We received quite a few suggestions of viable alternatives, and Churchill's seems to be a crowd favorite. That one is shortlisted, and we will check it out soon.
Meanwhile, Latah Bistro stepped up to the plate with their take on the dish, and, frankly, it has thrown us all into some sort of conundrum. Really, comparing this mac & cheese to Saranac's is hard. What Saranac made was a very classic take on the dish; Latah Bistro stepped into a more complex territory.
Here the mac and cheese came with a smoked chicken strung into small pieces, which added a deeper flavor and different texture than Saranac's offering. And while Saranac's mac and cheese was a bit more soup-y, Latah Bistro's was in some ways more of a penne pasta dish. Gooey, to a point, but so balanced it was hard to compare with Saranac's more sassy, no-excuse nostalgia trip.
So this brought the panel of tasters into a deep, philosophical discussion: Is it really possible to compare these two dishes? We were certainly torn over which one we preferred, not so much in terms of execution, but in terms of style. For many, mac & cheese has a sense of nostalgia tied to it, and Saranac probably came out on top for those. For those of us who do not have those memories from years past, we sort of preferred Latah Bistro's.
(This is neither here nor there, but for me the winner was Latah Bistro's crab cakes. Great sauce.)
The $100 question, then, is not answered. Yet. There are other very, very serious questions that need to be addressed. Should we judge using two categories? Classic and gourmet? The prices of the two mac & cheeses varied by around $10, so it could easily be argued we're talking apples and oranges here. This might require a tribunal.
As it stands, both Saranac and Latah Bistro make excellent mac & cheeses in different ways. Check them both out if you have the chance. Meanwhile our panel of tasters will confer and figure out how to solve this pressing issue that is mac & cheese.