The Mac and Cheese Throwdown -- Cleveland, OH


Two weekends ago we headed back up to the Red Space in Cleveland to attend The Mac and Cheese Throwdown. The event paired two of everyone's favorite things -- macaroni and cheese and charity.

Twenty local restaurants served up mac and cheese dishes to about 1,500 ticket holders to declare the best mac and cheese dish in Cleveland and raise money for Berea based charity W.A.G.S 4 Kids. W.A.G.S. 4 Kids provides mobility service and autism service animals to children with disabilities throughout Northeast Ohio. At the end of the night Metropolitan at the 9 took home Judges Choice AND People's Choice and $50,000 was raised for W.A.G.S. 4 Kids.

Taste options included tickets for 10 tastes or tickets for all 20 tastes. The restaurant list and their mac and cheese offering were conveniently provided once you checked in at the door.



  
Yuzu -- Umami Mac and Cheesegasm.  

The Greenhouse Tavern -- Quack N' Cheese. 

Deagan's Smokey and Spicy Mac and Cheese.


Pier W - Classic Mac and Cheese.
    
Wild Eagle Saloon -- Deep Fried Mac and Cheese Balls.
  

We loved to see the tension between offering something that reminds you of mac and cheese versus offering something creative and interesting. We appreciated the Pier W sample, for example, because it was familiar and balanced -- we don't always need mac and cheese to have curry powder or pieces of bacon to get our attention. But on the other hand, some of the offerings really shined for being unusual, particularly the ones that played with form. The deep fried mac and cheese balls from Wild Eagle Saloon were a taste straight out of the fairground, and the Melt fried mac and cheese grilled cheese sandwich was an art form in texture and layering. We loved the experimentation and energy put into all the samples -- an event like this can really motivate a chef to innovate and a consumer to expect much more from their food -- and that's a good thing on both counts.
   
Room for Improvement in 2017:

  1. The space -- there were way too many people packed in the Red Space and it was difficult to actually have a great time. Between the wall to wall people, the heat, the noise, the impossibility of movement. It was pretty uncomfortable. I would have liked to have been able to scan the room to figure out where each restaurant was, but due to the crowd you pretty much just needed to grab a sample as soon as you were close enough to a table, or chances of coming back through looked slim.

    This needed to be acknowledged, but I did notice on Facebook that W.A.G.S. 4 Kids responded to this criticism from other event goers and is looking into a larger space for next year.
  2. More vegetarian options are always appreciated! I loved the card that we were given in the beginning, but it would have been nice if it had denoted the vegetarian options. I remembered seeing those on the event Facebook page, so we quickly went through the Facebook page and circled the ones that were "safe" for us to eat.
  3. Aside from the spacing issue, in the search for a new venue it would be great to have the option to sit down at some point. 

Things That Were Amazing and Should Stay The Same:

  1. The vendors were all amazing, despite the crowds and wait times everyone was positive and upbeat. And best of all, they were ready to share their love of all that is mac and cheese.
  2. The card listing all of the vendors, their mac and cheese, and the taste tickets was amazing. I loved not needing to fumble with loose tickets.


My Rating for the Mac and Cheese Throwdown:

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