LA’s Mac ‘N’ Cheese Smackdown Was Basically a Stoner Hipster’s Nightclub

Grace Goodman
(Photo: OBSEV/Shutterstock)

Is there a better way to spend a Sunday than getting super high and attending a festival dedicated to eating as much gourmet mac ‘n’ cheese as you can fit in your stomach in a two-hour period? Spoiler alert: no, there’s not.

I had been counting down to this day for almost a month. A MONTH. So in preparation for this glorious day, I did what any self-respecting millennial would do: get sh*tfaced the night before, wake up extremely hungover, and head on over to my coworker’s house with an empty stomach where a few joints were waiting for me.

Fast forward a few minutes later, we’re sitting on a cute little patio, smoking a joint, listening to an old record on vinyl in hazy 80-degree December California weather, overlooking the hills of Echo Park. You know when everything just lines up — perfect weather, perfect song, perfect mood — and you feel like you’re in a music video, but it's real life? That’s the feeling you want to have before you go stuff your face with ten pounds of cheese and pasta.

As we passed the venue, we noticed that the line was wrapped all the way around the building. For some reason, I thought this was going to be some underground food festival that no one really knew about but, alas, I was wrong. We got in line behind these people whose faces just annoyed the hell out of me. I actually think it was a combination of that and the fact that this dude’s pants were just a little too short. Imagine my reaction when he interjected himself into our conversation about tallying our caloric intake for the day.  

I side-eyed him and said, “Well, I’m looking to consume the highest amount possible.” (Last “high” pun, I promise.) We didn’t run into them again, thank god.

 

Anthony Diep

The only other food festival I’ve been to was held outdoors, so when we finally got in, I was a little overwhelmed because, you know, one large room filled with wall-to-wall Coachella-wannabes is a little anxiety inducing. You know those people I'm talking about. Girls in high-waisted jean shorts, a crop top, a flowy, flower-print kimono, and a floppy wool fedora sitting on the back of their head like some hippie yamaka; men in shorts that reach three quarters of the way down their thighs, button-up Hawaiian-print shirts, and backwards snapbacks. After taking it all in, my immediate reaction was that this was a stoner’s nightclub.

A stoner hipster’s nightclub, to be exact. There was a DJ, who by the way, was the sh*ttiest DJ I’ve ever encountered — top 40 *attempted* remixes were played all day — but the overall feel of the venue was cozy and hip. I attribute that to the exposed brick walls, chalkboard menu, “craft” beer, and the plethora of facial hair and thick-rimmed glasses in attendance.

 

Anthony Diep

First things first, though: BEER. We took advantage of the short line for Angel City Brewery, then *tried* to come up with a quick game plan, which just ended up being “go to the shortest line.” The first dish we tasted was plated on these tiny little fancy-looking paper dishes and was basically the most grownup mac I’ve ever tasted: onion, gruyere, and shallots, topped with this fried onion thing.

 

Anthony Diep

Okay, yeah. This was the best idea ever. Forget the fact that I kept getting bumped into while balancing my plate of pasta on my beer; forget the fact that this place was filled with the same chicks who call pizza “bae” and self-loath like they’re getting sponsored on Instagram for it; forget the fact that Miles Heizer was in attendance — I was in stoner food heaven.

Actually, wait. Let me go back to Miles Heizer from "Parenthood" for a hot second. He is like the poster child for low-key celeb hipsters. My coworker actually pointed him out to me while we were scoping out potential boyfriends because he was skinny, wearing a turtleneck, and has his septum pierced — A.K.A. the dream. I’m going to take a leap of faith here and say he was just as blazed as we were because of this:

Valid question.

Anyways, after the minor freak-out I had, we hopped in the next shortest line, which happened to be for L.A.-based adult cafeteria Lemonade. This is what killed my buzz a bit — just figuratively, though. I’ve had their truffle mac ‘n’ cheese before and didn’t really care for it. I honestly don’t understand what the big deal with truffles is. I feel like it’s the K-Mart of making something “gourmet.” Hipsters and basics apparently love truffles, though.

Not only was the hunger for mac real, the thirst for all these Echo Park hipster dudes was just as real. How do you gracefully chat someone up while you're simultaneously stuffing your pie hole with decadent pasta dishes, though? Is it like when you're out to dinner with someone and instead of asking if the food is good, you just open your eyes really wide while you're chewing and mumble an "mmm" while pointing to the food with your fork? 

An hour had passed and we’d only tasted TWO different macs. With only an hour remaining, we set sail through the stoner sea and squeezed our way in front of some unsuspecting attendees who were describing the top and endnotes of the BBQ pulled-pork mac (hint: it tasted exactly like it sounds) to one another.

Like the true feel of a nightclub, I was starting to overheat from the massive amount of people crammed shoulder to shoulder. We were mac 'n' cheese sardine zombies, trying to inch our way to the bowls of pasta flesh. At this point I was sweating cheese but somehow wasn't mad about it. 

The next one we tasted was another “grownup” version of the classic kids' dish; I honestly don’t even remember what was in it because the chef looked like a damn lumberjack Urban Outfitters model and I just nodded and smiled while he described what was in it and gently placed a serving onto my plate like he was laying his child down for a nap.

 

Anthony Diep

By far, my favorite dish was the jalapeno mac — there were no crazy additives, no weird flavor combos. It tasted exactly how it sounds: rich, creamy cheese paired with spiciness and enough kick to make you want to stop eating it for just a second, but you continue because it’s so damn good. It spoke to me. It was the Abraham Lincoln of mac ‘n’ cheeses: honest and humble.

That was it; that was the deciding dish. Jalapeno mac ‘n’ cheese took home the bacon — er, something like that — for me. At that point, I was so full of cheesy goodness that I was ready to blow that Popsicle joint. (Okay, THAT was the last pun.) After taking advantage of the photo booth and grabbing our last beer (they gave us three; Angel City Brewery indeed), we bid farewell to stoner hipster heaven.

 

Anthony Diep

This might have to be a recurring thing for me: Going to food festivals baked out of my mind. Not only was I able to enjoy an experience that I otherwise wouldn’t have (read: social anxiety at its finest), I was able to enjoy it tenfold because as you know, weed makes everything better. I can quote Seth Rogen if you want me to: “Everyone likes smoking weed, they have for thousands of years and aren’t going to stop anytime soon. It makes everything better. It makes food taste better, makes music better, makes sex feel better for God’s sake, it makes sh*tty movies better, you know?”

Anyways, I’ve come to my conclusion: Even though this thing catered to over-privileged millennial hipster stoners (I fit right in), it’s safe to say the Mac ‘N’ Cheese Smackdown is an authority in the semi-underground food festival biz. 

Oh, and you shouldn't think twice about going while you're high because what's better than being baked and stuck in a room with unlimited amounts of mac 'n' cheese? NOTHIN'.

I guess you could say that this place was the best joint in town.

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