Street | Restaurant Reviews

Street Fight: Hoagie Haven ‘Mac Daddy’ vs. Say Cheez ‘The Beefy Mac’

Hoagie Haven – Mac Daddy $6 half/11 whole

What do you call a sandwich made with two beef patties, bacon, mac and cheese wedges and fries, all covered in hot sauce? That would be the Mac Daddy, one of Hoagie Haven’s infamous, heart-stopping hoagies that have soothed many a Princeton student’s soul in the late hours of night. The concept of the Mac Daddy sounds insane — as I unraveled the greasy paper from my hefty, 7-inch hoagie, I found myself wondering if even the masters of fast food could really pull this off. After first stomaching the fact that eating this hoagie would certainly take a few years off my life, I bravely took my first bite. What impressed me first was the bread; it was toasted just the right amount and was perfectly chewy, but most importantly, it wasn’t soggy at all. However, two dry beef patties were layered on top. Both tasted like they were left out in the sun for a few hours. The patties were devoid of any juice, and their combination with the bread made for a difficult chewing experience. This was the most disappointing part of the sandwich — the main protein was dry and almost inedible. It was partially saved by the generous slices of bacon, which hit just the right balance of soft and crispy. By my third and fourth bites, I had completely forgotten that the mac and cheese was supposed to be the star of the show. The deep-fried wedges were incredibly soggy, weighed down by everything else in the hoagie, and the thick breading took up most of the space in the wedges that should have been devoted to actual mac and cheese. All in all, what I thought would be the most memorable part of the hoagie seemed like it should have been left out.

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Say Cheez – The Beefy Mac $7

As an establishment that prides itself on making “the best grilled cheese in Princeton,” the newly opened Say Cheez on Nassau Street gave me some pretty high expectations. At the top of their list of specials is “The Beefy Mac,” featuring mac and cheese and slabs of brisket topped with gravy and caramelized onions, all on classic white bread. What struck me first was the sheer size of the sandwich — it was larger than my hand and stacked high with generous portions of both mac and cheese and brisket. Though the bread fell apart slightly as I attempted to lift half of the sandwich, it had the perfect texture and was toasted just enough to have a crunchy, dark-orange crust. What really swept me off my feet, however, was inside the sandwich itself. The first bite was marvelous — the creaminess of the mac and cheese mixed effortlessly with the salty brisket, and the caramelized onions added unexpected, sweet bursts of flavor. The macaroni itself was surprisingly firm and not mushy like I expected it would be. Though the flavor of the mac and cheese was fairly standard, it was incredibly satisfying. What stood out the most to me, however, was the meat. While a tough and hard-to-chew brisket would have completely thrown off the texture of the sandwich, this brisket was tender and juicy, almost melting in my mouth with each bite. It melded effortlessly with the mac and cheese without overpowering it. My only complaint by the end was the fact that I couldn’t taste any gravy, but in reality, it wasn’t even necessary.

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Winner: The Beefy Mac

The Mac Daddy simply couldn’t deliver on the only part of the sandwich that’s featured in its name. The mac and cheese wedges were overwhelmed by all the meat, fries and hot sauce, and in the end, there was too much going on to even enjoy what I was eating. On the other hand, the Beefy Mac demonstrated restraint, allowing it to have the perfect balance of flavors. All of the ingredients complemented one another, and by the end, it had me wondering why I had ever eaten sandwiches without mac and cheese.

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