Cold weather calls for warm comforts, including but not limited to ramen, tater tots, and cioppino. The most classic and satisfying of American comfort foods, though, is obviously macaroni and cheese — a dish which some credit President Thomas Jefferson with introducing to the States following his travels to France and Italy, and deciding to serve it at a state dinner in 1802. Here in San Francisco, as with all things food, the best available versions aren't necessarily classic ones, though we have a few great standard-issue mac-and-cheese spots as well. Below, a list that we at SFist consider definitive. — Jay Barmann

Blue Plate
The secret to this dish, on the menu since the beginning at this nearly 18-year-old Mission spot, is so-called "drunken goat cheese" from Spain, specifically Murcia al Vino. Executive chef Cory Obenour began making his mac and cheese this way during the restaurant's late-90's infancy, and it's now a menu signature that stays in the "Sides" section under chef de cuisine Sean Thomas. He mixes the cheese with a béchamel base that's kicked up by Worcestershire, nutmeg, dry mustard, and Tabasco, and it is a serious cheese-lover's wet dream. Sure, it's not your traditional mac-and-cheese, but you can get that at many other spots on this list and very often it doesn't have the intense cheese flavor a true connoisseur desires. This is where it's at. And luckily the rest of the menu remains pretty awesome as well, year in and year out. (PS: here's how to make it at home.) — Jay Barmann
3218 Mission (at Valencia)


Brown Sugar Kitchen
Macaroni and cheese at Brown Sugar Kitchen is a side so creamy and rich it can steal the show, but perhaps not quite if you've ordered the famous fried chicken and cornmeal waffle. With her French cooking school pedigree, chef Tanya Holland opened her restaurant in 2005 to celebrate and elevate Southern food with fine dining technique, but she doesn't reinvent the wheel with her mac & cheese. Revealing the recipe to CBS, we learn that the secrets to a subtle kick are white pepper, Tabasco, Worcestershire, and freshly grated ginger. The secret to the creaminess? Sharp cheddar, whole milk, and heavy cream. - Caleb Pershan
2534 Mandela Pkwy between Campbell and 26th Streets

Fat Angel
Served correctly in a still-bubbling cast-iron skillet, the spicy mac and cheese is a must-order at this comfortably casual but still date-worthy wine bar and gastropub. As for the "spicy" bit, expect more flavor than kick, and besides, you won't have any trouble finding something to cool down your palate with Fat Angel's serious beer and wine list. This spot was the first establishment from the folks at what's now Hi Neighbor restaurant group (Stone's Throw, Trestle, and most recently, Corridor on Van Ness near mid-Market), meaning it's where they perfected the neighborhood vibes that are the hallmark of all their restaurants. — Caleb Pershan
1740 O'Farrell Street between Fillmore and Steiner Streets

Front Porch
The Front Porch is a Bernal neighborhood fave for crawfish hushpuppies and chicken by the bucket, so true to form, its version of mac and cheese is a serious affair, a sizable portion essentially covered in a layer of cheddar that's baked on top. Yelper Rebecca H., who agrees that the Front Porch is, overall, "uh-may-zin-guh," calls the mac "redonkulous," and she is not wrong. Pro-tip: A bucket of chicken and some mac and cheese makes for a good group dinner at Rock Bar, the Front Porch's sister business across the street. Order at the Front Porch and they'll be happy to deliver your food to Rock Bar. Boom. — Caleb Pershan
65A 29th Street between Tiffany and San Jose Avenues

A photo posted by Homeroom (@homeroom510) on

Kickstarter-bankrolled Oakland joint Homeroom focuses solely on mac-and-cheese, with a menu filled with house specials like a "Buffalo chicken mac," a Hawaiian offering with bacon and pineapple, and even a vegan option made with soy milk. Of course, you can also build your own, with a cornucopia of add-ins ranging from hot dogs to artichoke hearts to soyrizo. For people seeking an at-home experience, their to-go location also offers half-baked macs you can finish in your own home oven, and (if you're that kind of person) present to guests as your own. — Eve Batey
400 40th Street, Oakland, to-go location around the corner at 4007 Webster Street

