Comfort found in Marin’s creamiest mac and cheese

Shauna Perigo

Macaroni and cheese may be one of the most underrated foods. After a certain age, we tend to forget about this delicious treat as we move away from the kids’ menu and begin ordering more sophisticated dishes. However, a number of restaurants around Marin still offer an adult-sized portion of mac and cheese, which makes a delicious comfort food for chilly fall days.

The Bark compared the macaroni and cheese served at four restaurants around Marin: Pig in a Pickle, California Pizza Kitchen, The Cheesecake Factory, and Best Lil’ Porkhouse. The mac and cheese was rated on a five-star scale based on taste and affordability.

The medium size of macaroni and cheese from Pig in a Pickle costs $10.
The medium size of macaroni and cheese from Pig in a Pickle costs $10.

Pig in a Pickle: 5 stars

With its creamy texture and rich white cheddar flavor, the mac and cheese at Pig in a Pickle does not fail to impress. Hints of pepper and other spices come through with every bite, and the cheese is thick and creamy. Additionally, the mac and cheese is served at the perfect temperature: hot enough to melt in your mouth, but cool enough not to burn your tongue. The overall atmosphere in Pig in a Pickle is warm and inviting, and the smokehouse aroma can be smelled from quite a ways away. The mac and cheese is offered as a side in three different sizes: small, medium, and large. The small portion costs $5, the medium $10, and the large $15. While the price for a large is quite steep, the pasta is rich and filling, so even a small can be enough for a meal.

California Pizza Kitchen: 4 stars

The mac and cheese from California Pizza Kitchen tastes like a home-cooked meal fresh out of Mom’s kitchen. The cheese is creamy, but not as thick as the cheese from Pig in a Pickle. One small downside was that the mac and cheese was lukewarm when served. Had it been slightly hotter, it might have tasted better. California Pizza Kitchen feels like a typical family restaurant, and the atmosphere inside is usually upbeat and friendly. At $10.59, the mac and cheese is reasonably priced considering the large portion size.

Best Lil’ Porkhouse: 1.5 stars

The mac and cheese at Best Lil’ Porkhouse leaves much to be desired. The pasta is too soft and would have been better if it had been cooked for less time. Also, the cheese lacks flavor and leaves a bad aftertaste. The temperature of the dish is too cold, and the pasta would be a lot tastier if served hotter. However, one upside to the dish is the addition of bacon pieces sprinkled on top. The overall atmosphere in the restaurant is not very inviting. On a Saturday night, only a few customers were inside. The restaurant offers four sizes between six and 16 ounces, and the prices range from $3.95 to $6.95.

Cheesecake Factory: 3 stars

The Cheesecake Factory offers a unique spin on mac and cheese by serving it in the form of baked mac and cheese balls with a side of marinara sauce. The balls are baked in bread crumbs and served with a sprinkling of parmesan. While the outside of the balls is delicious and crispy, the actual mac and cheese inside could be a lot more flavorful. The noodles are overcooked and while the cheese inside is quite thick, it does not have an authentic cheese flavor. The Cheesecake Factory is always a fun place to enjoy a meal and the atmosphere inside is happy and inviting. The mac and cheese balls are listed on the appetizer menu, but are substantial enough to serve as a dinner for one person. Four mac and cheese balls cost $9.50, which is a reasonable price considering their decent size.