MACBAR | 54 Prince St. (at Lafayette St.) | 212.226.8877 | www.macbar.net |
SO, THERE I WAS, ON on my way home from just devouring a most excellent ITALIAN COMBO FROM TORRISI ITALIAN SPECIALTIES on Mulberry St., when I happened to pass by a new-ish little joint that, like many of the newer downtown restaurants, specializes in just one dish.
Following in the second, more ubiquitous trend of offering upscaled comfort food, this brightly designed spot, called MacBar, dishes out several variations of the classic mac 'n' cheese, including one called "The Classic" as well as others such as "Carbonara" (pancetta, green peas, parmesan), "Mac Reuben" (corned beef, saurkraut, bread crumbs). Even more options contain such ingredients as ground Angus steak, chicken and and green onions, mushrooms and truffle "essence", and even lobster and cognac.
I didn't remember any of these at the time, so upon walking by the sunshine yellow exterior—trying to divine if I still had room in my tummy for more food—and eventually venturing to enter.
Kubrick-esque in design, the decor would probably come of as cafeteria industrial if it wasn't also colored by Sesame Street. A tinier place than expected as well, it quickly convinced me that this was a place that planned to do a lot more takeout than eat-in business. And being open until 2 a.m. on the weekends seemed to also imply the need to sate late night revelers.
Which might not bode well in theory for the quality of the food, if all you needed to do was feed drunk college kids and hipsters (it is their neighborhood). But then, finally perusing that long menu of mac 'n' cheese options, I figured the final product couldn't possibly be that bad if they were throwing duck confit and fresh herbs into the mix.
The confit and herb mac, called the "Mac Quack", was the one I ordered, telling the nice counter girl that I did intend to take it home—since I had just eaten—but would want to take some photos (and a few freshly served bites) before I did. It was ready in a little less than 10 minutes (just long enough to prove that it's not microwaved?), and came in a whole lotta finely designer packaging.
Thrown off only briefly by how much cardboard was used for just the SMALL option I ordered (a cardboard box that slides into another cardboard box, I eventually got to the prize at hand, and a surprise it was. I could easily discern all of the ideal ingredients flavors, which made for some collectively welcoming pre-bite aromas. I had to stir up the macaroni pasta from the bottom—they top was all cheese; too many, not a problem—but once it was all mixed, it could feel and taste the unique qualities of the tender pieces of duck, and the softer, subtler flavors of the fontina, onions, and herbs complemented the duck quite nicely.
Convinced that MacBar's conceit was more than a gimmick with those first nostalgia-inducing couple of bites, I lidded and double-boxed the remainder and headed on my way home back uptown. And once I was home, I was home for the day, doing more freelance work and eating nothing else for the rest of the day except the rest of that mac 'n' cheese, likening the experience to meeting a girl at the bar was very attractive and personal then quickly discovering that the girl as has a lot more depth, character, "soul" than she lets on. Wait, I know a girl like that! Yes, MacBar is pretty enough to catch your eye, but the real thrill is on the its heart.
Bun Apple Tea!
MACBAR | 54 Prince St. (at Lafayette St.) | 212.226.8877 | www.macbar.net