Photo: Doug B./Yelp

SoMa wine-and-beer pub Jamber knows from comfort food, with solid takes on poutine, meatloaf, and grilled cheese. But the star of the menu may be the mac and cheese, made with a pungent mix of cheddar, blue, and parmesan, properly topped with oven-crisped breadcrumbs. If a traditional ramekin of the stuff isn't your style, you should be aware that the mac and cheese is also available on a pizza, slathered with sriracha.
858 Folsom Street between Fourth and Fifth

Photo: Instagram

The Lodge
The Buffalo mac and cheese from former Greenburger's guy Matt Nudelman (it used to be on the menu there) can now be found at The Lodge, in the Lower Haight spot where Rickybobby used to be. It is a damn delicious mashup version of the classic, with a combination of blue cheese sauce, spicy-tangy Buffalo sauce, macaroni, and optional chicken, and particularly with the addition of the latter this is a meal unto itself. Also of note: They have some really good poutine on the menu too. — Jay Barmann
400 Haight Street at Webster

The Mac Daddy Classic. Photo courtesy of Mac Daddy

Mac Daddy
The only place, besides Homeroom in Oakland, to indulge in a vast variety of excellent mac-and-cheese variations, Mac Daddy debuted almost a year ago in Potrero Hill in the cozy space formerly home to Chez Maman, and briefly Dat Spot. There are a full dozen version to try, including a classic mac with two-year-aged cheddar and pecorino romano, and "South of the Border Mac" with chorizo, chipotle adobo seasoning, jack cheese, and topped with Fritos and avocado. On top of all those options, there are also, literally, hundreds of possible combinations to be created with dozens of add-ons, including different cheeses, fried chicken, a fried egg, roasted garlic, and short ribs. And they'll do any of the versions gluten free for a $3 surcharge, so no one gets left out. — Jay Barmann
1453 18th Street between Connecticut and Missouri Streets

Mission Cheese
Al dente noodles, a bougie blend of cheeses, and crunchy bread crumbs on a Williams-Sonoma worthy skillet: What else would you expect from mac and cheese at this Valencia Street cheese monger? Sure, you could get a cheeseboard here like an adult human, but why do that when your childhood favorite is prepared with such grown-up dignity? I've had this dish at Mission Cheese enough to say, I think definitively, that it has the power to prolong adolescence. —Caleb Pershan
736 Valencia Street between 18th and 19th Streets

The mac and cheese at Richmond republic, bacon added. Photo: Tatum H./Yelp

Richmond Republic
At $7, Richmond Republic's generous portion of mac-and-cheese is a pleasantly affordable way to soak up their many craft and local beer offerings. It's the standard pasta elbows served in a cheddar sauce that's more on the cheese than cream end of things, with just a little bit of a heat kick. For two more bucks, you can add bacon, which I am pretty sure makes it Paleo, right? — Eve Batey
642 Clement Street between 7th and 8th Avenues

Rusty's Southern
Two-year-old Tenderloin barbecue joint Rusty's Southern has made a name for itself for its Lexington, North Carolina-style pulled pork, as well as its tea-brined buttermilk fried chicken. But true to form for a true Southern food spot, their cast-iron mac and cheese gets high marks too, albeit with the optional Californian twist (pictured here) of crispy kale for a topping (pork cracklins are available too). It's made with sharp cheddar and parmesan, as it should be, and always comes out nicely oven-browned. — Jay Barmann
750 Ellis Street between Polk and Larkin

Soul Groove
This solid, affordable Tenderloin spot is best known for its chicken-fried soul sandwich (on a waffle bun!) but don't sleep on the mac and cheese. That's everything it should be: Namely, cheesy and creamy with elbow noodles. When the line at Brenda's up the street is daunting, fear not: Soul Groove has got you covered. —Caleb Pershan
422 Larkin Street between Golden Gate Avenue and Turk Street

Related: The 15 Best Fried Chicken Spots In The Bay Area

Jocelyn L. via Yelp