When I want macaroni and cheese, I'm usually hankering for more than the blue box. There are two local places, one in downtown Cincinnati, the other in Over-the-Rhine, that both have fantastic macaroni and cheeses. But which one will reign supreme? Both of these dishes are positioned as sides to the main menu items at these restaurants. At The Eagle, a concept of John and Joe Lanni of Bakersfield and Currito, the fried chicken is the star of the show. At Nada, one of the stops of David Falk's mini-culinary empire on Sixth Street, tacos take center stage.

Nada (photo: Boca Restaurant Group)
Nada (photo: Boca Restaurant Group)

Nada has been around much longer than The Eagle, and has had time to perfect its mexican mac and cheese. Since opening in 2007, its kept the menu fairly focused. However, The Eagle's Lannis' clearly know comfort food.

The Eagle OTR  (photo: Dan Ledbetter)
The Eagle OTR (photo: Dan Ledbetter)

While each is thoughtfully crafted, the macaroni and cheeses from Nada and The Eagle are among my favorites for different reasons. To choose one, I'll have to break down some of the components of the dish – cheese, noodles, presentation and cost, and decide which one is best.

Mac and cheese at The Eagle (photo: Cincinnati Nomerati)
Mac and cheese at The Eagle (photo: Cincinnati Nomerati)

The Eagle's mac and cheese boasts a blend of five cheeses, including bleu cleese, and I'm betting there is some gruyere in there, too. The noodles are the ridged, spiral-cut cavatappi shape, and arrive with a generous crunchy topping, served in a flat skillet that keeps the dish warm as you savor it. It's a very rich dish, and the price is definitely right for the portion – $5. This is a dish that people who like macaroni and cheese can appreciate, and while picky children may not enjoy the different cheeses as much, they'd be hard-pressed to turn their noses up at it.

Nada Mac and Cheese (photo: Cincinnati Nomerati)
Nada Mac and Cheese (photo: Cincinnati Nomerati)

Nada's mac and cheese has some similarities. It has a blend of cheeses, including mexican cheese, and arrives in a hot cast iron that is a little smaller in circumference than The Eagle, but not as shallow. Nada ups the ante by adding poblano and jalapenos. It has some kick and can definitely warm you up on a cold day. The price ($8) is a little more than The Eagle. The shape of the pasta is small shells, which is a double-edged sword. Dig in without caution and those shells can contain molten cheese which you won't know about until you've bitten into it and burned your tongue. Because of the depth of the cast iron, this mac tends to be a little more gooey than The Eagle's dish.

Mac and cheese at The Eagle (photo: Cincinnati Nomerati)
Mac and cheese at The Eagle (photo: Cincinnati Nomerati)

In the end, after careful consideration, I'd have to say that The Eagle's macaroni and cheese edges out Nada. Not only is the price a little better, the spiral cut noodles ensure that the cheese sauce is evenly distributed through the pasta, and the extra area available for crunchy topping really takes it to the next level.

[Poll is now closed.]

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