The articles I write for Serious Eats Chicago are the products of careful and meticulous research: whether culled from the internet, friends, or my own experiences, I do my homework before hoisting a dish upon the unsuspecting Serious Eats community. Except when I don't.
A few weeks ago, I felt a stirring patriotic duty to write-up a Thanksgiving-themed sandwich. Because they aren't as ubiquitous as I assumed, I ended up at Fat Cat in Uptown. When my wife and I looked at the menu, we noticed that along with at least one holiday-themed sandwich, Fat Cat also serves Fried Mac & Cheese ($6.95) as an appetizer. I've had a hand in making a similar dish that incorporated hot dogs (scroll 3/4 of the way down for pictures), so I was curious to see if a restaurant version would stack up. After being assured by the waiter that they make theirs from scratch, I felt that same stirring feeling of duty beginning to well anew. I knew I couldn't pass these up... but would they be worth the calories so close to Thanksgiving?
O happy fault! Sometimes it pays to call an audible, especially when the rewards are crispy-creamy nuggets of mac and cheese. The four duck egg-sized wedges were expertly breaded (if I had to guess, I'd say with Panko), and fried to a crisp golden brown. The penne noodles within were ensconced in a cheese sauce so velvety, it could only have been the work of Velveeta. A little salt helped to wake up the flavors nicely. The bites were served with two homemade dipping sauces: a very solid spicy ranch and a spicy ketchup that I'm ashamed to admit to actually liking.
Maybe the next time I'm on my way to Tank for a bowl of phở, I'll swing into Fat Cat for a Fried Mac 'N Cheese appetizer- unless there's better to be had elsewhere. What do you say, Chicago Serious Eaters: Is there any other great fried mac and cheese in the city?
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