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Homeroom: Mac and Cheese Gets a Makeover

Photo source: Homeroom


Homeroom’s decor matches its name: furniture repurposed from old school bleachers; one wall is a school blackboard, and a library card catalog stores your frequent eater card (one free mac and cheese for every ten you buy). The atmosphere is inviting and comfortable as a school homeroom would be. The staff is friendly, warm, and accommodating. There is a long communal table in the middle of the restaurant, along with another dozen cozy booths and tables. Popular? At 3 pm on a Sunday there was a 15 minute wait, so be prepared to wait at lunch and dinner time.

Homeroom’s menu, still focused on mac and cheese, now includes five vegetable sides ($3.75-4.50), butternut squash soup ($4.50), and a “hearty salad” with eleven add-in options. Like the salad, you can build your own mac and cheese, starting with one of the dozen or so varieties, adding in bacon, butternut squash, grilled chicken, chorizo, hot dog, tuna, a fried egg, peas, caramelized onions, broccoli, mushrooms, hot peppers, or garlic. Any mac can be made gluten-free.

The “Classic Mac” ($10.45) stirs childhood memories, with the familiar silky smooth texture of Kraft mac and cheese, but a more sophisticated, complex flavor. The bacon option added a needed saltiness and smoke, as the cheese sauce was a little bland. The “Spring Mac” ($8.50), with aged asiago, peas, and lemon zest, was my favorite; it had a bright, fresh flavor, and the peas counteracted the rich cheese and cream. It was slightly under seasoned, but a little salt brought out the flavors. The last mac and “cheese” I tried was the “Vegan Mac” ($8.75). The “cheese” is made with tofu, nutritional yeast and soy sauce. It may satisfy vegans used to cheese replacements, but it definitely wasn’t as good as the real thing. It had a sort of bitter, earthy taste, and a thin texture that barely stuck to the pasta. Unfortunately, the day I went, the pasta in all three versions, a classic macaroni shape, was slightly undercooked, making it gummy, tough, and slightly gluey.

The Brussels sprouts with bacon and apple cider vinaigrette were perfectly fine, but nothing special. The bacon wasn’t very crispy, and the vinaigrette wasn’t tangy enough to set off the smokiness of the bacon. The “spicy cauliflower,” although not spicy, was delicious, covered in butter and paprika. The salad was better than expected, with a generous amount of goat cheese and an excellent bright, citrus vinaigrette, a great contrast to the gooey mac and cheese.

There is an extensive dessert menu, but all I had room for was the homemade oreo ($2.75), vanilla buttercream sandwiched between two chewy bittersweet chocolate cookies. That cookie was my favorite thing from the meal, with their iced coffee a close second. Like all of their drinks, the coffee came in a mason jar, adding to the hip feeling of Homeroom. The Blue Bottle coffee, cold brewed overnight with a hit of chicory, was strong, creamy, and reminiscent of an authentic New Orleans brew.

With both the macs and salad full of options, even the pickiest eater is sure to find, or create, something they like. And since any mac is large enough for two, the price is very reasonable. Homeroom is a great spot for a casual lunch or dinner with friends.

400 40th St. Oakland, CA 94609 510-597-0400 Hours: Closed Mondays Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 11am – 9pm Friday and Saturday: 11am-10pm

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