Macaroni and cheese is one of those foods that grows up with you. We all ate and loved Kraft Macaroni and Cheese as kids—hell, I used to eat the bright orange powder straight out of the packet. Later, at college, the drunk/stoned late-night mac 'n' cheese sesh was something of a ritual with my dormmates (most of whom were vegans until they got wasted)—only we ate the politically correct Annie's, instead of Kraft. And now, as I impersonate an adult, my relationship with macaroni and cheese has changed yet again: It involves neither fluorescent powdered cheese, nor gravity bong hits, but rather a respectful appreciation for this most versatile and delicious of foods.

Mothers Bistro & Bar

212 SW Stark, 464-1122

Mother's Bistro is famous for lovingly prepared American classics—food just like mom used to make, natch. They even have featured recipes from a different mother every month. With all this mom love, it only stands to reason that the ultimate comfort food should be given a place of pride on the menu. Mother's may be the only restaurant in town featuring a "mac and cheese of the day," which can include any number of meat/veggie combos. The mac of the day on one recent visit was a smoked cheddar and broccoli combo, big chucks of broccoli stirred into an enormous plate of squiggly macaroni and smoky cheese sauce. The dish reminded me of a far more sophisticated version of the broccoli with cheese sauce my grade-school cafeteria always served on Wednesdays, and eating it prompted a strong desire to play four square, or kick a boy in the shins. ALISON HALLETT

The Screen Door

2337 E Burnside, 542-0880

The Screen Door has only been open for a few months, but it's already one of my favorite restaurants. Sure, it's a little noisy, but otherwise you can't beat this place for atmosphere: The service is genuinely welcoming, cocktails are inventive and bracing, and the food is a delicious hodgepodge of Southern classics and seasonal Northwest ingredients. The mac here is a straightforward, saucy little number: elbow mac, a basic cheddar sauce, and sometimes the top crisps up a little as they cook it. Nothing fancy, but it gets the job done. The mac is on the menu as a side, but order it as part of the Screen Door Plate sampler, and pair it up with some collard greens, fried green tomatoes, or a cup of the Screen Door's always excellent soup. AH

Russell Street Bar-B-Que

325 NE Russell, 528-8224

On their takeout menu, the Russell Street Bar-B-Que offers mac and cheese by the gallon. I found this puzzling, and kind of funny, until I tasted their amazing mac. The sauce included Asiago, sharp cheddar, and bleu cheese, and holy shit was it delicious. This was my favorite of all the mac and cheeses I tried: The cheese blend gives the sauce a richness and depth I didn't find anywhere else. And while we're on the subject of the Russell Street Bar-B-Que being delicious, their candied yams are pretty much the best thing ever. AH

Montage

301 SE Morrison, 234-1324

Macaroni and cheese—yes, the kind that comes from a box—makes up a fairly alarming percentage of my diet. Since I've made cooking M&C into a science (a delicious science), if I'm gonna go to some fancy-pants restaurant for it, it better be worth my while. Enter Montage, which boasts no fewer than seven versions of the dish. The two best: the Spicy Mac, with ridged macaroni covered in a sharp, Cajun-inspired sauce and topped with a jalapeño, and the Green Basil Pesto Mac, which covers the pasta in a subtle, creamy pesto. Forget that the Spicy isn't all that spicy (it's got a bit of a kick, but it's a limp-ankled one) and that both bowls are pretty much just pasta dishes with a ton of parmesan dumped on top—for less than seven bucks each, you'll get big portions of pretty damn good mac and cheese. In other words: worth leaving the house for. ERIK HENRIKSEN