Growing up, I can remember how excited I used to get when my parents made boxed macaroni and cheese for me. Forget about the fact that my mom had a killer homemade lasagna recipe, or that my dad made the best baked beans with hot dogs and melted cheese. There was something incredibly comforting about macaroni and cheese in all its simplicity… even if it came out of a box and involved powdered, bright orange cheese.
As an adult, I still think macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food, but I’ve moved onto the real deal. And luckily, there is a brand new restaurant in town that’s dedicated solely to mac and cheese: Grate.
Grate opened in Menomonee Falls in late August, on the Falls Parkway off I-41. It boasts a menu of nearly a dozen kinds of mac and cheese, all with one key commonality: the cheeses and meats are all from Wisconsin.
“We are what we eat,” Abby Hansen, Grate’s director of marketing, says. “If we’re putting good things in our body, even if it’s more of a comfort food dish and maybe it has a few more calories in it, the quality is there. That was important to us, and Wisconsin dairy from the get-go was important to us.”
Hansen says she loved the process of choosing the partners for Grate.
“That was a fun process,” she says. “You know, who had a great story, who had a story that lined up with us. We wanted farmers that had that multi-generational component. So while there is a little bit of an added expense to it, we’re using quality ingredients and supporting local farmers, local businesses. That’s what makes Wisconsin go round.”
Grate lists nine partners within the state: Miller Baking Company, Patrick Cudahy, Grassland Dairy, Kemp’s, Klement’s, Ney’s Big Sky, Renard’s Cheese, Richland Hills and Sassy Cow Creamery. Hansen says she drew on her own childhood comfort foods and memories to aid with the selection of one particular farm, Rendard’s, which proves the majority of the cheese.
“I’ve been familiar with them for many, many years,” Hansen says. “I grew up in Door County, so I grew up eating their cheese. Some of my earliest memories are going into my grandmother’s fridge and seeing their cheese.”
Hansen says as Roaring Fork Restaurant Group first began developing a restaurant three years ago, the big question became “what can we own?” She acknowledges the plethora of pizza and sandwich shops within the state, saying those markets were developed. The team wanted to hone in on Wisconsin cheese, and realized there really weren’t other restaurants defined by just mac and cheese in the area.
“Then, just doing research, we learned there were companies across the country doing just that.” Hansen recalls. “That kind of reaffirmed that it could work. Then we visited all those places. We tasted, we traveled, we tasted some more.”
The result: Grate’s menu. It offers a Classic mac and cheese, as well as a Gluten Free version of the Classic. It goes beyond the classic with a bacon cheeseburger, which uses Ney’s Big Sky ground beef and Patrick Cudahy bacon, and is topped with a delicious pretzel bun. Or, there’s the Bacon and Blue Mac and Cheese, which tastes fantastic if you’re a fan of blue cheese. And you can’t forget about the Pizza-style dish, topped with pizza sauce, pepperoni and oregano. While the menu offers such a wide variety, ultimately, Hansen says it all comes down to one thing.
“We want simplicity in its purest form.”
Simplicity’s a great thing. It’s comforting. So if the food you grow up with is comforting, why shouldn’t you treat yourself to the same concept as an adult?