If lobster and truffle mac 'n' cheese sound like a match made in heaven, you can meet your dream bowl at a new I Heart Mac & Cheese restaurant near you. The dish, prepared with Maine lobster, Muenster cheese, and scallions, is finished with a lobster cream sauce and white truffle oil, all for $17.95.
The Fort Lauderdale-based I Heart Mac & Cheese is in the midst of a South Florida expansion, debuting numerous locations across Broward and Palm Beach Counties. The fast-casual concept, whose flagship opened in 2016, specializes in made-to-order mac 'n' cheese, taking a grown-up approach to the childhood classic.
Two Broward spots — in Parkland (7867 N. University Dr.) and Pembroke Pines (15999 Pines Blvd., Suite 102) — opened in November, and a Coral Springs location (3111 N. University Dr.) launched in February. The brand plans to expand into Palm Beach County with restaurants in Boca Raton, Davie, and Jupiter in 2018. Outside the state, additional franchise locations are slated for New Jersey, Arizona, and Maryland and company-owned stores in New York and Oklahoma.
The concept is the brainchild of Michael Blum, who is credited as one of the first chefs to introduce lobster mac 'n' cheese to South Florida. He has served it since 1994, when he opened his first restaurant, Michael's Kitchen, in Hollywood. Blum later relocated to Kitchen 305 in Sunny Isles Beach, where he earned a spot in Restaurant Business' "50 Great Ideas" issue.
"We continue to be the only fast-casual build your own mac and cheese and grilled cheese concept," said Stephen Giordanella, I Heart Mac & Cheese's managing partner. "We’ve streamlined the build your own process with the most popular choices from our original selection, while still maintaining a well-varied selection."
Besides mac 'n' cheese, transform any item on the menu into a build-your-own grilled cheese sandwich. Customers choose a type of of pasta and bread, including gluten-free, along with seven types of cheeses, vegetables, and seven proteins. Jalapeños, barbecue sauce, and short rib are some of the most popular items used in customizing.
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There's also an option to select one of Blum's signature creations, like the Cuban, a mac 'n' cheese bowl containing mojo-marinated pulled pork, ham, Gruyère cheese, and dill pickles, or the Best of Both Worlds, a baked mac 'n' cheese sandwich stuffed with slow-cooked short rib, white cheddar cheese, and American cheese and finished with barbecue sauce ($7.95 to $9.95). The menu also offers tomato soup, salads, and baked chicken bites with a choice of dipping sauce ($2.95 to $5.95).
For dessert, find homemade mini chocolate chip cookies ($1.95) and frozen cheesecake pops dipped in your choice of strawberry, chocolate, or caramel sauce ($2.45).
"Bringing our twist on the old pastime mac 'n' cheese has really been a labor of love. I've loved mac 'n' cheese since I was a kid. Who doesn’t love mac 'n' cheese?" Blum says.
I Heart Mac & Cheese. 1489 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-533-4195; iheartmacandcheese.com.