Austin is extremely lucky to be one of the first cities to get a Google Community Manager who plans outreach activities like interactive tours, power user parties, SXSW fun, and a million other things designed to promote the Google brand. Whitney Francis is the whirlwind planner behind all this fun and you should definitely follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and of course, Google+ for your chance to attend one of her soirees.
I have been lucky enough to get to go on the BBQ bus, the beer bus, and now the mac and cheese trolley as a reward for doing reviews and entering a contest through what used to be Google Places but is now the new and improved Google Local.
A dozen of us met at 11am on a Saturday to experience the mother of all carb load trips. We boarded a former Dillo Trolley to head out on a quest to visit some of the top rated places to get macaroni and cheese in Austin.
Our first stop on the tour was at the home of Austin restaurant royalty, Hoover’s. The man himself was there to greet us. We were treated to three versions of the mac and cheese including a green chili and a chili mac version but my favorite was the original. It was a creamy, homestyle classic version with a gooey bright orange sauce just like Mama used to make.
The consensus on the trolley was this version of cheesy goodness would make a perfect side dish to some wonderful crispy fried chicken or smokey barbecue. Not a fancy gourmet version but simply delicious homestyle goodness.
Second stop on our tour was at a place I had heard good things about but this was actually my first visit to Cover 3. This was a decidedly upscale version of the classic and a true stunner. The creamy sauce enveloped a toothsome bowl of pasta, topped with a semi-boneless grilled chicken and crispy strips of pancetta that lent a smokey, salty punch to the dish. I will definitely be making a return trip to Cover 3 to check out their happy hour and some of their other dishes soon.
Last stop on the carb trolley was at one of my favorite’s, Jack Allen’s. Love the brunch, love the happy hour, love the patio, and especially love the chef. Of course, you know that Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine is his son but did you know that Jack and Hoover both are responsible for raising a generation of chefs in Austin through the various restaurants they have been at both separately and together? Kind of appropriate that we visit them both on a tour dedicated to a favorite comfort food.
For me, the mac and cheese at Jack Allan’s was the perfect combination of gooey comfort homestyle and gourmet fancy upscale. The achiote rubbed chicken was a delicious addition to the dish, moist and piquant. The dish was hot like lava but once it cooled enough to taste, the creamy sauce was accented with stringy bits of chewy cheese.
The rest of the group was pretty evenly split over favorites. For sure, they were all fantastic and I will be returning to all three soon both for more mac and cheese and to try some of their other offerings as well.
Big thanks to Whitney and Google for yet another fantastic trip. I cannot wait to see where the next bus takes us.