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Why do so few BBQ joints have mac & cheese?

aynrandgirl Feb 14, 2010 01:52 PM

It's by far my favorite BBQ side.

  1. mcsheridan Feb 27, 2010 10:38 AM

    Out in SW Illinois, the 17th Street Bar & Grill does some of the best ribs in the country, great pulled pork, AND they have Mac & Cheese as a side. (Yes, they also serve Banana Pudding for dessert, if you have any Room Left after their fantastic food!)


    1. Naco Feb 23, 2010 09:42 AM

      I'm from North Carolina and echoing some previous comments, IMO mac and cheese, or any sort of cheese or cheese based dish, just doesn't pair well with barbecue.

      13 Replies
      1. re: Naco
        Perilagu Khan Feb 23, 2010 10:18 AM

        There's a few hard-boiled cue joints in Texas that offer slices of cheddar as a side. I don't necessarily endorse this fromagery, but there you have it.

        1. re: Perilagu Khan
          Naco Feb 23, 2010 10:42 AM

          They also refer to beef as "barbecue"! And people say alternative lifestyles aren't popular down there...

          1. re: Naco
            danhole Feb 23, 2010 01:19 PM

            Oh Naco! You should know better than to make broad generalizations. I am a beef eater, and a Texan, and beef does not equal bbq. I thought that was a yankee thing ;-) Boy, is bbq a hot button issue around here!

            I have never seen, or heard of, a bbq place serving cheddar as a side for bbq, and by bbq I mean good old smoked sausage, brisket, pork, chicken or turkey. (Key word is "smoked", not just thrown on a grill and cooked to order. But I digress.) I agree that cheese and cheesy things are not great side dishes for bbq, but that is just my opinion. And I DO love cheese. And anything is possible when ity comes to bbq menus.

            Texas is a very large state and I can imagine that what is normal in West Tx is not what I am used to here in SE Tx. And it varies from one place to the next. As Will said "I guess it all depends on where you go and what you want..." So true. My favorite side is a baked potato (sounds kind of weird when I put it in writing) and some good meaty beans. No potato or macaroni salad for this woman!

            1. re: danhole
              bushwickgirl Feb 23, 2010 01:38 PM

              "beef does not equal bbq. I thought that was a yankee thing"
              What?? We grill beef and we bbq pork here in Yankeetown.;-))

              1. re: bushwickgirl
                bbqboy Feb 23, 2010 01:49 PM

                You are entering the BBQ zone-Carolina and Memphis are Pork Strongholds, Texas is beef territory, and KC is slow cook anything that moves territory :)

                1. re: bushwickgirl
                  KTinNYC Feb 23, 2010 01:55 PM

                  Not at Hill Country. Beef is the thing there.

                  1. re: KTinNYC
                    Perilagu Khan Feb 23, 2010 01:59 PM

                    Well, at least they're keeping to the Hill Country theme then. Just so long as they don't top their brisket with little neck clams or Blue Point oysters or suchlike.

                2. re: danhole
                  James Cristinian Feb 23, 2010 01:58 PM

                  Dani, you need to get to Luling/Lockhart where cheese is indeed served on the side with the best bbq on the planet. I live in SE Texas, and the stuff here doesn't compare. Take a long one day roadie or an overnighter to Luling/Lockhart and see. In regard to your earlier post, many places have indoor smokers, the smoke cured walls are like a bbq badge of courage.

                  1. re: James Cristinian
                    danhole Feb 24, 2010 10:28 PM

                    James, I know they have indoor smokes and pits around those parts, but wasn't aware of the cheese. Have to talk the DH in making a road trip, but he loves BBQ so shouldn't be hard. Just tell me the best place to go to! Used to go to San Marcos and there was a BBQ restaurant that had a buffet that served just about every side you could think of. Pretty good, but best part was it had a gift shop and had some darn good jerky! Wasn't in San Marcos, but on the way.

                    I think the laws in Houston (and I may be repeating here) don't allow you to have all the pits and smokers inside, unless you have proper ventilation going to the outside. I'll have to ask a pitmaster I know to be sure.

                    1. re: danhole
                      James Cristinian Feb 26, 2010 08:09 AM

                      Look no further than Luling, with a jog to the north for Lockhart. Luling is on the way to San Marcos. Have you been lately? It has virtually doubled in size, with every unthinkable chain restaurant on I-35. It's no longer the sleepy college town, traffic is a nightmare.

                  2. re: danhole
                    BarmyFotheringayPhipps Feb 25, 2010 10:13 AM

                    I can vouch for the longhorn-cheddar-as-side in many (although nowhere near all) Texas barbecue places, and as Danhole surmises, it's something you're more likely to see, say, between San Angelo and Amarillo than in the hill country or southeast.

              2. re: Naco
                Bob W Feb 25, 2010 12:07 PM

                Good mac and cheese pairs well with almost anything, but I certainly don't miss it when I get barbecue in NC. Good slaw is the only side you need.

                Having said that, I had some great mac and cheese, along with several other southern-style sides, at Ed Mitchell's late lamented restaurant in Wilson. I see that he offers it at his place in Raleigh, where I'm sure it's quite tasty. Of course, I see that he also offers barbecued tofu. Just sayin....

                1. re: Bob W
                  Naco Feb 25, 2010 03:27 PM

                  I would file this under exceptions that prove the rule. I haven't made it to The Pit(Mitchell's current place), but suffice it to say that there is plenty of commentary out there that it is not your typical NC barbecue place. At any rate, I never that you absolutely will not ever find it, just that the two don't really go well together.

              3. d
                dexmat Feb 22, 2010 10:42 PM

                I can’t comment on other parts of the country but at the top level Texas bbq places sides are perfunctory and usually limited to beans, slaw or potato salad, plus white bread, pickles and onions. Many people (probably most Chowhounds) aren’t going to one of these places for anything other than the meat and many of the best ones were originally meat markets. They are typically counter service; you buy your meats by the pound, there are not only no no combo plates, at some there are no plates period, you are served on butcher paper. The menu board may only list prices of meats per pound.

                But there is another approach to bbq that’s very common if less chowish or chowish in a different way - barbecue as comfort food, which it is here, and the barbecue restaurant as a family restaurant. These may be cafeteria style or even table service and you’re more likely to find a bigger variety of sides and perhaps more attention to the quality of the sides. The sides may tend toward all-American or soul food or Creole/Cajun and combo plates and sandwiches are available plus the ever-popular stuffed baked potato loaded with chopped meat. Such places may also serve other entrees besides bbq such as fried chicken or fried catfish. You may have to search on the menu to see if they sell their meats by the pound or even ask.

                I don’t think cheese goes with bbq myself any more than I want cream gravy on my pizza. The thought of a good crusty mac ‘n cheese does sound like something I’d like to try in place of insipid potato salad but the idea of a creamy style mac 'n cheese with bbq doesn't appeal to me at all. I typically only eat bbq when I can get to one of the great places and I don’t go for a well-rounded meal with sides and a dessert, I go for the meats.

                1. Will Owen Feb 22, 2010 05:00 PM

                  Texas joints aren't likely to have it because it requires an oven. Nashville (and I assume most other mid-South) joints don't have it because, well, it just never seemed to occur to them. However, out here in SoCal, I'm finding that any place selling any kind of Soul Food tends to have it, whether the main item in question is chicken, fried fish, or BBQ, just because around here it's apparently an absolute staple of soul cookery. Which is dandy with me because it feeds my soul as well. Just too bad about the waistline...

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Will Owen
                    danhole Feb 22, 2010 09:12 PM


                    "Texas joints aren't likely to have it because it requires an oven." That seems like an odd comment, because ovens are standard in Texas BBQ places. How else would you explain all the cobbler served at BBQ places ;-) Can't imagine a kitchen not having an oven, bbq or not. I think mac 'n cheese is a national american dish regardless of where you live. It is offered fancy (with lobster, other seafood, etc.) or just with cheese, or a mix of cheeses. It is served just about everywhere they serve american cuisines, but not as common as beans and potato salad as far as BBQ goes. I think that is what the OP was getting at.

                    Hey DallasDude - banana pudding is fine, but cobbler or pie rules in my book!

                    1. re: danhole
                      DallasDude Feb 23, 2010 08:31 AM

                      Cobblers are fantastic. I used to actually send pans of apple cobbler through the smoker. Very unique and thoroughly delicious.

                      BTW, we have shady bbq in Dallas. It is passable, but not what you would expect from a major Texas city. However, the last word in Texas bbq is by this gentleman I list below.


                      1. re: danhole
                        Will Owen Feb 23, 2010 10:11 AM

                        ' "Texas joints aren't likely to have it because it requires an oven." That seems like an odd comment, because ovens are standard in Texas BBQ places.' Okay, that was just silly of me. I was remembering a book I have on Texas barbecue, the history and practice of, and all it talks about is pits, as though nothing else is cooked in those places. Bread and a few salads are mentioned in passing, but I don't recall reading squat about desserts. That'll learn me to mouth off about something I haven't done more than read about... or maybe it won't.

                        Anyway, there are a few other comments posted here that seem almost to agree with my uninformed reply. I guess it all depends on where you go and what you want...

                        1. re: Will Owen
                          James Cristinian Feb 23, 2010 10:44 AM

                          I don't recall seeing an oven at Smitty's in Lockhart, just a pit, and to my knowledge, they offer no desserts. I've been to City Market in Luling a few times, and again recall no oven. Some of the places in Lockhart indicate pies and cobbler for dessert, but that doesn't necessarily mean they were cooked there.

                          1. re: James Cristinian
                            danhole Feb 23, 2010 01:02 PM

                            Really, when you get down to it, comparing a BBQ place in Lockhart to one in Houston is not fair! I don't think you can have a BBQ restaurant with a pit, unless you have it outside. I could be very wrong though, and I will admit that. As far as desserts being outsourced I know some places do that, and then there are the ones that make "mama's" recipe on site. Recently found out that one of the restaurants that I really like, and especially the desserts of pies and cakes, advertises them as homemade, and they are, but not made on site! Brought in everyday! Tricky phrasing don't ya think? Even so, the place they get them from is great, and I will continue to buy a dessert from this restaurant.

                            1. re: danhole
                              James Cristinian Feb 23, 2010 01:15 PM

                              Dani, walk in the back door at Smitty's and the pit is right there, inside. Could that restaurant that brings in outside pies be Barbecue Inn in Houston? I love the place, but one day I saw a woman unloading pies from a van there.

                    2. DallasDude Feb 22, 2010 02:50 PM

                      I was ready to dispute this assertion as I was sure many of the top greats in Texas (Louie Muellers, Kreuz, Luling Market, Salt Lick and even Coopers) mostly all just sell beans, coleslaw, and potato salad.

                      I have done bbq catering in my jaded past and these are simply easy to make ahead of time.

                      After reviewing the local chain bbq restaurants menus (Dickies BBQ, Sonny Bryans and Spring Creek BBQ) I notice they all have mac and cheese on their menu. So do we detect a pattern?

                      Any bbq haunt should offer banana pudding.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: DallasDude
                        bbqboy Feb 22, 2010 03:54 PM

                        Hmmm. Desert at bbq joints. That's probably a whole different topic. :)

                      2. danhole Feb 22, 2010 12:53 AM

                        I know of 2 Houston BBQ places that have mac 'n' cheese. Gabby's BBQ (3 locations) and Big Daddy's BBQ (4 locations), but I have never had it at either place. I really am not a big fan of mac 'n cheese. I also have to admit that since we found Pierson's & Co. we don't try much other BBQ, and I know they don't have it. We used to like Gabby's, good stuff and lots on the menu, but haven't been for 2 or more years. Only went to Big Daddy's once, and I guess it wasn't too memorable. Never went back, but remember it did have lots of sides to choose from, sort of cafeteria style (not the meat.) There are probably more than that around here. You don't have to go to NYC for mac 'n cheese. It is too abundant here - IMO! Now give me a place with Dirty Rice as a side, like Luther's used to have! That's really good with BBQ.

                        1. bushwickgirl Feb 20, 2010 10:34 PM

                          Seems like every BBQ joint, soul food lunch counter, diner and even the high-end restaurants in NYC have a version of mac & cheese on the menu. We even have dedicated mac & cheese places, serving little else. Consider moving here.

