The homey elbow noodle and Velveeta sauce we all think of us as mac n’ cheese? These Northern Michigan restaurants redefine and kick it up in infinite ways. Lest you doubt how popular this dish is, know that more than 15,000 people voted in our 2019 Red Hot Best awards, of which mac n’ cheese was one of 101 categories. And no question, mac n’ cheese is the perfect addition to your Northern Michigan fall color tour. Now, without further ado, here is the best mac and cheese in the North.

7 Monks, Traverse City

Well … it’s not exactly Mac n’ Cheese here—it’s Monk N’ Cheese. It’s made with garlic and thyme Monterey Jack cream and applewood smoked bacon all tossed with cavatappi pasta. Go ahead and add sriracha.

Apache Trout Grill, Traverse City

It’s on the menu as Loaded Mac & Cheese and loaded it is with five-cheese sauce, chicken breast, bacon, snow peas, tomatoes, red onion and toasted herb bread crumbs.

Barley & Rye, Ludington

They take the basic elbows and a housemade cheese sauce and serve it up five ways here. Try the shredded chicken, bacon, beef brisket, pulled pork or guacamole.

Biere De Mac Brew Works, Mackinaw City

Proof that there is no end to the art you can make with a basic, mac n’ cheese canvas. The Mighty Mac & Cheese (named for the bridge up the road, of course) is crafted with bacon lardon, Plath’s smoked Polish sausage, butternut squash, white cheddar cheese sauce and Parmesan toasted bread crumbs.

Blue Tractor, Traverse City

Step 1. Smoke a pig. Step 2. Blend the tender shoulder meat with tangy bbq sauce, macaroni and smoked gouda béchamel sauce. Step 3. Call me in the morning.

Jolly Pumpkin, Old Mission Peninsula

We’ll have seconds of this classic Euro take, please: mini penne pasta, three cheeses, crispy cured bacon, Parmesan crust.

Short’s Brewing Company, Bellaire

They call their famous Mac n’ Cheese Bumblebee. The flavors change daily—read this sampler and weep: jalapeño bacon, chicken bacon ranch, mushroom stroganoff, roasted garlic and herb, pizza mac, curry cauliflower, five cheese.

Sparks BBQ, Traverse City

No surprise, it’s called Pitmaster Mac ‘N’ Cheese here and it comes with bbq chicken, pork, brisket.

Stone Oven, Lake Ann

Take the garlic toast they serve with it and heap it with this melange of cavatappi pasta, chicken, bacon and white cheddar béchamel.

Tap 30, Petoskey

Never heard of a combo like this, but sign me up: cavatappi pasta, beer-braised leeks and jalapeños sautéed with housemade smoked gouda white cheddar cheese sauce all topped with maple bbq pulled pork.