Friday, October 28, 2011

The Mac Shack

When we saw the signs saying that a mac and cheese restaurant was opening, we were instantly excited, as mac and cheese is one of our favourite comfort foods.  Last Saturday, we decided to check out the newly opened Mac Shack with a few of our friends.  Their menu sounded decent, as they have lots of different toppings to choose from, whether you decide to build your own mac and cheese, or get one of their creations.  The space is small, but we were able to snag a table, which had a good view of the TV with the Canucks game on, so that was good.

Flowerbunny ordered their Four Cheese Mac and Cheese and added a hot dog to it.  It took quite awhile, somewhere around 20 minutes to get our food, but when it finally arrived at our table we were instantly disappointed.  This did not look cheesy at all!  After we all had a bite, our suspicions were confirmed, as this was incredibly bland.  Worse yet, this is not how mac and cheese should be made!  It seems like Mac Shack just mixes their noodles with a cream sauce, then melts some cheese on top.  There wasn't even a hint of cheese in the sauce.  Anyone who likes mac and cheese knows this is wrong, as the cheese should be melted into the sauce so you get a cheese sauce, not just on top.  This was more like a traditional baked pasta than macaroni and cheese.  The pasta was cooked fine, but the hot dog was not particularly good, and the overall dish was very disappointing. 

I took the 'build your own' route and got a mac and cheese with rose sauce, aged cheddar, gruyere, caramelized onions, mushrooms, chorizo, and bacon.  This looked a lot cheesier than Flowerbunny's so I had a bit of hope that this would be better.  Upon tasting it, it was again, more of a regular pasta than a mac and cheese.  I did choose the Rose sauce which is not exactly a traditional mac and cheese sauce base, but I assumed that the cheese would be melted in and was curious as to how that would taste.  Instead I ended up with something reminiscent of properly cooked macaroni with a jar of classico sauce.  There wasn't much of any of the ingredients that I ordered, but I did order a small, so I'm sure that was the main reason for that.  The chorizo was good, though nothing special.  I don't remember the bacon at all and the mushrooms were sliced so small that they were non-existent.  The caramelized onions were not really caramelized well, the pieces were too big and didn't have that nice sweetness that they usually have.  The cheese was melted on top again, and this pretty much made it impossible to incorporate some cheesiness with everything else.  The cheese itself had a nice flavour to it though.  As a baked pasta, this was passable.  As a mac and cheese, it fails on every level.

One of our friends got the Four Cheese and added peas to it.  This one looked cheesier than Flowerbunny's, but again suffered from using a cream sauce and melting the cheese on top, rather than using a cheese sauce.  I really don't understand how this place can call themselves a mac and cheese restaurant, when they obviously don't know the first thing about a good mac and cheese.
Lastly, one of our friends ordered their most expensive mac and cheese, the Lobster Mac.  It comes with asiago, Canadian cheddar, lobster meat, oyster mushrooms, lemon, dill, truffle oil, and roasted garlic in a cream sauce.  I only tried a bite, so this feedback is mostly from our friend that ordered it. In this case, the dill added some flavour which was nice, but the truffle oil and garlic were non-existent which is strange as they are usually very strong.  The dish was oily, but that is probably due to the cheese.  There were a few bite sized pieces of lobster, but the meat shredded similarly to imitation crab which is kind of questionable.  The oyster mushrooms were sliced strangely and seemed a bit big, but that's a tiny complaint and would be easily overlooked if this tasted good.  Sadly, just like all the others, it again fell into the traditional baked pasta category rather than mac and cheese, and not a very good baked pasta at that.

The one saving grace to this meal was the smoked chipotle tabasco sauce they had on the table.  This was delicious, easily the best thing I tasted there, and made my pasta palatable at least.  The next time I'm out grocery shopping I will definitely try to pick up a bottle of this.  So if nothing else, at least Mac Shack turned me onto this delicious condiment!

My bill is on the left, Flowerbunny's is on the right.  Her bill would've been pretty cheap if she hadn't gotten the coffee.  Mine was far too expensive for what they gave me.  The price for the build-your-own mac and cheese is a bit much but their specialties are decently priced.
Our friend who ordered the Four Cheese with peas remarked that she enjoyed the boxed Velveeta mac and cheese more than she did her meal at Mac Shack.  Which is quite depressing.
No this is not what you get at Mac Shack. This would be an improvement.

Overall Impressions:  I think that whoever created this menu does not have the slightest idea of what good macaroni and cheese is about.  I think most of the business they're getting must be from first time customers trying it out, as I can't imagine they get much return business with food like what we experienced.  Either that or people are just desperate for something resembling mac and cheese.  In addition to the lousy food, the service was quite slow.  Our orders came out one by one so that it took a little while before we all had our food, and our friends' orders took forever!  Other tables that had ordered after them were getting their food first.  It's currently quite busy, so obviously the concept has merit, but they need to work on their product a lot.  If anyone has any entrepreneurial ambitions, they might consider opening up a similar restaurant in the area, as it wouldn't take much to take over their clientele.  Had they advertised themselves as a baked pasta joint, I don't think I would've been as disappointed, but then again, I probably also wouldn't have gone if that were the case.  Sadly, it seems that Vancouver will have to continue to wait for its first real mac and cheese restaurant to open.  If you're going to go to the Mac Shack, go for the smoked chipotle tabasco sauce, as it's the only thing with any real flavour there.  The one nice thing about our sojourn there, is that it was a good excuse to go hang out in an area of town that we don't get to very much.  Kerrisdale's a nice area and I should make a point of going out there more often.  They just need to open a few good restaurants so I have an excuse to go back.

The Mac Shack
5395 West Boulevard
Vancouver, BC
The Mac Shack on Urbanspoon

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