INDIANAPOLIS– A couple of years ago, a husband and wife duo who worked for decades as first responders decided to add something new to their plate: mac and cheese.
Last year, they brought Indiana’s first I Heart Mac & Cheese franchise to Westfield, where the concept of customizing your mac and cheese was a big hit for adults and kids alike. Then on January 13, they officially opened their Indy location at 910 W. 10th Street near the IU Health and IUPUI campuses downtown.
We’re digging into the Circle City’s cheesiest new addition on this trip In Your Neighborhood.
“My wife and I always wanted a restaurant,” said Central Indiana franchisee Matt Griffin. “I saw it, I took [the idea] home to her and she kind of said, ‘Another one of these ideas of yours?’”
Two weeks later, they were on a flight down to Florida to meet with corporate and visit some of the franchises in the area.
“We had the food and once we had it, we kind of had to do it. It was great,” he said. “And having 5 children, they love mac and cheese. Adults love mac and cheese. So we just went for it!”
Seriously though… who can say no to ooey gooey mac and cheese?
After all, the name is I Heart Mac & Cheese. And the options are endless when you build your own bowl.
You start by picking your base.
“[There is] Noodle, broccoli, cauliflower, quinoa, tater tot… whichever base you’d like. Then you pick your cheese,” Griffin explained.
You can also add veggies or a dozen different meat options, as well as options for various dietary needs.
“There’s gluten free, there’s vegan. There’s vegetable bases…There’s quinoa,” he said. “So we appeal to the gluten-free and vegan markets as well.”
Griffin’s personal favorite build your own bowl combo has a broccoli base paired with jalapeno, mushroom and short rib.
After you’ve picked the main components, even more cheese is added before they run it through a 500-degree oven.
“Then it comes out, gets more cheese, breadcrumbs and then it’s served on a tray if you’re eating here or it’s packaged to-go,” he added.
If you’re not feeling creative, there are also Chef’s Specials: pre-designed combinations like Philly cheese steak, Cuban, or chicken parmesan.
“And anything that’s listed on the grilled cheese menu can be mac and cheese and anything listed on the mac and cheese [menu] can also be a grilled cheese,” Griffin said.
But why pick just one?
“The Best of Both Worlds is a grilled cheese option but it has the noodle, short rib and cheese slices in it,” he noted. “So, it’s not only a grilled cheese but it has the mac and cheese on it as well.”
So, how does Griffin — who is in his 21st year as a police officer— balance trying to stay healthy while also owning this mac and cheese oasis?
“That’s why I do the broccoli base and not the noodle!” he said with a laugh.
You may notice this place is a pretty popular spot for first responders, which is no surprise since Griffin has made it a priority to show appreciation for his fellow community heroes from day one.
“For our soft opening, we invited police, fire, active-duty military, veterans, nurses, doctors and teachers,” he said. “Oftentimes, teachers are—I don’t want to say forgotten—but left out when it comes to that sector. That hero sector.”
Four Things You Need to Know About I Heart Mac & Cheese:
- Matt Griffin and his wife, Elizabeth, brought Indiana’s first I Heart Mac & Cheese location to Westfield last June. And they opened the new downtown location (at 910 W 10th St Suite 10 Indianapolis, Indiana 46202) in January of this year. I Heart Mac & Cheese is a fast casual style restaurant where you can build your own mac and cheese bowls or grilled cheese sandwiches. Or you select one of their pre-designed Chef’s Specials, like chicken parmesan, Cuban, lobster mac and cheese, pizza and more! They also offer tomato soup, mac and cheese bites, cookies and other tasty options.
- These mac and cheese bowls are truly customizable. They even have options for gluten-free and vegan diets. You can choose the traditional noodle base or opt for gluten-free noodles or other bases like broccoli, cauliflower, quinoa and even tater tots!
- I Heart Mac & Cheese is open every day of the week starting at 11AM. They offer delivery through Grubhub, Uber Eats, Postmates and DoorDash. They also offer catering, which has been popular for nearby businesses. “[For] Car dealerships, the big box stores and other businesses… when they cater in food it’s typically not the big half pans— which we do have—but they typically want the boxed lunches,” said Griffin. “So those are discounted for them.”
- Griffin said he and his wife have plans for opening more locations around the city in the near future. He says to stay tuned to their social media for all the exciting info and announcements on upcoming new locations.
For hours and more information about I Hear Mac & Cheese, check out their website by clicking here. To see more photos and reviews by local Yelpers, check out their Yelp profile. You can also connect on social media via Facebook and Instagram.
While downtown, check out these other local hot-spots located within a few blocks of I Heart Mac & Cheese: