Cheesy Weather Didn’t Stop the Crowds at Port Jeff Mac & Cheese Crawl

By Lorraine Hallett

Two-day sold-out Port Jefferson festival brought in mac & cheese fans from all over Long Island. Port Jefferson village had quite the Sunday this weekend, as people came out in the brisk winds and chilly rain to sample some mac & cheese dishes from participating restaurants with family and friends.

Port Jefferson’s annual Mac & Cheese Crawl brought people to the village over the two-day weekend to get a taste of the various interpretations of the classic cheesy and creamy dish that were on offer at local restaurants.

The event is anticipated by many as the allotted 400 tickets (200 per day) for the weekend food crawl had been sold out for nearly two weeks, according to the director of operations for the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, Barbara Ransome, who reported that some people even buy tickets six months in advance.

This weekend also marked the date of the annual ice festival in Port Jefferson, which gave festival-goers the opportunity to go ice skating, play ice corn hole, ice golf, ice tic tac toe, and go ice bowling, as well as use the interactive graffiti wall.

Attendees of the food crawl had the chance to taste one mac & cheese sample in each of the 14 participating restaurants in town for the price of $30. They must also get their ticket stamped at each of the locations they visit.

Nicole, a Spycoast employee with their mac & cheese setup.

Despite the heavy winds and rainfall on Sunday, people still showed up for the warm food and winter-themed activities.

“The mac & cheese brought us here,” said Jamie Coppola from Holbrook, who was celebrating her first time at the festivities with her friends who had been to the crawl previously. “PJ Lobster House is the best place we’ve tried, and Whiskey Barrel is second.”  

PJ Lobster House’s lobster mac & cheese.

“This is the second year I’ve been doing this with my friends,” said Isa Flores, from Centereach. “It’s definitely turning into a yummy tradition for us… and I can’t help but come back for Spycoast’s and the Whiskey Barrel’s mac & cheese.”

“The Curry Club was for sure my favorite,” said Francisco Marin, from Smithtown. “The tikka masala sauce in the mac & cheese just gives a little something extra and flavorful.”

It not only seems like a great experience for the participants, but for the restaurant workers who make the event happen as well.

“We’ve been doing this for about four years I think,” said Christine Nyholm, the owner of Port Bistro and Pub. “We just have to make a lot of mac & cheese, depending on how many tickets they sold, and they sold 200 so we have to be prepared for over two hundred people coming in… the turnout has been great, always busy!”

“It’s a blast for us!” said Mitch LaBianca, the manager of Spycoast, who has been working at the restaurant for more than three years, which is just as long as they’ve been participating in the mac & cheese crawl.

Curry Club at Saghar’s tikka masala mac & cheese.

The two-day, cheese-filled event seems to be a joyous time for everybody involved, bringing people from different areas of the island together for a widely beloved dish, and also giving restaurants a yearly opportunity to showcase their culinary talents through the form of various interpretations of the classic meal. Including the mac & cheese balls at Port Bistro, the lobster mac & cheese at PJ Lobster House, the maple bacon apple mac & cheese with aged gouda at Torte Jeff Pie Company, and many more varieties.

If you’re interested in the yearly weekend crawl, be sure to check out the Port Jefferson website for events, call the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Office at (631) 473-1414, or go down there in person at 118 W. Broadway, Port Jeff, for tickets to next year’s round of cheesy festivities.

Lorraine Hallett is a reporter with The SBU Media Group, part of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism’s Working Newsroom program for students and local media.

📷 Lorraine Hallett.

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