Following a minor delay involving infrastructure, I Heart Mac & Cheese at Jones Crossing will host its grand opening on Jan. 29 at 11 a.m.
This month’s grand opening will be the first of two I Heart Mac & Cheese establishments to break ground in College Station. The Florida-based cheesy pasta venue made news last May when the company signed a franchise agreement to develop 11 locations throughout Texas with Fidelity Enterprises LLC as a part of a larger nationwide expansion.
TJ Doyel, I Heart Mac & Cheese franchisee, is one of four owners of Fidelity Enterprises LLC, a company that purchases franchise rights for multiple markets across the state. As a 10-year resident of Bryan-College Station, Doyel said bringing the noodle chain to the community is as exciting as it is peculiar.
“Our company chose to invest in I Heart Mac & Cheese [because] we just really like the business model and think it’s a really unique concept,” Doyle said. “We think the concept of I Heart Mac & Cheese really fits a college market, and we think it will be a great addition to the area.”
The venue has been described as “a grown-up approach” to the tried-and-true childhood favorite, offering customizable macaroni and cheese bowls alongside other combinations of the classic noodle dish.
In addition to the traditional dairy-based options, I Heart Mac and Cheese also offers “lifestyle choices.” These items can replace the noodle base with sides such as quinoa, broccoli or cauliflower bowls, as well as gluten-free pasta. Including healthy alternatives on the menu transforms the I Heart Mac & Cheese concept from a snack time gimmick and into a standalone meal, Doyel said.
“The great thing about this [restaurant] is that it kind of caters to any taste,” Doyle said. “We have vegan and we have vegetarian options. It doesn’t have to be on a base of noodles. We have other options as well.”
Doyel said any of the restaurant’s signature dishes are worth taking note of, especially his personal favorite menu item, The Cuban, a bowl that includes mojo marinated pulled pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickles.
“The head chef [Michael Blum] for the corporate side of the company is incredibly creative and has come up with some really fun options that have given a neat twist on mac and cheese,” Doyle said. “When I flew out to Florida to try the food, it was crazy. They handed you the pepperoni pizza mac and cheese, one of the kid’s meal items — it’s also an adult meal item — but you taste it, and it tastes just like pepperoni pizza.”
In his former occupations on the corporate side of companies such as Raising Canes and Chipotle, Doyle said what matters most to him has and will remain his love for good food, and even better people.
“I want to be able to be a part of this community, I think it’s really important,” Doyle said. “In my previous experience in restaurants, the most rewarding part is being able to give back to the community with fundraisers and supporting events, so I think that’s what I’m most excited for. Being the one that’s able to control that, dictate the terms that we do that and be able to just support as much as we can in the community.”