Mac and cheese is the great all-American comfort food.
Hot, creamy, full of ooey-gooey cheese. Really, what's not to like? And that is a rhetorical question, so shut it, you lactose-intolerant types.
The Fix - which opened in August in Main Gate Square - is a macaroni mecca.
The eatery offers 11 different varieties, everything from All American Cheddar to a taco version that comes with salsa and tortilla chips. The cheesy stuff even comes in a sandwich version, piled between two slices of bread ($12.99), for an entree that's both horrifying and supercool. And because owner Amanda Rickel can't help herself, she'll regularly throw out a "mac of the moment," like a recent Buffalo chicken version.
Rickel - who grew up in the restaurant biz (her family owns Baggin's Gourmet Sandwiches) - and her fiancé, Adam Nelson, have created a casual, fast-service eatery that straddles itself nicely between college hangout and family-friendly place. It's got wine and beer, too, from basic Bud to a higher-brow IPA. Kids, whether they're 2 or 20, will love the menu, which also includes sandwiches, soft-pretzel sticks, cinnamon rolls and cookies.
The former Sultan Palace has been transformed into a sunny space with orange and yellow walls, hanging pendant lights and flat-screen TVs. The tables, charmingly, sport small slips of paper printed with "Gum" and a black-and-white picture of what appears to be a chewed-up piece. Cute. Also cute, but vaguely disturbing: The Fix's mascot, an elbow noodle with arms, legs, a face and a fork. Personifying food you're about to eat just doesn't seem right. But it also didn't stop us.
The "mac n chz" comes in two sizes, minor and major. Think pot-pie tin versus full-size takeout bowl. Don't let the word "minor" fool you - this is a heaping portion and more than enough for one person. No one could finish the minor, not even when it was filled with the Bacon Bacon ($7.49, $10.49). Pairing bacon with mac and cheese is enough to make a comfort-food lover's head pop off. Topped with melted Cheddar and quality bacon, this dish was studded through and through with lots of salty, smoked bacon and punctuated with a bite of pepper. The noodles here, as in all the versions we tried, tended to be a bit smooshy, but that's a minor quibble, especially when the béchamel sauce was so wonderfully creamy.
The Meat Lovers ($7.99, $10.99) brimmed with bacon, hamburger and bratwurst in a Cheddary base, while the Lobster Mac ($8.49, $11.49) was light on the delicate meat, as you'd expect. It featured Swiss cheese for a milder béchamel sauce that didn't compete with the lobster. A suggestion: Put the lobster chunks on top as a garnish, right where you can see them, so people don't have to tunnel through the noodles looking for money bites.
If you're feeling virtuous, The Fix has salads. A fluffy bed of fresh spring greens made the base of the Taco Salad ($7.49), which came mixed with onion, tomato, beef, shredded Cheddar and jalapeño, along with chips and salsa. In true college-eatery form, it came in a paper-lined plastic basket. The spicy ranch was so full of heat it completely overwhelmed the salad.
No matter what you order, make sure to save room for a chocolate-chip cookie. Rickel's homemade version - which her own mom admitted to smuggling home on a daily basis - is the perfect chipper. The cookie is chock-full of melty chocolate with crunchy edges and a soft, chewy middle and oozes carmel-ish, brown-sugar flavor. There's a reason they're available by the dozen. Step aside, Mrs. Fields.
943 E. University Blvd., in Main Gate Square (just north of Which Wich), 305-4493, fixmeaz.com
• Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
• Noise level: Just fine.
• Alcohol: Small selection of wines and beer, but it hits all the buttons.
• Family call: Kids will be beside themselves with so many cheesy options.
• Vegetarian options: Yes.
• Gluten free: The Alfredo sauce is, and another GF cheese sauce is in the works.
• Price range: From $5.49 to $12.99. Happy-hour specials 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Delivery available starting Nov. 19
• Et cetera: At Bear Down Fridays - the next one's this Friday - The Fix sponsors two contests: a mac-and-cheese-eating event and a competition for the cheesiest fan. Winners get gift certificates to the restaurant. Bear Down Fridays run from 5 to 7 p.m. in Main Gate Square before home football games. From 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 7, The Fix will offer a $2 mini-All-American Mac for Customer Appreciation Day.