading over to pick it up.
I was a bit taken aback by S’MAC’s beer and wine offerings. They’re nothing special, mind you, but having a glass of red or white or a bottle of beer—including the gluten-free Bard’s Tale—on the menu adds a nice, grown-up touch to the meal. I tend to go straight for the Stewart’s specialty sodas because I’m still nine years old at heart.
Most surprisingly, even vegan, gluten intolerant, or lactose intolerant people can enjoy what S’MAC has to offer. With standard, reduced lactose, and dairy-free vegan cheeses complemented by regular, multi-grain, and gluten-free elbows, everyone should be able to find something; even my sister, who’s lactose and gluten intolerant, can safely enjoy S’MAC. (I’m lactose intolerant myself but just down a Lactaid with every meal.)
The only downsides to S’MAC? There isn’t enough space during busy hours and they don’t deliver outside of the East Village.
S’MAC has, without a doubt, the best macaroni & cheese I’ve ever had in my entire life. Head on over to S’MAC (345 E. 12th St. b/t 1st and 2nd Aves.) to get a bite of the action; you can eat in or take it home. They’re open every day from 11 AM to 11 PM and until 1 AM on Fridays and Saturdays.
Update, 5/1/13, 4:08 PM: S’MAC has been closed by health inspectors for accruing 71 violation points. At its previous inspection in September 2012 it got only 13 points, earning an “A” grading. We don’t know when S’MAC will be back up and running but we hope they get back to business quickly, cleanly, and safely.
Update, 5/8/13, 10:59 AM: They’re open again! Repairs are complete and S’MAC is once again serving delicious mac ‘n’ cheese.