What's ooey and gooey and cheesy all over? Chicago's newest food-themed festival! Mac & Cheese Fest makes its debut at UIC Forum this weekend and Chicagoans are as happy as the smiling elbow noodle in the festival's logo. More than fifty local chefs and restaurants will come together on Saturday to pump out their best cheese and noodle dishes. Tickets ($50 in advance) allow you to same as many and as much of the macaroni as you can, but, before you fill up, we recommend making sure you get your tastebuds on these samplings.
1. River North hotspot American Junkie is taking its bacon mac & cheese to a new level with applewood smoked bacon, parmesan, aged white cheddar, marscapone and toasted bread.
2. Just because pork pairs so well with mac & cheese, it doesn't mean there's no room for vegetarians at this festival! Stop by Halsted's Bar + Grill booth for their veggie mac & cheese.
3. Jake Melnick's is typically noted for their wings but their beer cheese and brat mac & cheese sound too good to pass up.
4. Chef Brooks Hart has put Bar Pastoral on the map as a local wine and cheese standout. He's certainly not holding back with his dish this weekend: beer mac & cheese with Pimento cheese and cheese curds topped with pretzel croutons and scallions.
5. If you've never had mac & cheese pizza, you need to. Stop by Big G's for a slice.
6. Black Rock Pub & Kitchen is adding stout braised and beer cheese to its mac recipe this weekend and you definitely won't hear us complaining.
7. The Chicago suburbs are well represented this weekend with Carlucci Restaurant & Bar's truffle braised duck mac & cheese with licorice basil.
8. Despite its Latin fusion menu, Carnivale is bringing to of America's best loved comfort foods together on Saturday with their PB & J mac - peanut butter fregola, black berry compote and smoked gouda peanut powder.
9. One of Chicago's BBQ favorites, Chicago q, is taking things to the next level with a Wagyu brisket mac & cheese. Should we be surprised?
10. No special frill needed for Schubas' mac & cheese - it's already a city-wide classic.
11. Riverside high end food and watering hole ESTATE Ultra Bar's cold water lobster, three-cheese mac with a goldfish cracker crust already has our mouths watering.
12. The Southern (and its mobile counterpart The Southern Mac & Cheese Truck) practically wrote the book on Chicago's mac & cheese scene so stop by for some Pimento cheeseburger mac.
The inaugural Mac & Cheese Fest is this Saturday, Oct. 4, from 12 to 3 p.m. at the UIC Forum (725 W. Roosevelt Rd.). Tickets are $50 (buy them from the UIC box office to avoid processing fees) and include all-you-can-taste samples and five drink tickets.