I love mac and cheese. I love customizable food. I love restaurants that just happen not to have any nuts in the kitchen. It follows, then, that I should love S’MAC—and I sort of do.
According to S’MAC’s allergen chart, there are no tree nuts on site. (There are, however, peanuts in the peanut butter cookies, but I’m told those are made elsewhere.) I don’t believe the folks at S’MAC do much to ensure all their ingredients are 100% free from cross-contamination, so I’ve categorized them as “technically not nut-free,” but still: as ordinary restaurants go, S’MAC feels pretty low-risk. I trust them, and I’ve never regretted doing so…for allergy related reasons, at least.
See, S’MAC is sort of like the Domino’s of mac and cheese. They’re open late-ish, they deliver, and anything goes when it comes to toppings and mix-ins. There are pre-set options on the menu, but most of S’MAC’s appeal lies the freedom they offer—freedom to get whatever the hell you want cooked into a mass of cheese-covered starch. Like at Domino’s, the draw is not the quality of the final product (nor is it the restaurant’s atmosphere, or the friendliness of its employees). Instead, it’s, um…the fact that they sell mac and cheese. With lots of shit in it, if that’s your thing.
Don’t get me wrong; their food isn’t terrible. There’s nothing horribly wrong with it (aside from its total lack of crispiness and/or crustiness of any sort). It’s better than Kraft, and it’s a lot more fun than Annie’s—but it’s nowhere near as good as what you can (probably) whip up from scratch, given a solid recipe and some decent ingredients. But who can be moved to make mac and cheese from scratch when S’MAC is, like, a 10-minute walk from Union Square? (Lots of people, obviously. Not me, though!)
At S’MAC, mac and cheese makes up the vast majority of the menu, and it comes in four sizes: Nosh (small), Major Munch (medium), Mongo (large), and Partay! (larger). A Major Munch is probably a fair size for one hungry person, but a Mongo can easily feed two, should your wallet be thin (and your dining partner agreeable). Pricing makes no sense, though—sometimes, they’ll charge you per mix-in; sometimes, they’ll charge you for bread crumbs; sometimes, you’ll have no idea what they charged you for—so rather than trying to figure out what I’ll be paying, I tend to just choose what I want and then do my best to accept the bill. Such is life.
Should you choose to customize your bowl, S’MAC has about a trillion options available. Cheeses include American, blue, brie, mozzarella, cheddar, goat, gruyere, manchego, lite cheddar, muenster, parmesan, pecorino, pepper jack, swiss, and provolone. The mix-ins are parsley, rosemary, basil, cilantro, scallions, olives, mushrooms, roasted garlic, figs, broccoli, salsa, roasted tomatoes, jalapeños, buffalo sauce, spinach with garlic, chicken, hot dogs, andouille sausage, ground beef, tuna, bacon, and something called “garden medley.”
Now, if you’ll let me, I’d like to torture you all with a brief-ish math interlude. I spent a while harassing my dad (unhelpful), my boyfriend (more unhelpful), and a bunch of people on r/mathematics (bingo!) with this one, and I’m ready to share—with permission!—what I’ve learned.
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So. There are a lot of possible outcomes at S’MAC. Like, a lot a lot. How many, though? There are 15 cheeses, and you’re to choose up to 2. At minimum, you’ll need 1—assuming you aren’t going with the dairy-free option. There are 22 mix-ins, and you can choose up to 3, though you don’t have to order any. You can choose whether to get bread crumbs, and you can choose what type of macaroni you’d like (regular, multi-grain, or gluten-free). You can also choose to go reduced-lactose (which still allows for cheeses) or dairy-free (which doesn’t, obviously). That’s a lot of decisions.
If you don’t go dairy-free, there are 120 possible cheese outcomes, including those that involve only one cheese. With regard to mix-ins, there are 1,794 possible outcomes, including the choice of no mix-ins, and excluding anything that involves a double mix-in (i.e. scallions, three times). There are only 2 possible outcomes for bread crumbs—some, or none—and 3 for macaroni type. And there are 3 possible outcomes in the realm of dairy, with the dairy-free choice ruling out the option of adding any cheeses. Ergo…
To account for the dairy-inclusive options: 120 * 1,794 * 2 * 3 * 2 = 2,583,360 possible outcomes. And to account for the dairy-free option: 1 * 1,794 * 2 * 3 * 1 = 10,764 possible outcomes. Add those together, and you get 2,594,124 possible S’MAC outcomes. I hope. (For what it’s worth, I figured out approximately none of that on my own. My efforts led me to a figure that was, like, twice the actual answer. No idea why. There’s a reason I’m studying English.)
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With all those options, it’s naturally pretty tough to decide what to order. The pre-sets don’t do it for me, so I almost always build my own bowl. Personally, I like to go with some combination of mozzarella, gruyere, and swiss, cheese-wise, and then some scallions and a combination of herbs for my mix-ins. I’ve been known to enjoy a mushroom or two on occasion, too, but most days, though, I just stick with my scallions and herbs. (What can I say? I have a thing for repeating meals.) And in a futile attempt to crisp up the top layer, I always go for “bread crumbs”—which I’m pretty sure are just cornmeal, à la Domino’s.
Most days, the final product is decent, but it’s never anything special. (There are exceptions to the whole mostly-decent thing, though. Their goat cheese is pretty bad, for example. And unwelcome figs have a habit of popping up in my otherwise fig-less bowls.) I wish the macaroni were the slightest bit al dente. I wish the “bread crumbs” were bread crumbs, and I wish the cheese on top and around the edges were a little crispier. But when you stick your fork in it, mac and cheese is mac and cheese—and S’MAC’s is quick, easy, and highly customizable. (And, you know, nut-free.)
Find S’MAC at 345 East 12th Street, between 1st and 2nd. (And if you can’t bring yourself to dine under their super-yellow lights, consider going Take & Bake.)