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H Brothers feeds a mac obsession

Comfort food made in earnest in downtown Escondido

Made from scratch macaroni and cheese, with basil, bread crumbs, and cheese curds
Made from scratch macaroni and cheese, with basil, bread crumbs, and cheese curds

Macaroni. I’m not talkin about the feather stuck in Yankee Doodle’s cap, but the cheesy pasta dish. The one that’s somehow both originally Italian and OG American. The one that, when I see it on a menu, takes superhero force of will not to order. And I’m no hero. There it is, on the table in front of me, every time. I hope it’s good, but even if it’s mediocre I will scarf it down.

Place

H Brothers

212 E Grand Ave, Escondido

But this time I’m in luck, because the mac and cheese is fantastic. The place is H Brothers, so-called because the brothers in question figured Hedayati would be tough for people to remember. The gastropub opened a couple years ago in Escondido’s little downtown district along Grand Avenue, which we might call up and coming if it weren’t already called historic. Equipped with a patio, stylish dining room, and an artistically repurposed upright piano, the place serves local libations alongside a menu that checks a lot of comfort food boxes: burgers, smoked brisket, and pulled pork.

Comfort foods galore: brisket, dirty rice, country poutine, and mac

And that made-from-scratch mac and cheese, an $8.49 serving boasting cheddar, provolone, basil, and bread crumbs. But the first step of its success is a creamy béchamel base, ensuring every millimeter of elbow pasta wears a cheesy coat. Finding this sort of silky smooth mac experience is exactly the reason I keep ordering it everywhere I go.

Brown gravy and cheese curds make these fries French-Canadian.

There’s a second secret weapon at work here as well, and that’s Wisconsin cheese curds, which mostly melt into the dish, but offer the occasional added glob of gooey goodness. Their presence reflect another specialty of the house: poutine. The H Brothers have a bit of French Canadian heritage, so they serve a pair of poutines. One of them smothers a pile of French fries and cheese curds with a white, flour-based country gravy, plus fried chicken nuggets to round out the Southern-styled poutine.

A piano art piece and tin ceiling tiles add style to this Escondido gastropub.

It's good, but better is the Quebecois faithful original, which simply covers fries and goopey cheese curds with a cornstarch and beef stock brown gravy. Like the mac, it’s a simple dish, all cheese, sauce, and starch. This one happens to be gluten-free, but I assume that’s just a coincidence, because it’s just as rich and comforting.

Not everything on the crowd-pleasing menu is so heavy: there are salads and wraps to go with the sandwiches, smoked meats, and daily specials. Not everything is as great as the mac, but these brothers seem earnest about their from-scratch recipes, and where they get their ingredients (often locally). They even make their own Memphis- and Carolina-style BBQ sauces, and I wound up alternating between both while enjoying the brisket; not because the beef needed it, but because I couldn’t figure out which I liked better.

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Made from scratch macaroni and cheese, with basil, bread crumbs, and cheese curds
Made from scratch macaroni and cheese, with basil, bread crumbs, and cheese curds

Macaroni. I’m not talkin about the feather stuck in Yankee Doodle’s cap, but the cheesy pasta dish. The one that’s somehow both originally Italian and OG American. The one that, when I see it on a menu, takes superhero force of will not to order. And I’m no hero. There it is, on the table in front of me, every time. I hope it’s good, but even if it’s mediocre I will scarf it down.

Place

H Brothers

212 E Grand Ave, Escondido

But this time I’m in luck, because the mac and cheese is fantastic. The place is H Brothers, so-called because the brothers in question figured Hedayati would be tough for people to remember. The gastropub opened a couple years ago in Escondido’s little downtown district along Grand Avenue, which we might call up and coming if it weren’t already called historic. Equipped with a patio, stylish dining room, and an artistically repurposed upright piano, the place serves local libations alongside a menu that checks a lot of comfort food boxes: burgers, smoked brisket, and pulled pork.

Comfort foods galore: brisket, dirty rice, country poutine, and mac

And that made-from-scratch mac and cheese, an $8.49 serving boasting cheddar, provolone, basil, and bread crumbs. But the first step of its success is a creamy béchamel base, ensuring every millimeter of elbow pasta wears a cheesy coat. Finding this sort of silky smooth mac experience is exactly the reason I keep ordering it everywhere I go.

Brown gravy and cheese curds make these fries French-Canadian.

There’s a second secret weapon at work here as well, and that’s Wisconsin cheese curds, which mostly melt into the dish, but offer the occasional added glob of gooey goodness. Their presence reflect another specialty of the house: poutine. The H Brothers have a bit of French Canadian heritage, so they serve a pair of poutines. One of them smothers a pile of French fries and cheese curds with a white, flour-based country gravy, plus fried chicken nuggets to round out the Southern-styled poutine.

A piano art piece and tin ceiling tiles add style to this Escondido gastropub.

It's good, but better is the Quebecois faithful original, which simply covers fries and goopey cheese curds with a cornstarch and beef stock brown gravy. Like the mac, it’s a simple dish, all cheese, sauce, and starch. This one happens to be gluten-free, but I assume that’s just a coincidence, because it’s just as rich and comforting.

Not everything on the crowd-pleasing menu is so heavy: there are salads and wraps to go with the sandwiches, smoked meats, and daily specials. Not everything is as great as the mac, but these brothers seem earnest about their from-scratch recipes, and where they get their ingredients (often locally). They even make their own Memphis- and Carolina-style BBQ sauces, and I wound up alternating between both while enjoying the brisket; not because the beef needed it, but because I couldn’t figure out which I liked better.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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