The Mac Shack Review

Recently opened on West Boulevard in Kerrisdale, The Mac Shack specializes in one of the most popular comfort foods around: macaroni and cheese. “The same mac + cheese you remember. Just reinvented.”  They call themselves ‘evolved fast-food’ and are part of the ‘fast-casual’ restaurant revolution. Essentially, you order at the counter, pay, and are then given a number to place on your table while you watch the cooks create mac n’ cheese concoctions in their open kitchen.

The Mac Shack’s sauces are created with fresh ingredients and made in house daily by their chefs. Whole wheat pasta, gluten free (made from brown rice flour) and vegan options are available, and for those who wish to modify their macaroni and cheese, you can select from their Build Your Own menu to get it just the way you want. Along with multiple varieties (AAA sirloin steak or lobster mac & cheese anyone?), they also offer salads, desserts, beer and wine. Kiddies aren’t left-out at The Mac Shack: Children 10 and under can dine on the Mini Mac ($6) that includes a choice of a classic hot dog, tuna or cheese burger mac + cheese with milk or juice, and a fresh baked cookie.

Mac Shack’s mac n’ cheese comes in three sizes: Regular (6” Skillet) ~ Ultimate (7.5” Skillet) ~ Jumbo (10” Skillet). The regular is enough for one person, ultimate feeds one to two, and the jumbo will satisfy three to four people.

We visited the The Mac Shack last night and it was very busy with loads of eat-in and take-out orders — we had to wait over thirty minutes for our meals.

While we waited patiently, we noticed that the restaurant (since it’s a very new establishment) was immaculately clean and tidy. It was also nicely designed, incorporating wood accents and great use of technology – they had bright menus projected on to the walls by two LCD projectors, and a QR code on a flyer (in the condiments holder) to scan on your phone to enter their rewards-based loyalty club.

When our mac n’ cheeses arrived, they were served in individual cast-iron skillets with protective fabric on their handles, and both orders looked identical when placed on our table.

Bacon Cheese Burger Mac ($7.00/$12.00/$19.00) – We ordered the regular sized serving and it was plenty for one person. This mac n’ cheese contained Canadian cheddar & monterey mixed cheese with seared Canadian ground beef and double smoked bacon in a cream sauce. There wasn’t a whole lot of either bacon or ground beef mixed into the dish — we were anticipating more meat.

When I think of mac n’ cheese, I think of thick, rich and hearty cheese sauce engulfing macaroni and additional cheese on top. However, the consistency of both dishes’ cream sauce was quite thin and was more floury than creamy. It tasted as though it was a plain béchamel instead of a mornay (béchamel + cheese) sauce, and the melted cheese on top was very mild in flavour. Taste and opinion differ widely, I’m sure, but both Gary and I would have enjoyed more prominent cheese flavours in both meals.

The Mac Shack uses cavatappi (which created very starchy mac n’ cheese), which is macaroni formed in spiral, corkscrew-like tube shapes. Even though the noodles have grooves on the outside surface (rigati), I prefer shorter and smaller pasta with greater surface area to hold more sauce and cheese. I am aware that macaroni is not necessarily associated with the elbow shape commonly found in traditional macaroni and cheese because the term refers not to the shape of the pasta, but to the kind of dough (wheat but no eggs) from which the noodle is made. However, when I think of the perfect mac n’ cheese, it certainly conjures up images of elbow maccheroni/macaroni noodles.

Lobster Mac ($12.00/$18.00/$26.00) – Also the regular single-serving portion, consisting of asiago & Canadian cheddar cheese, authentic lobster meat, oyster mushrooms, lemon, dill, truffle oil and roasted garlic in a creme sauce. There were only a couple slices of mushrooms, and a few chunks of (a tad watery) lobster meat like pictured in the above photo, but I would have liked a few more pieces of lobster. I didn’t taste any prominent lemon flavour, and the truffle oil was very subtle – I also would have appreciated a stronger truffle flavour, since I adore truffles.

Overall, The Mac Shack is cleaver concept for a unique niche market, staff were friendly, the restaurant was nicely designed, but the kitchen still has some growing pains to work through in terms of food execution.

The Mac Shack on Urbanspoon

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About Taya & Gary

Gary and Taya Ng are the Founders of Eating In Vancouver & the World. This husband and wife team search for the best dining experiences - including restaurant launches, new menu tastings and culinary events. Learn more about the couple here and connect with them on Twitter and Facebook.

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  • Pennyandrusty

    I’ve been hesitant to try this place (despite having the freebie coupon)  because I really like Mac & Cheese and was afraid they wouldn’t live up to the hype.  Thanks for the review… I’ll probably wait a few months and try them after they settle down.

  • http://www.iphoneincanada.ca Gary

    That might not be a bad idea. I was still hungry afterwards.

  • http://www.eatinginvancouver.ca/ Taya

    Yeah, I was a little disappointed. It wasn’t my ideal mac n’ cheese, but perhaps other people like their style!

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  • Alcoutu

    You should really go back. I went there tonight with a Groupon and they were excellent. They have elbow macaroni, there seemed to be a lot of meat in my kids’ bacon-cheeseburger pasta, and I loved my Brooklyn steak/blue cheese noodles. They were also excellent with the gluten & cheese free order for one person in my group, even cooking the food in a special kitchen. (If it is not a preference but an allergy issue, they go to a special kitchen.)