The people of College Station escaped the chilly weather and found comfort in the epitome of comfort food at the grand opening of I Heart Mac & Cheese.
The restaurant held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Jan. 29 at 11 a.m. This Florida-founded franchise opened a location at Jones Crossing on Wellborn Road and plans to expand into Century Square in May.
Franchise owner TJ Doyel said mac and cheese is emblematic of the warmth and communal drive behind his restaurant.
“I want people to know that we are happy to support the community,” Doyel said. “Aggieland is so in-tune with its surroundings, that I think it’s rewarding and obligatory to be a part of. It’s a great place for business and an inviting community. What college kid doesn’t love mac and cheese? What person in general doesn’t love mac and cheese?”
While Doyel said he remains steadfast in his argument in favor of this cheesy creation’s universal deliciousness, he reconciles the nutrition factor. According to Open Data Network, the adult population of Brazos County is 27.6 percent obese. However, Doyel said I Heart Mac & Cheese accommodates for any dietary need.
“A lot of our bowls are in the 700-calorie range,” Doyel said. “Compared to our competitors, this intake is not unreasonable. Generally, you think of mac and cheese as carb-heavy food, but the great thing about this setup is that you don’t have to start with a noodle base, you could start with quinoa, broccoli or cauliflower. It comes down to your choice, we can fit your nutritional need into the bowl if you choose.”
Doyel said I Heart Mac & Cheese solves the classic argument of where families or friend groups are going to eat because the restaurant offers more than the cheesy pasta dish.
“A family can come here, easily,” Doyel said. “The kids get the basic mac bowl, the mom can get a lobster truffle bowl and the dad orders his meal with a short rib. Being able to cater to any taste is really great. We are a location that a lot of people can agree on.”
Customer and local middle school student Alex Dubois said she agrees with Doyel’s theory of crowd-pleasing as her mother nodded next to her. While Dubois ordered the classic mac and cheese option, her mother started with a grilled cheese sandwich and soup. Both parties expressed approval of the dairy-filled delights.
“Mac and cheese is literally my everything, but you can get different stuff,” Dubois said. “Here, the set-up is so pretty. Once it settles down, I think this place will be so cozy.”
In all, the restaurant management prioritizes community over convenience. Doyel has faith in his market to make the decision to forego the boxed mac and cheese for I Heart Mac & Cheese’s experience.
“Of course, everybody’s got Kraft in their pantry, but the creativity of the menu is more appealing than that boxed mac and cheese,” Doyel said. “The prospect of having vegan or gluten-free options is fantastic. You can add buffalo sauce or grilled chicken to your bowl, which makes this a customizable, enjoyable experience.”