The Southern Mac & Cheese Truck
I know, I know. This ‘blog has quickly gone from a restaurant ‘blog to a food truck ‘blog. There will be more actual “restaurants” in the near future. I promise. I just have to have the time (and money) to go out-to-eat. In the meantime, just deal.
Today, I present to you, The Southern Mac & Cheese Truck. This food truck is an extension of Chef Cary Taylor’s restaurant/“Kickass bar,” The Southern, on North Avenue in Chicago. Every day, Chef Taylor presents the bands of mobile foodies with a rotation of gourmet variations of macaroni & cheese. They have everything from vegetarian Smoked Gouda and Breadcrumbs to a true Southern dish like Crawfish, Spicy Andouille and Pepperjack. Today, we will look at the Sundried Tomato, White Cheddar, and Caramelized Onion offering.
To start, as any good mac & cheese should, this plating’s cheese sauce offers a very creamy texture. Do you remember when you were in school, the macaroni & cheese would be dried out (from sitting in a warming dish too long) and the cheese would thicken to a consistency of road tar? This is not the case for Southern Mac. They have perfected the process of prepackaging their product and providing the starving masses with moist, creamy, al dente* mac. Yet, sometimes I like the burnt or charred edges of cheese that come along with a mac & cheese that has been under the broiler for just a bit. Again, as in previous posts, the lack of this touch would be extremely difficult while following the Chicago food truck law of only being able to serve pre-packaged food.
The noodles themselves are just as creamy as the sauce. They have just enough texture to let your tongue know they are there but then slowly melt into the cheese. However, on this occasion, the same goes for the “extra” fixins as well. Since I ordered my mac with sundried tomato and caramelized onion, I wanted sundried tomato and caramelized onion. Yet, I was left wanting.
When I first saw this offering on the menu, I pictured pieces of sundried tomatoes like what you might see in a rustic pasta dish. That was not to be the case. Rather, than getting tomatoes of any substantial size, what I found was little red specks in my cheese. It is almost as if they put whole sundried tomatoes in the cheese sauce and then hit the puree button on the food processor. I knew the tomatoes where there because I could see them but I couldn’t quite taste their distinctive sundried flavor. The pieces were so small that the cheese sauce blanketed any flavor the little bits of tomato did hold.
The caramelized onions were of more substantial size. But I think they missed the mark on this aspect as well. I don’t think the onions were caramelized at all! Sautéed until translucent? Yes. Caramelized until soft and deliciously golden brown? No. What I found woven in and among the noodles were long, very thin white or just turning translucent onions. I know that cooking true caramelized onions may take a long time, but it is so easy to do. Why is it so hard for places to do this? I went from overly sweet caramelized onions (made by cheating) at 5411 Empanadas to onions that never even had a chance of caramelization at Southern Mac. My taste buds were disappointed.
Although my palate was left wanting, my stomach was not. Every time I have ordered a plate of mac & cheese from this truck, I have walked away stuffed. At $9 per dish, I find it to be a surprisingly decent value considering you could go to a sit-down restaurant in downtown Chicago and be hard pressed to be as satisfied for the same price.
Shockingly, despite all of the critiques written above, I love getting mac & cheese from this place. I have also gotten spicy andouille and the plain smoked gouda on previous visits they were absolutely awesome. Again, cheese was creamy and the noodles were just right. In the spicy andouille mac, there actually was a substantial amount of Spanish sausage. The spice of the andouille balanced well with the cheese sauce. Those two visits (before I started blogging) would definitely make the cut in my book. However, the Sundried Tomato, White Cheddar, and Caramelized Onion dish didn’t quite stack up when put on the chopping block.
Overall, even though this particular selection was not quite up to the challenge, I recommend you try this place, if given a chance. If you don’t like what you get the first time, try one of their other selections on a return visit. I know you will find something that will keep you coming back.
What I really am excited about is visiting Chef Taylor’s actual restaurant, The Southern. That place looks like it would be absolutely delish. I will definitely keep you posted! Wait, did I just say “delish?” Seriously? Sorry about that.
You can follow The Southern Mac Truck on Twitter: @thesouthernmac
You can follow The Southern Mac Truck on Facebook: The Southern Mac & Cheese Truck
*Side note: I have noticed that I have used “al dente” a handful of times in the matter of four posts. Someone get me a thesaurus!