January 26th, 2011
Jus’ Mac: A Skillet’s True Purpose
In 5 Words: Macaroni, Cheese, Skillets, Devotion, Breadcrumbs
I have a theory about Tuesdays. It’s simple: when something bad happens, it’s normally on a Tuesday. It’s not that every Tuesday is terrible, but the things in my life that go in the “Do Not Want” category—from the deaths of loved ones to being towed—seem to occur on Tuesdays more often than not. It wouldn’t be so annoying if another weekday, say Wednesday or Thursday, was my life’s fateful bad-seed-day- of-the-week. But Tuesday is still the beginning of the race.
On a recent Tuesday, I spent the day in and out of meetings, on the phone, getting out The Most Important PowerPoint Presentation Ever Created, etc. At 6:30 pm I had hit my limit. Fuel for the day had been one candy bar disguised as a “protein bar” and 17 diet cokes. I was starving and minutes from eating my badge.
I walked to my car in the drizzling rain and fantasized about what grub I was going to tear into. I had eaten at all my usual haunts lately and just wanted something hot, good and high calorie. I deserved it. Right? Right.
Driving out of downtown it dawned on me where my Tuesday smorgasbord would be—Jus’ Mac, the Heights restaurant dedicated to macaroni and cheese.
I hadn’t been there yet, and friends said they had heard good things. I had been meaning to check it out. Let’s shoot straight though. Even if they had heard not-so-good things I would still be making my way there. Macaroni and cheese is food of the gods, and an entire establishment devoted to it leaves me intrigued to say the least.
Driving to the restaurant, my mind wandered. Would Jus’ Mac be as good as my two favorite macaroni and cheese plates of all time? Runner-up is Max’s Wine Dive. Max’s truffle-y deliciousness is consistently amazing and will make you so happy you order a bottle of champagne (who me?) to celebrate the creation of cheese. And first place. First place in my heart and palette will always go to Luby’s. The mac and cheese at Luby’s isn’t consistently perfect, but when it is…you will want to order Lu Ann platters for the whole restaurant and kiss the person who scooped it for you. The thick Elmer’s glue-like cheese sauce is what makes it for me. That and the fact that it’s nostalgia in a little white bowl.
Back to Jus’ Mac. I turn onto Yale and begin to pull into the small parking lot when I quickly realize there’s no hope. It’s tiny, my car is not tiny, and there are not many spaces. No big deal, I’ll park across Yale on a side street. A packed parking lot is a good sign, yes?
I walk in and am immediately charmed by its coziness. A glance around for an open spot proves futile as it’s clear others had the same idea—especially on this chilly Tuesday night. My stomach won’t wait for an open table, so I walk up to the counter to place a to-go order. I stare at the menu, and several choices sound heavenly so I decide to ask the sweet girl behind the counter what she recommends. I end up ordering the Popeye (spinach, onions, mushrooms, mozzarella, and parmesan) AND the Buffalo Chicken (pan-seared chicken, bacon, Frank’s Hot Sauce, and blue cheese). Visions of Chris Farley’s Gap girl impersonation where he screamed, “Lay off me I’m starving!” dance in my head, and I take a seat on a bench to wait.
As I sit waiting for my to-go order I glance around the restaurant. Each order of macaroni and cheese is served in an iron skillet, which adds to the warm, laid back vibe. There’s a decent selection of beer and wine, and the crowd is a mix of families, dates, friends, singles, etc.
I was thinking of how macaroni and cheese brings families together when a man approached the counter extremely irritated. I couldn’t hear everything he was saying, but I did hear “I live across Yale on a side street,” “car almost blocking my driveway,” and “this has happened before”. When I heard him mention the make and model of my car, I froze. He gave them his name and number and walked out annoyed. I jumped up and said, “I think he’s talking about my car” to the people behind the counter. They confirmed my car was the one he was talking about, and I said something very calm like “Oh my gosh! What did he say? I am so nervous! Is he mad? Oh my gosh! I’m beginning to sweat!”
They kindly hurried my order, and as I ran out to go see if I had mistakenly parked all crazy-like (or was being towed or something, for the love of Tuesday). I got to my car, and the guy came out of his house yelling about how close I parked to his driveway (umm, you live in the busy part of the Heights, sir). I apologized to just get out of there, and I almost offered him one of my orders of mac and cheese as an olive branch. Almost. I’m telling you, it would have been Sophie’s choice deciding which full order of macaroni and cheese to give up.
I arrived back at home a little rattled but not rattled enough to start in on the Buffalo Chicken. I have a soft spot in my heart for Frank’s Hot Sauce, and when I opened the container there were even little carrot and celery sticks for garnish. I took a few heavenly bites, the first one making me say out loud to no one, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” (which means me likey in food talk). After a few bites, I switched to the Popeye. Aaaaand jackpot. Thick, rich, flavorful and the toasted breadcrumbs on top were a tasty touch. After a few bites of the Popeye, however, I hit my wall. I enjoyed them both, but I couldn’t take another bite. I don’t know if it was a case of being so hungry you are un-hungry or if I was tapped out on richness.
I ate leftovers of my two Jus’ Mac orders for two days, and holy Mary Mother of Pearl, I think it may have been even better Wednesday and Thursday. Or maybe Jus’ Mac’s mac and cheese just isn’t a huge fan of Tuesdays either.
Where –2617 Yale Street, Houston, TX 77008 [Google Map]
When – Tue thru Saturday 11AM to 3PM and 5PM to 9PM; Sun 12PM to 7PM
What – Just Mac and Cheese
How Much – Affordable skillets
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