It's tough to beat mac-n-cheese. Warm, gooey, comforting, and full of carby-goodness, even the box variety can be satisfying. Kraft sells around a million boxes per day of their shells and powdered cheese mix. The company noted in an August 2020 press release that sales of their easy-to-make macaroni spiked during the pandemic, with over half of parents admitting to feeding their kids mac-n-cheese for breakfast. They said,

 In fact, 56% of parents have served their kids Mac & Cheese for breakfast more often during COVID-19 related state lockdowns than previous months.*

I'm not sure about mac-n-cheese for breakfast, but when I was recently invited to be a judge for Magic City's Best Signature Mac-n-Cheese, I couldn't pass up the opportunity

Photo by Michael Foth, Townsquare Media

There were ten entries from local restaurants.

Last month, I helped judge the Best Signature Burger in Billings, so this time around I knew what to expect as I prepared to sample ten gourmet mac-n-cheese entries from some of Billings finest restaurants. Entries included: Sassy Biscuit, Last Chance Cider Mill, Marble Table, Bistro Enzo, Montana Brewing Company, Montana Melt, Hooligans, Diamond X, Panera, and the Windmill.

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Credit: Sara Seaberry

The thing about mac-n-cheese...

It's one of those foods that should really be eaten right away, hot and creamy, straight from the kitchen. Since our judging took place off-site, the entries were probably sitting for at least 30 minutes by the time we got to try them. Many of them were probably much creamier when they were hot. That said, the playing field was even as about a dozen judges began blind-tasting each signature mac-n-cheese.

Photo by Michael Foth, Townsquare Media

Scores were tallied.

Each signature mac-n-cheese entry was graded on a score of 1 - 5. Creaminess, cheesiness, overall flavor, consistency, etc., were all factors. Only a few of the entries in the competition featured protein (two with chicken, one had sausage). None contained seafood. There was one spicy buffalo mac entry. Some had bacon and two entries incorporated flavorful caramelized onions.

Out of the 10, two or three fell completely flat with nearly every judge. A handful were adequate and three were obvious favorites.

Photo by Michael Foth, Townsquare Media

The best Signature Mac-n-Cheese in Billings is Diamond X.

According to Magic City's Best panel of judges, the signature mac from Diamond X was the clear winner. Bistro Enzo's entry took 2nd place and Montana Melt grabbed 3rd place. At the very bottom of the rankings was Panera's mac-n-cheese.

See previous food category winners at Magic City's Best.

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