I am planning a low-brow culinary adventure by sampling the macaroni & cheese selections offered in LA restaurants. My preliminary list (culled from various Yelp & Chowhound posts) consists of Nook, Bandera, Belvedere, and Boxer Cafe. Yes, it is currently exclusive to the Westside, but once I’ve exhausted these, I will probably branch out. Even though Michael Bauer has bemoaned the overdoneness of mac & cheese at eating establishments, I find it a quintessentially relateable food item (unless you’re freaky and don’t like cheese) that though simple, is hard to make truly memorable. I’ve had my fair share of mac & cheese and honestly, it’s kind of hard to compare certain kinds. Personally, I appreciate the blue-box-blues just as much as a gourmet homemade casserole style with panko breadcrumbs.
Pictured above is the lobster mac & cheese (more like shells & cream) from the Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City. It was about $10 for this half sized portion which makes my stomach hurt to think about how big the full-sized portion is. I’m still on the fence about lobster mac & cheese; for one, shellfish plus cheese doesn’t strike me as a match made in heaven and it seems almost gratuitous to scoop a lump of succulent lobster onto luxuriantly gooey mac and cheese (re: Alexander’s Steakhouse) as it takes away from both the flavors of the cheese and the lobster meat. I did have an amazing lobster mac & cheese at Zola’s in Washington, DC, however and when I visit again, I’m definitely going back there.
The half-sized lobster mac & cheese at OP Lobster was a nice complement to the naked Maine lobster rolls I got (two Double Plays plus the mac was $80; I got the four lobster rolls for myself, Tom, my sister, and one for my parents to split–how thoughtful was I 😉 to consider my dad’s cholesterol in my decision!). OP Lobster is no place for a cheap lunch, but whoever is looking to eat lobster on the cheap deserves what they get… Many reviewers felt the sandwiches were way too small for the price (almost $19 for one, $17.50 per roll if you get the Double Play), but the two other places I’ve had lobster rolls (Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay and Blue Plate Oysterette in Santa Monica) were $20+ anyway. Although I believe those sandwiches were slightly bigger than OP Lobster’s, I strangely felt more satisfied with this one. Sam’s was a gorgeous location right on Highway 1 and we sat out on the patio, but the place/sandwich was way hyped as being one of the best sandwiches in America (a lofty ideal, I’m sure). OP Lobster’s hole-in-the-wall location in the least glamorous of seafood places, Redwood City, held a certain charm that was humble even if their prices were not. I will definitely be back to check out their clam chowder, lobster bisque, and maybe the lobster ravioli dish (served in a lobster bisque sauce). It’s a pretty good standby for lobster rolls in the Bay Area, especially since I haven’t heard of any other place that serves them besides Sam’s (not even in Santa Cruz).
Anyway, back on mac-and-cheese track, I’ll be waiting for Tom to get into town this weekend to check out some restaurants. So far, the only mac & cheese I’ve had in LA is from Boston Market (I love low-end mac & cheese… it’s so guilty) and Foundry on Melrose. The LA dining scene is growing on me as I’ve had some exceptionally wonderful dishes (and some great deals via Blackboard Eats) at unexpected places.