Cheesy Recap: The Great Mac and Chili Challenge

Brett Levy
unspecified (31).jpg

Breaking Mac & Cheese news: The 2018 Great Mac and Chili Challenge winners have been announced! Hub & Spoke in Bridgeport won for the third year in a row for their classic 3 bean beef chili. Old Post Tavern won the creative chili category with a “meat lovers chili.” Burger Bar & Bistro in Norwalk won the classic mac ‘n cheese category for the second consecutive year beating runner up Tacos Mexico in Norwalk and their “Queso Mac.” In the hotly contested creative mac category, Cask Republic in Stamford won for their second championship with their popular pesto mac ‘n cheese. 

Mac and cheese lovers congregated with chili enthusiasts on November 4th at Westport’s Sherwood Island State Park to sample the pure ingredients and creativity from local restaurants at The Great Mac & Chili Challenge. This little sister to Chowdafest attracted hundreds of foodies’ from all over Connecticut to sample and judge. From fan-favorites Burger Bar & Bistro’s classic mac n’ cheese and Hub and Spoke’s homemade chili, the hearty essence of these comfort foods didn’t fail to satisfy.

I arrived on the scene at 11:00am to a buzzing festival. The colorful fall leaves and crisp autumn air were the perfect backdrop for the warming fare. Under the pavilion, the competition was fierce as 18 restaurants and caterers fought for victory. Most stands wrote their booth number on the mac n’ cheese and chili cups so voters would remember and easily be able to rank them. Lines were long and seasoned veterans remembered to bring their muffin tins to better balance all the samplings. 

There were four voting categories: best classic chili, most creative chili, best classic mac n’ cheese, and most creative mac n’ cheese. I found that Tarry Lodge in Westport had the most creative and delicious dish. Their short rib mac n’ cheese was filled to the brim with gooey cheese and succulent short rib, well worth the wait on the line that snaked almost entirely around all other lines. I think the best classic mac n’ cheese was Burger Bar & Bistro’s in Norwalk.  The pasta was cooked to perfection and mixed with just the right amount of cheese, complemented by a crumbled crispy turkey bacon/breadcrumb mix sprinkled on top. It was a masterpiece to be savored. The most creative chili hailed from Geronimo’s Southwest Grill in Fairfield. I was pleasantly surprised to find the quirky mix of seasonings worked magic with the base of white bean and chicken. Lastly, the best classic chili in my opinion was from Hub and Spoke in Bridgeport. The tender ground beef and tomato base in this chili brought tears to my eyes as the rich flavors were accented with the perfect kick. 

The Great Mac and Chili Challenge was the perfect start to a quintessential fall day. I am full and content from the rib-sticking cuisine, ready for an afternoon of watching football.