2014 James Beard Rising Star Chef nominee and 2015 James Beard Best Chef nominee Hari Cameron of a(MUSE.) teamed up with his brother Orion to open grandpa(MAC) pasta and carryout at 33A Baltimore Avenue, next to the Blue Moon. Named after Hari's grandfather Cameron McCurdy, the concept embodies freshly made pasta, salads and homemade soups. The award-winning chef has acquired a pasta machine that can put out 30 lbs. of fresh pasta an hour, in all sorts of shapes and creative flavors. Cameron sells the pasta to go, to other restaurants in town, and online. There's a pasta-of-the-week special for those willing to experiment. DO NOT MISS his pumpernickel pasta!
Hari celebrated his July 4th, 2015 opening with his very own Delmarva Dog: A patriotically deconstructed hot dog dish consisting of large elbow pasta bathed in creamy cheddar with little hot dog bites, pickled jalapenos, onions and a crunchy Doritos sprinkle. Of course I could not turn down this holiday hybrid between mac ‘n' cheese and a hot dog, so I said, “Chef, bring it on!” I was able to watch the entire process from start to finish. Hari, Orion or one of their loyal minions start by selecting the proper pasta from a cluster of sterile containers. A few handsful are plopped into the serving bowl and then placed in a small basket (like a fryer basket, but much smaller). The basket is submerged in boiling water and the fresh pasta cooks very quickly. I really love the “tooth” he has managed to achieve from these pastas; it is satisfying on so many levels.
The Delmarva Dog then goes into construction phase. A tall drizzle of creamy cheddar is ladled onto the hot pasta; cascading over the big al dente elbows like a National Geographic waterfall in slow motion. The dogs are applied along with the onions and big pickled jalapenos (optional, of course. Are you a wimp? I'll take yours, thank you). A bit more cheese is added (this is not a bad thing) and the bowl is topped with a dusting of crushed Doritos. The entire dish is put under a broiler just long enough to crisp the outer edges of the cheese and to color the Doritos, and it's served with a couple of napkins and a plastic fork. Pop a clear plastic top onto the bowl and you have the perfect carryout. Want a snack? Get a small one for $6. Moderately hungry? Get a bit more for $9. You're a fresser? Go for the $13 size. As you can see, everything at grandpa(MAC) is reasonably priced.
Lettuce eat better butter lettuce.1/14 Grandpa(MAC) downtown RB2/14 Grandpa(MAC) downtown RB3/14 Grandpa(MAC) downtown RB4/14 We call this Cheese Porn5/14 The Delmarva Dog: Seared cheese and Doritos. Life is good.6/14 Step #1: Dish up that fresh pasta.7/14 Enrobed in a steamy cloud, Hari explains the process.8/14 Steamy pasta baskets waiting for your choice9/14 Grandpa and the elbows10/14 That's gotta be grandpa…11/14 A classy finishing touch12/14 The Deli Mac13/14 My Sweet Italian14/14
The Grandpa Mac bowl is the signature dish: A simple combo of small elbow pasta (lovingly scooped from yet another plastic drum) and a 5-cheese sauce mixed with bread crumbs. Perfect for carbo-loading on the run, and extremely wallet friendly for $5/$8/$12. My Sweet Italian is another front runner with orecchiette pasta (little curved bits of pasta – orecchiette means “little ear” in Italian), sweet Italian sausage, gooey mozzarella, garlic, kale, red pepper and parmesan. Of course, the addition of the kale makes it into a salad, so it's even healthier than you might have expected. I mentioned the pumpernickel pasta above, and keep your fingers crossed that Hari has a batch in stock. Then there is the Deli Mac: This reuben-in-layers starts with pasta, then warm pastrami, sauerkraut, gruyere, Dijon mustard, pickled mustard seeds and rye bread crumbs. Hari experimented with this dish across the street at a(MUSE.) before grandpa(MAC) opened, and the thing was wildly popular. I've never seen Facebook blow up so much over a pasta dish…or was it a reuben!?!
There are always a couple of soups on the menu, and the salad experience is delightfully DIY: (1) Choose bibb or arugula. (2) Dress it accordingly (there are 7 choices, including sweet onion poppy and tofu cashew caesar (!). (3) Add what Hari and Orion call “the good stuff” – 16 choices, including delights such as pine nuts, tarragon and peas. Feeling carnivorous? Then step (4) is in order: Choose from bacon, buffalo chicken, Italian sausage, chicken, crab (or tofu for the less meaty eater). All that for only $8. Leave it to Hari to come up with something entirely new, unusual and easy on your bank account.
The entrepreneurial spirit of DIY continues as you build your very own pasta bowl; choosing from six types of pasta, 6 kinds of sauces (including pork ragout and vegan cheese!), 8 kinds of cheese, 9 choices of meat and the same “good stuff” listed above. Crunchy and/or spicy toppings include those decadent Doritos, almonds, Old Bay and basil, just to name a few.
These bowls are perfect for picking up and consuming at the beach, taking home after a busy day amassing Ski Ball tickets at Funland, or just nibbling at the little counter along the wall. There's even an artistic rendering of Grandpa Mac (the real one) on the wall. And of course, there is a special little Cameron touch on the side of each pasta bowl. Check out the gallery to find out what that might be. Those Cameron boys are first class all the way.
Grandpa(MAC) is open from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. seven days in season. Off season? Call to make sure: 302-727-5509. Follow Grandpa(MAC) on Facebook.
Click here to listen to Hari Cameron on Sip & Bite with the Rehoboth Foodie.