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Dairy-free and gluten-free, Harlow’s Hawthorne Mac sets a new standard for special diet mac. The vegan sauce—Daiya cheese, garlic, hazelnut milk, almond parmesan, and a house spice blend—and organic quinoa pasta are both superb, but it’s the kale that takes this dish to another level ($7). 3632 SE Hawthorne Blvd; harlowpdx.com
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Herb's Mac & Cheese
The Mac and Cheese dished up by Herb at his cart in the Good Food Here pod uses penne, which is a stroke of genius: the noodles become delicious cheese-filled tubes, blanketed by your choice from a wide variety of toppings. Specials the day we visited included broccoli, bacon, and pepper jack, as well as a bar-ready buffalo chicken and bleu cheese concoction ($5 and up, depending on toppings). 4262 SE Belmont St; herbsmacandcheese.com
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Swift Lounge
The Mac and Cheese with kim chee at Swift Lounge (Mac and Chee, if you will) offers a welcome spice and crunch from the Korean pickled cabbage that pairs nicely with the bacon and shallots, and gives the dish the illusion of being lighter than its peers ($9). 1932 NE Broadway; swiftloungepdx.com
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The Cheese Plate PDX
The Cheese Plate offers a rotating selection of incredible mac & cheese (including a new vegan version), but you can’t beat the Classic’s creamy cheese blend, served with breadcrumbs on a bed of spinach ($7). 2231 NE Alberta St; thecheeseplatepdx.com
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Blossoming Lotus
Blossoming Lotus only offers its Mac & Cheese during happy hour, so you’ll have to drop by between 3 and 5 pm to nab a bowl of this gluten-free vegan comfort ($5). 1713 NE 15th Ave; blpdx.com
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Dig A Pony
Dig-a-Pony’s Macaroni & Cheese is made with Tillamook cheddar, roasted jalapeño, and caramelized onion, which give it a nice sweet and spicy flavor ($8). 736 SE Grand Avenue; digaponyportland.com
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Le Bistro Montage
Le Bistro Montage offers an array of delicious macs, including a gluten-free option. Shown here are three popular flavors: Spold Mac ($8.25), Jalapeno and Bacon Cheddar Mac ($9.25) and Buffalo Mac ($9.25). 301 SE Morrison Street; montageportland.com
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Hungry Tiger
The owner of Hungry Tiger got his start at the now-defunct Baked!, a mac and cheese-centric food cart on Alberta. He now uses the Baked! recipes for his mac & cheese, offering both a four cheese blend and a vegan version (pictured here) with an array of add-in vegetables and proteins ($8). 207 SE 12th Ave; hungrytigerpdx.com
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Mother's Bistro
At Mother’s Bistro, the “Macaroni and Cheese” might not always be macaroni. The pasta dish changes fairly frequently; shown here is penne with roasted red peppers, spinach, caramelized onion, goat cheese, and parmigiano reggiano ($10.95). 212 SW Stark Street; mothersbistro.com
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Victory Bar
Victory Bar's Spätzle, the German take on everyone's favorite casserole of pasta and cheese, swaps out the noodles in place of pillowy-soft dumplings that still stand up to the deluge of gruyere sauce and the crispy shallot topping ($8.75, $5.75 during happy hour). 3652 SE Division St; thevictorybar.com
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Vita Cafe
Vita Café uses vegan cheese sauce in their Mac and Cheese, but omnivores have been known to mistake it for real dairy. Try it with the organic fried tempeh, and you’ll never order anything else again ($9.50). 3023 NE Alberta St; vita-café.com
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Davis St. Tavern
The Velvety Mac ‘n’ Cheese at the Davis St. Tavern doesn’t have any bells and whistles—and it doesn’t need any, because the creamy three cheese bechamel sauce has the perfect sharp cheesy flavor ($8-12). 135 NW 5th Ave; davisstreettavern.com
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Papa G's Vegan Organic Deli
Papa G’s prides itself on being the most organic eatery in Portland, down to the organic spice blend. But that doesn’t explain why the animal-free Mac & Cheez tasted almost exactly like chicken and dumplings ($8). 2314 SE Division St; papagees.com
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Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ
We’ve written about Homegrown Smoker’s mac-nocheese before, but it bears repeating: this stuff is worth the trip up Mississippi. The vegan and gluten-free dish is served as a side, but one bite of mac, and you’ll forget about your entrée ($5). 4233 N. Mississippi Ave; homegrownsmoker.wordpress.com
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