This week, I reached out for a dish of the ultimate comfort food, mac and cheese, from America's busiest drive-through, Chick-fil-A, with 2,300 restaurants across America. The chain's No. 1 sales leader happens to be right here in Houston, on the corner of Kirby and the Southwest Freeway feeder. That explains the traffic jam, and why I take Buffalo Speedway when I drive downtown.
Chick-fil-A introduced mac and cheese nationwide this week, but it's been available in Houston for the past year. Houston was a mac-and-cheese test market for Chick-fil-A, along with Phoenix, Nashville, and San Antonio. We must have voted yes, because mac and cheese goes directly on Chick-fil-A's permanent menu. It's their first menu addition since the Egg White Grill breakfast sandwich in 2016.
This is a big deal. Chick-fil-A doesn't fidget with its menu, unlike Burger King and Subway, which seem to add a new creation every 10 minutes. Their latest brainstorms: meatless Whoppers and plant-based meatball subs. (We'll see about that.)
Here's the mac and cheese breakdown: old-fashioned macaroni and cheese, with Cheddar, Parmesan, and Romano cheeses. Comes in two sizes: small and medium.
Total calories: 440 (for the medium). Fat grams: 27. Carbs: 29 g. Protein: 19 g. Manufacturer's suggested retail price: $3.15. The small serving is $2.49. You want the medium — only because they don't offer a large.
Chick-fil-A bakes batches of mac and cheese each day in each store. This style of mac and cheese has a strong, cheesier flavor and firmer consistency than the mac and cheese that most kids grew up on. You know, the beloved blue box.
I ate only about 10,000 of those Kraft mac and cheese boxes growing up. It was the first thing I learned how to cook: boil water, throw in the macaroni, then dump a packet of orange powdered cheese (the hard stuff), some milk and butter and mix. Yum. Those Kraft boxes were (still are) so popular that in Canada, macaroni and cheese is known simply as Kraft Dinner.
Chick-fil-A is suggesting mac and cheese as a french fry alternative or extra side. I grabbed a medium order to go, thinking I'd save it for later, maybe a 3 pm snack. Yeah, that happened. I cracked it open at the first red light.
Talk about your can't-miss: Chick-fil-A and mac and cheese, two classic American favorites. Chick-fil-A's version is enough to make mac and cheese's biggest fan, QVC host David Venable, spin himself into the ground doing his happy dance.
Ken Hoffman reviews a new fast food restaurant item every Wednesday. Have a suggestion or a drive-thru favorite? Let Ken know on Twitter.