Spokane vs. Palouse: Battle for best mac

Is Mac Daddy’s really the true daddy of the mac?

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BRANDON WILLMAN

A lot to be desired in Mac Daddy’s blend of mac and cheese.

BRANDON WILLMAN, Editor-in-chief

Maybe it was destiny that I ended up at Mac Daddy’s, or maybe it was just that the restaurant I was going to had a fire in the kitchen and they had to evacuate. However, when having mac and being from Pullman, it must be compared to the late-night hot spot that is the Grub Wandering Kitchen truck in Moscow.

The first thing that you need to know about any restaurant is what you are going to eat, and this menu had a variety of options to choose from that all sounded spectacular.

For appetizers, Mac Daddy’s offered deep-fried mac balls, wings, mac fries, bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers and salad. These options were all skipped on this trip, but the server recommended I try my hand at those jalapeno poppers if I ever return.

For entrées, they had two categories: handhelds and macs. Utilizing their locale to Pullman, several dishes featured the acclaimed Cougar Gold cheese: a welcomed sight when gazing upon the menu.

As good as the handheld options sounded, notably the Mac Daddy Burger, Cougar Gold Burger and German Sausage, I had to go for the Cougar namesake and try my hand at one of the mac options.

On the other hand, the Grub Wandering Kitchen offers two taco options, three burrito options and 10 mac options, with two of the mac options being rotational “Mac of the Week” selections.

For this trip to Mac Daddy’s, I chose the lobster mac, as our server recommended it: a switch from the Chipotle mac, my order at the Grub Wandering Kitchen.

The lobster mac was made up of the following: grilled mac & cheese with buttery lobster, swiss cheese and asiago cheese.

The dish came out after about 15–20 minutes. The presentation was nothing spectacular, but looked appetizing, which is all you can really ask for. However, for another member of the table, the fries took an extra 15 minutes, which was a knock on the overall grade for sure.

Unlike Mac Daddy’s, Grub Wandering Kitchen usually has a consistent wait time. The only catch is that there are always a decent amount of people in line for food due to the Grub Wandering Kitchen’s limited hours: 10 p.m.–2 a.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and 10 p.m.–2:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

However, there is a culture with the fact that most customers are of the same age, in their late teens to early twenties, and that the truck live streams their services — something that Mac Daddy’s is unable to compete with.

Having a culture makes the Grub Wandering Kitchen a more enjoyable experience for customers. It makes the customers feel a part of something, like an inside joke, and they become a part of the Grub Wandering Kitchen’s Twitch live stream.

Mac Daddy’s does not have the unique feel that the Grub has, feeling more like a copy of Buffalo Wild Wings with its TV setup broadcasting sports. While not a terrible atmosphere by any means, it is tough to compare it to the unique feel of the truck.

Portion-wise, the lobster mac was more than enough food for a single sitting, as a quarter of the dish ended up in a to-go box, back to Pullman and in my apartment’s fridge.

For the actual food, the best way I would describe it is good, but with clear potential improvements. That said, I rate macs based on how the noodles and cheese build off each other. If the cheese is smooth and stringy, then the mac will be better.

The biggest improvement that could be made to this mac is making it less runny. While the Grub Wandering Kitchen’s noodles and cheese blend more seamlessly, Mac Daddy’s felt as if the noodles did not get cooked long enough to get into the cheese blend. The lobster mac’s noodles and cheese felt as if they were separate pieces of the same dish, making both worse off.

As for the lobster, it saved the dish for sure. It was a perfect compliment to the otherwise underwhelming mac, being the perfect blend of chewy, but not overcooked, and fitting the consistency of the rest of the mac.

The lobster mac and coke were just under $25 total, an overall good price for a sit-down restaurant with a wide selection of dishes and generally positive reviews.

When comparing the two spots, the simple answer is that Mac Daddy’s did not meet the expectations that the Grub establishes, which was another hindrance to its overall score.

The Grub Wandering Kitchen is cheaper, has a unique vibe around the service by having the live stream aspect and the fact that it is a moving kitchen rather than being a traditional restaurant, and just overall tastes much better.

One of the biggest strengths of the Grub is its ability to taste better as leftovers, which was something I had to test with Mac Daddy’s. While the lobster mac did not get better after sitting in my fridge for a day, it also did not taste worse even after being reheated.

Due to the fries coming late, they were shared with everyone. I have to say, they were worth the extra 15-minute wait, but that might have been because they were perfectly fresh.

Every single fry was crispy and had great levels of seasoning. After the fries got to the table, we added the perfect amount of salt to capitalize on the fries’ taste.

Overall, I would not go out of my way to make a trip to Spokane for Mac Daddy’s. The food was good and the portions were great for the price. The atmosphere was also ideal for a sports fan with several college basketball games playing on TV, but not to the extent of someplace such as Buffalo Wild Wings.

When compared to a local grub truck under 10 miles away, it does not even live up to any of the expectations.

In nearly all ways, the Grub Wandering Kitchen takes the cake. It is closer to WSU’s campus, and it is a more enjoyable experience as you get to be a part of a culture. The food itself also tastes better both fresh and as leftovers. Overall, it is the clear top choice for the best mac on the Palouse and in its surrounding areas.

GRADING – Mac Daddy’s

Food: 6.5/10

As leftovers: 6/10

Service: 7.5/10

Price: 7/10

Returnability: 8/10

Atmosphere: 7/10

GRADING – Grub Wandering Kitchen

Food: 8.5/10

As leftovers: 9/10

Service: 8.5/10

Price: 9/10

Returnability: 10/10

Atmosphere: 9.5/10