’Tis Dining Month, the tastiest time of year! This means we’re dishing up fun and fascinating food content throughout October. Dig in, Milwaukee!
As the weather cools, there are few things more comforting than a bowl of macaroni and cheese. But which bowls of cheesy pasta goodness are worth seeking out? Lori Fredrich is on a mission to find out. Tune in every Monday for a new Cream City mac to try.
Motor Bar & Restaurant
401 W. Canal St., (414) 287-2778
It seemed appropo to start off this series with a restaurant that has an entire portion of their menu dedicated to this classic American dish. So, I headed to Motor where they offer up four cheese-filled bowls of comfort.
Options include Classic Mac (elbow macaroni smothered in scratch sharp cheddar sauce, $10.95); Buffalo Chicken Mac (Classic Mac topped with Buffalo fried chicken and blue cheese crumbles, $13.95); Chili Mac (Classic Mac with a full bowl of house chili on top, along with cheddar cheese, sour cream and onions, $12.95) and Brisket Mac (Classic Mac topped with 14-hour slow smoked brisket slices, house bbq sauce and crispy fried onions, $14.95).
In my mind, a bowl of macaroni and cheese should be flavorful and cheesy enough that it doesn’t need fancy toppings to make it great. But, I was also intrigued by the Brisket Mac. So I decided to try them both.
The elbow macaroni in the Classic Mac was cooked slightly beyond al dente, so their consistency was soft; but they held their shape nicely. The cheese sauce was creamy and smooth, if slightly thin (the bowl benefited from an occasional mixing, since the sauce tended to settle a bit at the bottom of the bowl). I definitely expected a bit more punch from the sharp cheddar; but the sauce was fairly mild in flavor without a ton of character.
On the upside, it was absolutely cheesy, with strings of visible cheddar visible in each forkful. And the bits of panko on top offered a little bit of texture. But it was definitely missing that perfect bowl of mac magic.
The Brisket Mac, on the other hand, was definitely an upgrade. The two long slices of brisket were tender and flavorful with a balanced amount of smoke. The meat tasted great both on its own and with the mac, which played off of its smoky flavor.
But the bowl’s charms didn’t end there. The tangy house barbeque sauce simultaneously underscored the richness of the cheese sauce, while balancing it out with a little pop of acid. Meanwhile, the fried onions offered some really nice texture to the bowl.
All things considered, I'd probably pass on the Classic Mac next time. But I’d head back to try the Buffalo or Chili Mac, both of which have potential to be equally as satisfying as the Brisket.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.