                          29 Replies
                          1. re: bushwickgirl
                            Perilagu Khan Feb 21, 2010 07:00 AM

                            There ya' go! Mac and cheese is a Yankee thing! ;) That said, I'm pretty sure Rudy's (a respectable Texas cue chain) offers M&C as a side. Never tried it though because the beans and tater salad are so good.

                            1. re: Perilagu Khan
                              bushwickgirl Feb 22, 2010 05:09 AM

                              I always thought mac & cheese was more a Southern thing. I think it's just considered to be a comfort food in NY.

                              1. re: bushwickgirl
                                Cherylptw Feb 22, 2010 07:59 AM

                                In the Southeast, it is southern comfort food, some of us eat it as a main course and it's a staple with meat dishes BUT not with BBQ...it just don't go together...dang, all this talk of mac & cheese has me wanting to make some (lol!)

                                1. re: Cherylptw
                                  bushwickgirl Feb 22, 2010 08:08 AM

                                  That's what I always thought about it, southern comfort food.
                                  No shortage of mac & cheese here, even the Spanish takeout places in NY have it on the menu. My local one sports two cheeses and plenty of gooey, crusty goodness, a big plate for $3.

                                  1. re: Cherylptw
                                    decolady Feb 27, 2010 02:02 PM

                                    Yes, definitely southern comfort food. It just doesn't seem to go with BBQ and few que places we frequent serve it.

                                2. re: Perilagu Khan
                                  BobB Feb 22, 2010 09:03 AM

                                  Don't laugh, that could be true! Here in Boston it's a pretty standard side at most BBQ joints, even those few that begin to approach real quality. Sometimes even deep fried mac n' cheese.

                                  1. re: BobB
                                    bushwickgirl Feb 22, 2010 09:10 AM

                                    Oh yeah, we even have deep fried mac & cheese at the better Brit style fish and chip places here. I'm telling ya, it's everywhere.
                                    It's probably on the top 10 "things you can get everywhere in NYC" list.

                                3. re: bushwickgirl
                                  James Cristinian Feb 21, 2010 11:56 AM

                                  In Texas the lack of mac and cheese goes back to the German immigrants where the first Texas bbq came from. When do you see mac and cheese at a German restaurant? Several high end restaurants in Houston have it, including recent James Beard nominee Brian Caswell's Reef restaurant. Why move to NYC? The lack of good Tex Mex and bbq would do me in.

                                  1. re: James Cristinian
                                    bushwickgirl Feb 22, 2010 05:13 AM

                                    While the lack of good Tex Mex and even Mexican is legendary in NYC, BBQ efforts here have ramped up significantly in even the last five years. So hope is on the horizon.
                                    Besides, I think the OP's from Florida. How's the BBQ scene there?

                                    1. re: bushwickgirl
                                      Perilagu Khan Feb 22, 2010 06:43 AM

                                      I thought there were some sort of enviro regs in Gotham that prevented serious pit smoking.

                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                        bushwickgirl Feb 22, 2010 07:32 AM

                                        II don't know about enviro regs, just the occasional issue from a tenant living directly next to or in front of someone' stack. It's more the smell than the enviro issue.
                                        Restaurant exhaust fan noise next to your bedroom is a problem as well, as you can imagine.
                                        Salt intake, sugary drink taxes, cigarette smoking bans, clean air buse use, these are the things that make the news these days, not pit smoking.

                                        1. re: bushwickgirl
                                          bbqboy Feb 22, 2010 09:27 AM

                                          but....but.....the aroma of hickory smoke is arguably the most sensuous aspect
                                          of BBQ. :)
                                          AS far as mac & cheese, I don't ever remember it on the menu at any KC Q places in my youth. Corn Pudding IS a popular side in KC.
                                          BBQ places and Soulfood /country cookin' places are 2 distinct categories
                                          in BBQ locales, I believe.
                                          In non Q locales, the two tend to get merged into one all purpose category.

                                          1. re: bbqboy
                                            bushwickgirl Feb 22, 2010 10:41 AM

                                            "but....but.....the aroma of hickory smoke is arguably the most sensuous aspect
                                            of BBQ. :)"
                                            No issue there, wish we had more of it here than some of the other aromas available.

