On Thursday, April 4, the Holiday Inn in Downtown Binghamton hosted its fourth annual Mac & Cheese Fest. Given it was my first time attending the annual event, I had no idea what to expect, other than several samples of mac and cheese from local and outside vendors. Let me tell you, I tried some of the best mac and cheese I've EVER had at the event. This included mac and cheese dishes from Downtown restaurants that don't even have the cheesy, elbow-shaped pasta on their menus.

This got me thinking - why don't they? Here are three Downtown Binghamton restaurants that I think should serve their Mac & Cheese Fest creations on the regular.

Dos Rios Cantina

Cherie Litvin

Let's first taco about Dos Rios' mac and cheese creation: queso fajita mac tacos. With cavatappi noodles smothered in creamy queso and served in a mini tortilla, Dos Rios took a spicy and creative spin on traditional mac and cheese. Here's to hoping that this dish soon joins the ranks of the cantina's fried avocado and lobster roll tacos.  

Alexander's Cafe

Cherie Litvin

Who can resist sweet and savory dishes? It's the best of both worlds. Downtown Binghamton café Alexander's served mac with Granny Smith apples, bacon, gruyère, and cheddar, a dish I can see perfectly complementing the scrumptious sandwiches and paninis on its everyday menu. After all, the café already offers macaroni salad as a side—why not mac and cheese?

Garage Taco Bar

Cherie Litvin

There's mac and grilled cheese and mac and cheeseburgers, so why not mac and cheese empanadas? Filled with classic mac, Garage Taco's empanadas were both crispy and cheesy, and the white queso on the side made for a zesty contrast to the mac and cheese. Now if only I can order some the next time I visit Garage Taco...

IMO, all of these Downtown creations stole the show at this year's Mac & Cheese Fest, even if none of them went home with one of the festival's awards. Hopefully, all three restaurants will come back to compete next year. If we're lucky, they'll even serve these dishes on their menus before then.