Wes Hennings never met a meal he walked away from and is an opinionated eater! Each Thursday, he shares the results of a business lunch he’s had with a colleague as a way to advise our business community on the good, bad, and the tasty across the CSRA. He doesn’t let ABD or the restaurant know where he is going and his opinions are his own. He grades the restaurants he visits on a 1-5 scale with “5” being outstanding. We call this our “Real Business Lunch Review”.
Food Quality: 3
Business Meeting: 2
Average Score: 3 out of 5
Let’s be clear. I love mac and cheese. It’s arguably the best side dish. If it’s an option at any restaurant to choose your side, it will likely be my choice. The best mac and cheese is clearly the casserole type you find at Thanksgiving, but I also love the cheap stuff in the blue box. My mother also made shells and cheese throughout my childhood, so those also hold a spot that is dear to me.
When a restaurant opened devoted to the love of mac and cheese, I was intrigued. It seems like an odd business model, but it’s a chain throughout the U.S., so something is working. Granted, it took me a few years to try out the I Heart Mac and Cheese restaurant, but I figured what wouldn’t be to like about it. And I found out. To put it mildly, my love of this establishment does not live up to my love of the noodles covered in cheese.
The first sign should have been that the restaurant was completely deserted at the end of the lunch hour. Not one other soul-hearted mac and cheese during my visit. It’s one of the types of restaurants that pop up everywhere now for you to go down the line and pick what you want, with toppings either placed on macaroni or inside a grilled cheese.
My first jolt was seeing that basically, every bowl of mac and cheese with some type of meat, cheese sauce, and a few add-ins cost $14. Yes. Fourteen. Let’s remember the blue boxes are typically around a buck.
This made me assume I was about to partake in some incredible food, to be so highly valued. (In fact, if you want the lobster bowl, it’s closer to $25.) I was back and forth between the chicken parm or the short rib Philly, but was suggested the Philly and went that route. It contained nice spiral macaroni noodles, cheese, short rib meat, and some onions and mushrooms. I added on a drink and ended up dishing out about $20 for a bowl of macaroni and cheese and something to wash it down.
It took a bit of time for the ingredients to be heated and then served to me in their heart-shaped dish, but not so long as to be upsetting. So now, I have my gourmet mac bowl in front of me prepared to enjoy a feast. Sadly, I didn’t.
The flavor simply wasn’t there. The best word I can come up with for the dish is bland, which at the price point is a sad reality. Perhaps, the cheese just didn’t pack enough flavor, or the meat didn’t work hard enough to make a statement in the dish. But the taste just wasn’t there to make for a good meal or a good recommendation from this frequent comfort meal eater.
The staff was nice enough, and the accommodations pleasing, but the food and price, along with the atmosphere of a quick casual chain, means I can’t recommend it for a business lunch. I also would give it a pass for everyday diners as well. I hate to say it, but I did not heart I Heart Mac and Cheese. Just open the blue box and I’ll be a happy camper.
I Heart Mac and Cheese
826 Cabela Dr. Suite 5