Photographer / Amy Payne
I Heart Mac & Cheese certainly brings a “cheesy” fast-casual dining experience to Westfield.
Owned by Matt Griffin and his wife Elizabeth, the restaurant is dedicated to providing customers with a multitude of delicious macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese combinations. Due to the eatery’s many ingredient options, everyone in the family, including the most health conscious or pickiest of eaters, will find something they love.
For the Griffins, opening the restaurant at the beginning of June was the result of a year’s worth of planning. Matt Griffin, a Noblesville policeman, discovered the franchise opportunity while he was attending training in Evansville. Elizabeth was retiring from the Westfield Police Department and the couple was looking for a business opportunity.
“A bunch of us from the police department training went to the Evansville I Heart Mac & Cheese, since who doesn’t like mac and cheese?” Griffin says. “It is a top-rated restaurant and I was impressed. It is based in Florida with locations in several states. Elizabeth and I flew down there in July 2019 to start the process of owning a franchise.”
Like many fellow business owners, the coronavirus outbreak was an unexpected hurdle in the couple’s opening plans.
“We started the buildout in mid-March and didn’t know if we should continue with our plans,” Griffin says. “We prayed about it and pushed on. We’re so happy that we did. We were able to open in June and customers have had nothing but happy comments.”
Visitors to the restaurant can choose from a list of suggested favorites, or customize their own bowl or grilled cheese sandwich. If customers opt to build their own, the ingredients range from ultra-healthy to indulgent. Dairy-free, vegetarian and gluten-free diets can be accommodated, since vegan meat and vegan cheese sauce is available.
Diners have plenty of choices. Bases are pasta, broccoli, cauliflower, quinoa or tater tots. Sauces include cheese, marinara, buffalo, barbecue, mojo, pesto, ranch, sesame ginger and mango habanero. The third step in ordering involves deciding what chopped vegetables to add, and the fourth is choosing a protein such as ham, chicken, meatballs and pulled pork. Finally, dishes are finished off with a sprinkle of a variety of cheeses.
If building a custom bowl or grilled cheese sandwich seems like too many decisions, signature chef’s specials are always on the menu. They include Baked Buffalo Chicken with celery and bleu cheese, and the Cuban, consisting of mojo marinated pork, ham and Swiss cheese. Other options include Philly Cheese Steak, Chicken or Meatball Parmesan, Pepperoni Pizza, and All-American Bacon Cheeseburger.
“Kids love our grilled cheese,” Griffin says. “The Best of Both Worlds is made from nice, thick sourdough bread with a mac and cheese, and slow-cooked short rib filling. Our Lobster and White Truffle Mac is even better than what I’ve had in fancy restaurants – it’s really good stuff.”
The restaurant also has a catering menu for large portions. Varieties of mac bite appetizers such as buffalo, lobster or pepperoni flavors are available. Entrees include a build-your-own tray, classic mac and cheese, and chicken parmesan. There are vegan options to choose from, including vegan cheese and plant-based proteins. Also available are sides such as cheesy broccoli and loaded tater tots. To finish it all off, a tray of the restaurant’s famous chocolate chip cookies is a must.
Delivery of I Heart Mac & Cheese menu items is available from four companies. Customers can use the services of Grubhub, Uber Eats, DoorDash and Postmates. Each company’s services can be accessed online and, similar to the brick-and-mortar restaurant, all choices are moderately priced. Popular items ordered are Build Your Own bowls and the Build Your Own grilled cheese sandwiches. Many customers opt for the Best of Both Worlds sandwich and tomato soup for dipping.
As a police officer, Griffin feels his goal is to have a positive impact on the local community, and perhaps make a meaningful change. This held true during the restaurant’s grand opening celebration in June. The owners donated 10% of all proceeds to the Westfield Youth Assistance Program.
“We chose Westfield for our restaurant because it’s a true community, with residents where a lot of people know each other,” Griffin says. “The location is great – it checked off all the boxes we wanted, and it’s a growing community. Elizabeth was a police officer here for 18 years so we feel we know the community well, and the chamber of commerce was really supportive.”
I Heart Mac & Cheese is located at 637 East State Highway 32 in Westfield. For more info, call 317-804-5785 and visit iheartmacandcheese.com.