                                        2. re: Perilagu Khan
                                          KTinNYC Feb 22, 2010 09:47 AM

                                          There are restrictions i.e. smoke chimney's have to vent at a certain height but there are very serious smoking going on in NYC. R.U.B., Daisy May's, Blue Smoke, Hill Country, Dinosaur to name a few.

                                          1. re: KTinNYC
                                            Perilagu Khan Feb 22, 2010 11:41 AM

                                            Do they have Executive Chefs or pit bosses? ;)

                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                              KTinNYC Feb 22, 2010 11:46 AM

                                              What's in a name? That we call a smoke ring, by any other name would be as pink.

                                        3. re: bushwickgirl
                                          aynrandgirl Feb 23, 2010 03:45 AM

                                          Thanks for the invite to NYC, but it's way too cold for me. A dedicated mac & cheese joint sounds great though. Name? I'll put it on the list after Katz's Deli and Brennan & Carr.

                                          The BBQ in Florida is lousy, thank you. It tries so hard to be Carolina style Q (pulled pork, vinegar sauces) yet fails miserably in quality. Florida had no Mexican or Tex-Mex either. The horror!

                                          Fortunately I've moved to Houston where the BBQ is much better. The sides, though, tend to be lousy. Obvious supermarket ****, especially the potato salad. I've heard air quality regs prevent the proliferation of good BBQ joints here. Not sure if it's true.

                                          I always thought BBQ was Southern comfort food, a distinct kind from soul food.

                                          1. re: aynrandgirl
                                            bushwickgirl Feb 23, 2010 06:00 AM

                                            Ok, thanks for the info. I'm with you on the NYC chill. I'am thinking about retiring to the Florida Panhandle sometime in the future, if for nothing more than warmth. I don't think of Florida when I think of BBQ.

                                            For dedicated, S'MAC, Supermac. which is relocating or expanding, MacBar in Soho, not really dedicated, only take out. http://www.smacnyc.com/home.html

                                            Of course, call first, because restaurants come and go in NY. Maybe other NYC posters can weigh in with their favorites. Better BBQ joints like Blue Smoke and Dinosaur have mac & cheese on the menu, Daisey May's has a choice of three sizes, Hill Country, highly recommended, R.U.B (Rightgeous Urban Barbeque) does not, and tends to be purist with coleslaw, potato salad and beans as featured sides. Charles Fried Chicken, way uptown in Harlem, while more Soul and not BBQ, will be worth the trip.

                                            So there's the current rundown in a nutshell. NYC seems to be the mac & cheese capital, at least in the availability arena. Now if only our Tex-Mex and Mexican would play catch up.

                                            1. re: bushwickgirl
                                              KTinNYC Feb 23, 2010 06:11 AM

                                              NYC is most definitely not the mac and cheese capital of the world. There are parts of this country where it is much more common. Especially regions where the meat and three restaurant is predominate.

                                              1. re: KTinNYC
                                                bushwickgirl Feb 23, 2010 06:34 AM

                                                I said seems to be, and I wasn't thinking world anyway, just the Northeast. I know nothing about other regions where meat and three are predominate, so I'm not qualified to comment on a side by side comparison, but mac and cheese is currently very popular in NY and let's leave it at that.

                                                1. re: bushwickgirl
                                                  JungMann Feb 23, 2010 07:05 AM

                                                  There certainly is a lot of mac-n-cheese in NYC, though I think it is merely an aspect of the wider comfort food trend that has taken hold of the city. A lot of these places seem to have their origins catering to downtown revellers, Macbar being an extension of the ur-gimmick, Delicatessen.

                                                  That said, mac-n-cheese has always been around here, even if it fell under the radar until recently. Certainly it's always been available at any soul food restaurant as an acceptable side to barbecue in NYC as across much of the North.

                                                  1. re: JungMann
                                                    bushwickgirl Feb 23, 2010 07:30 AM

                                                    Agree with all points, especially the comfort food angle.

                                                  2. re: bushwickgirl
                                                    Perilagu Khan Feb 23, 2010 09:15 AM

                                                    We should rename New York The Big MACintosh.

