I was not going to write about Sweet Lorraine’s Fabulous Mac n’ Cheez. I probably wasn’t even going to eat there.
First of all, it is a well-established fact that I personally make macaroni and cheese that is pretty damned fine. Second, I dismissed Mac N’ Cheez on the basis that it’s a chain restaurant.
I changed my mind after Skeletor (my son and heir) carried a fragrant takeout order of the Twisted Grilled Cheez (grilled brioche filled with macaroni and cheese and more cheese) and cream of tomato soup through the house. I only had a taste of soup-dipped sandwich, but it was enough to know that I had a serious rival for the title of Best in Mac.
I also discovered that, although it is a chain, Mac n’ Cheez is a Michigan-based concern, a very small chain started by a real person named Lorraine who still cooks in her flagship location using “local cheeses.” In other words, Mac n’ Cheez is no soulless corporate giant.
So yesterday, while the wind blew and the skies remained resolutely gray, Skeletor and I repaired to Mac n’ Cheez in search of carb-y comfort. We ordered and paid at the counter, choosing among various kinds of macaroni and cheese, wrap sandwiches, salads, soup and chili.
Although the menu is relatively small, there’s a lot to think about – the mac and cheese choices include “Classic,” “Cubano,” “Macho Nacho,” “Extreme Veggie,” “Bacon & Cheddar,” “Cajun Shrimp” and “Truffle & Mushroom.” There are five different salads, six wrap sandwiches, the “Twisted” grilled cheese on brioche, and an array of desserts. In addition to a cooler filled with bottled drinks, a machine dispenses Northwoods Soda from Traverse City, made with cane sugar.
We found a table in the room that seemed bright despite the darkness outside; paintings of tomato soup cans and of a bowl of macaroni and cheese adorned the walls, and the place was about half filled with a combination of lively groups and solitary folks focused on books or laptops. There was a rack of newspapers in case one was without reading material, and near the back door stood the delivery bike.
Our food appeared so fast that we had barely gotten our drinks and found a table. Skeletor had ordered the Twisted Grilled Cheez and tomato soup (again), and I’d ordered Bacon & Cheddar Mac and a Chopped Salad. We also picked up something called a Smorez Bar for dessert. My lunch was big enough that I took half of it home, and although we enjoyed the Smorez Bar (a brownie middle with Graham cereal and marshmallows surrounding the chocolate) we gave up on it and contemplated how far into Ohio we would have to walk to burn off the calories. Neither of us customarily eats macaroni and cheese followed by dessert on a regular basis.
Sweet Lorraine’s Mac n’ Cheez is suitable for everyone from grandparents to toddlers, and seems especially well-suited for a quick meal that isn’t junk food – you know, after play practice, when no one has time to make dinner but no one wants another pizza, or when you are hauling around tired three-year-olds who need something familiar and fast enough to beat a meltdown.
I won’t even try to invent the health benefits of eating macaroni and cheese, but at Sweet Lorraine’s there are several legitimately good-for-you salad options as well as a couple of good wrap sandwich choices. There are many options for a vegetarian, including an “Extreme Veggie” macaroni, and the “Chop Veggie Wrap,” which is vegan. Plus, you know, sometimes it’s really okay to sink into a bowl of mac and cheese with no guilt or calorie counting.
The restaurant is located at 547 E. Grand River in East Lansing, directly across from the Broad Art Museum. Its rear entrance is easily accessible from the Albert Avenue parking lot at 230 Albert Avenue.