Sunday, March 13, 2011

Elbows Mac n' Cheese - Cerritos

In a world where cereal bars and an all-waffle restaurant can exist and sometimes thrive, an all-macaroni-and-cheese restaurant is an inevitability. Elbows in Cerritos and the others around the country that have taken up the idea figures that if people would actually patronize places like Cereality and Bruxie when they can pour themselves a bowl of Cheerios or pop an Eggo into the toaster, they'd also come and eat at a restaurant that serves nothing but mac n' cheese.

And why wouldn't they? It could be argued that no other American foodstuff comforts more universally than mac n' cheese. What household doesn't have a blue box of Kraft or Hamburger Helper in the pantry? What finicky kid would refuse a bowl of tube-shaped C's all covered in orange goo for supper? What is more inextricably linked than macaroni and cheese that it allows for the use of n' as conjunction?

More importantly, what diner hasn't been tempted by lobster mac n' cheese at all the high-end steakhouses? The proliferation of the dish to restaurant menus proves that people are willing to pay for something they can conceivably make at home.

To walk into Elbows is to realize the place is tailor-made for franchising. There is no doubt the restaurant has this as its ultimate goal. Though it's obviously family-run at this point, it's slick, sleek, and has its identity and mission statement hyper-realized down to the clever fork and macaroni logo that makes the "E" in Elbows.

They've also got the finer details of mac n' cheese clearly thought through. All mac dishes come in ceramic skillets. A crispy dusting of breadcrumbs tops each cheese-slicked tubular pasta entree--a simple finishing touch that, in my opinion, separates the good mac n' cheese from the bad. Flavors range from the time-tested (Cheeseburger Mac and Lobster Mac) to those that seem made up on the spot (Fajita Mac and Masala Mac, which has an Indian bent).

It didn't take much to convince my lovely dining companion, a self-professed mac n' cheese fiend who will order mac n' cheese anytime the opportunity should present itself, to try it with me. We shared one regular-sized bowl of their Spinach and Artichoke Mac, a play on the popular appetizer dip, which had three slightly crispy corn chips driven through the mound like shovels.

Though the skillet was just for show, the pasta tubes came hot and billowing, every forkful we lifted out saw stringy, melted webs of cheese trailing behind. The macaroni's texture is toothsome and the sauce is not left for want of the tangy presence of four distinct species of cheese. This was a gouda bowl of mac n' cheese. Sorry, couldn't resist.

If I had only one quibble it is that the ceramic vessel is just another serving bowl. As far as I can tell, the skillets never saw an actual broiler. However, this, like everything else about the concept, makes perfect sense. Keeping the bowls cool to the touch has no doubt saved a lot of children and careless adults from third degree burns and the restaurant unwanted lawsuits.

For an appetizer, we had to try something called a Chipstix, another product of fertile minds. A Chiptix is the bastard kid of a curly fry and a potato chip. It's mesmerizing as a Mobius strip and made from one whole potato spun through some sort of spiral cutting tool. The helix that results is then threaded through a long wooden dowel and then deep-fried and dusted with either salt, seasoned salt or chili. I told my lovely dining companion it reminded me of the bisected cross sections on one of the cadavers I once saw at Body Worlds. She did not appreciate the association.

Though the first piece is as crispy as a chip should be, the last few down the line tend to get soggy once you get there, some of them adopting the limpness of an In-N-Out French fry. Still, the thing tickled me just as the restaurant does.

The whole kooky yet simple idea of Elbows recalls episodes of Seinfeld, where some character on the show thinks up a wild but not entirely far-out scheme, such as the all PB&J restaurant or the muffin-top store. But unlike them, Elbows is grounded in reality, and already seems to have garnered a following. You might say Elbows has legs. Sorry, couldn't resist.

Elbows Mac n' Cheese
11405 South St
Cerritos, CA 90703

Habuya - Tustin


At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That chip/fry on a stick, is similar to the tornado fry that came from Korea. Probably where they got the idea from. Though a soggy tornado fry doesn't sound that appealing.

At 10:25 PM, Blogger mark said...

I always wanted to go to a restaurant that sports mac n' cheese as the main hook. However, it seems unorthodox to serve a side as a main dish. I have the same problem about Souplantation: I get my soup and salad but my entree never comes..

At 3:08 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Just Googled "tornado fry" and that's exactly it! And what a great name! Better than Chipstix.


You've done a great job summarizing. For some, mac n' cheese is merely a side-dish. It's like if someone opened an all-mashed potato restaurant...But then, I'd eat there too!

At 7:29 AM, Blogger Wandering Chopsticks said...

Was gonna point out the Korean fry thing but someone beat me to it. It's a popular street food snack, which actually seems to make more sense that way.

There used to be a mashed potato restaurant in Chicago that served it with tons of possible topping ideas. Actually, it was a bar and I meant to go, but never did.

My sister loves mac and cheese so she's precisely this restaurant's demographic. And she loves mashed potatoes too. I wonder if there's a correlation? :P

At 8:55 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I'd totally hit up an all-mashed potato restaurant. If my date is a mac-and-cheese fiend, I'm the same with mashed spuds!


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