                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                      bushwickgirl Feb 23, 2010 10:11 AM

                                                      Good one, you've been in rare form the past few days. Caught the "wangs" thing on the What's for Dinner thread, very amusing.
                                                      The executive chef/pit boss retort (What's in a name? That we call a smoke ring, by any other name would be as pink.) must have gotcha, but you sort of deserved it.;-))

                                                      Don't tell anyone, but I like mac & cheese on the side of a good hotdog.

                                                      1. re: bushwickgirl
                                                        Will Owen Feb 23, 2010 10:20 AM

                                                        It works for mediocre ones, too - one of my mom's standard lunches was blue-box Kraft mac'n'cheese with boiled hot dogs, sometimes with them cut up in it. I have been known to do that in the comfort and privacy of my own kitchen...

                                                        There seem to be lots of people who are repelled by the notion of this food pairing we're talking about, but some, including me, find it not only natural but compelling. It does require a spicy-sweet sauce though, I think.

                                                        1. re: Will Owen
                                                          truman Feb 27, 2010 11:14 AM

                                                          Yes yes yes! That was the Saturday night "date night" staple dinner when I was growing up... mom would make Kraft m&c and hot dogs, cut up the hot dogs into the m&c, and serve it to us while dad picked up the babysitter. Just thinking of that meal makes me nostalgic... but I disagree with the need for a sauce, not even ketchup (which is my standard hot dog bathing sauce).

                                                2. re: bushwickgirl
                                                  LNG212 Feb 23, 2010 07:48 AM

                                                  Just wanted to add Pinch & Smac (UWS) even if just because of the great name! :)

                                                  1. re: bushwickgirl
                                                    aynrandgirl Feb 23, 2010 07:25 PM

                                                    The Panhandle? They get regular freezes up there. If it's freezing in the Northeast, there's a good chance it will be freezing a few days later in the Panhandle. The beaches are pretty though, and it doesn't try to make itself NYC South like Miami does. North Florida is much more Southern than South Florida.

                                                    Back to food, given all the transplants you'd think Florida would try to pull from Carolina and Georgia BBQ traditions, but instead they're stuck with restaurants like Sonny's, a mediocre BBQ chain that's all over Florida.

                                                    Hill Country looks great, when it comes to BBQ I'm much more of a sausage fan.

                                                    1. re: aynrandgirl
                                                      bushwickgirl Feb 24, 2010 07:00 AM

                                                      Freezing I can handle, it's the NE ice and snow that's the problem. Actually, if I lived in a climate that was always warm or hot, I'd go out of my mind, and I do like a good beach.

                                                      I can't comment much on sausages for bbq but NY has it's share of sausage smoking going on. I'm not sure how many bbq places have sausage on the menu aside from Hill Country, but they certainly all seem to have a little bit of everything, beef, pork, Carolina, Memphis, KC, Texas style, even oysters ;-)).

                                                      Anyway, if you make a trip up here, at least you now know of some good-to-great bbq places to check out.

                                          2. Uncle Bob Feb 14, 2010 04:44 PM

                                            Probably because there is little or no demand for it ~~~ It's not a very common side for BBQ in my area........

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Uncle Bob
                                              aynrandgirl Feb 20, 2010 07:38 PM

                                              Chicken and egg isn't it? Who can turn down a good bowl of mac & cheese?

                                              1. re: aynrandgirl
                                                Uncle Bob Feb 21, 2010 06:10 AM

                                                As a side to BBQ it seems a lot of people can....Look for a restaurant that does "down home" cooking and also dabbles in BBQ..Maybe you can order it there..HTH

                                                Good Luck!!

                                            2. scubadoo97 Feb 14, 2010 04:24 PM

                                              because us guys know it goes right to your hips

                                              1. Cherylptw Feb 14, 2010 03:24 PM

                                                Mac & cheese is not traditional BBQ fare, at least, not in NC or in the Southwest. That said, you might find it on some menus although more likely to find it at places serving chicken or southern food.

                                                1. e
                                                  erlajo Feb 14, 2010 03:08 PM

                                                  It's my favorite too. Nothing beats a homestyle plate of mac and cheese. I don't frequent many bbq joints but the one I do has it. Maybe a lot of places don't have it because it's so heavy next to a big plate of bbq? I don't know?

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