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Mac ‘n’ cheese is taking over local menus.

Move over, pimento cheese, macaroni and cheese is taking over local menus.

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Someone at Local Gastropub is a serious macaroni and cheese fan. Not only do they have Mac n' Gruyere Tots ($9) on the menu, they just added an entire Mac 'n' Cheese Bar.

Let's start with the tots. There are eight deep-fried and perfectly crispy balls to an order. They actually resemble hushpuppies more than tater tots. There's a little shaved Gruyere melted on top and a side of spicy marinara sauce. Inside the tot is where the magic happens. The macaroni and cheese is positively gooey and delicious. Assuming you don't pop the entire tot in your mouth, each bite leaves a nice string of melted cheese like a good slice of pizza. They taste pretty darn good on their own, but the marinara definitely takes them to the next level. So, to review: crispy, gooey, cheesy, saucy, yum!

Now about that Mac 'n' Cheese Bar. Their truffled mac 'n' cheese ($8) is the base. Then you have a number of toppings to add for an additional cost: lobster ($6), chorizo ($2), bacon ($2), short rib ($4), tasso ($3), and blue cheese ($2). I don't think you can go wrong with this list of toppings, only right. The extra cheesy mac 'n' cheese comes out in a skillet, the size of which depends on the number of toppings added. Rather than the standard elbow, the Mac 'n' Cheese Bar features a long corkscrew noodle which has many aliases (cavatappi, cellentani, amori, spirali, tortiglioni, and fusilli rigati). I added short ribs to my order and the result was decadent and beyond delicious. It took restraint to only add one topping. There is clearly potential here to eat the most amazing, not to mention expensive, mac 'n' cheese of your life.

The newly opened Skybox Grill & Bar in Collierville features macaroni & cheese eggrolls ($8) as an appetizer. Macaroni and cheese EGGROLLS! If that's not worth the trip east, I don't know what is. They are everything I'd hoped they'd be and more. There are two large eggrolls to an order and they come sliced diagonally so there are actually four pieces. (I guess this means they want you to share, which just seems wrong.) The cut allows you to see the curly goodness inside and they are a sight to behold. They aren't too cheesy and they also feature a longer corkscrew noodle rather than the standard elbow. The eggroll wrapper is super crispy, but in a flaky pie-crust way. These, too, taste great on their own, but it's hard to resist the tangy dipping sauces that accompany them. There's a zesty barbecue and a sweet & spicy "sirachi" sauce. Both get the thumbs up. Go on, drive to Collierville.

Finally, true mac 'n' cheese fans must try the Mac-N-Cheeseburger ($9.95) at LBOE. Like all burgers at LBOE, it features a lovely square ciabatta bun that is perfectly toasted and a nice, big never-frozen ground beef patty. On top of the meat is a nice scoop of homemade mac 'n' cheese with a nice helping of crumbled hardwood bacon. The mac 'n' cheese stays together pretty well. I only had one or two elbows try and escape while eating it. Think of this combination as a deconstructed Hamburger Helper. The flavors are very familiar but elevated. After a few bites it seems perfectly normal to eat a hamburger topped with mac 'n' cheese. In fact, one must wonder why no one thought of it sooner.

Local, 95 S. Main (473-9573)
2126 Madison (725-1845)
localgastropub.com

The Skybox Grill & Bar, 2140 W. Poplar (854-0509)
theskyboxgrilltn.com

LBOE, 2021 Madison (725-0770)
lboerestaurant.com

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