Restaurant scene: Tennessee’s first I Heart Mac & Cheese is coming to Hixson

Contributed Photo / I Heart Mac & Cheese's lobster and white truffle mac & cheese bowl is pictured.

Do you want to eat free macaroni and cheese for a year?

It's possible, if you're one of the first 10 paying customers at the grand opening of I Heart Mac & Cheese. The Boca Raton, Florida-based franchise will open a location in Hixson, the first in the state of Tennessee.

Macaroni and cheese is beloved and unquestionably a staple of the soul food cuisine I grew up eating and still love. This is why when I heard about I Heart Mac & Cheese, I was overwhelmed with glee and my mind started to wonder about all sorts things: Would the cheese be Gouda, pepper jack or sharp cheddar? Or all three? Would the pasta be the standard elbow or would I Heart get adventurous and go with the swirly rotini, or my favorite, the shell formally known as conchiglie? Would it be topped with breadcrumbs and baked in the oven or moreso the saucier variety that Velveeta popularized? Whatever the verdict is, I'm ready.

I Heart Mac & Cheese

What: Grand opening.

When: 11 a.m. Monday,

Where: 5513 Highway 153, Suite 109, Hixson.

What is it: Fast casual dining specializing in custom macaroni and cheese bowls, grilled cheese sandwiches along with desserts like cheesecake bites. Prices range from $17.95 for lobster & white truffle mac & cheese bowl to $9.75 for the Cuban grilled cheese sandwich.

When CEO, founder and President Steve Giordanella teamed up with chef Michael Blum in 2017, they envisioned a fast-casual concept where they can fully customize bowls of cavatappi pasta, tater tots, quinoa or a broccoli/cauliflower medley with various proteins, vegetables and cheeses.

For the indecisive eater, I Heart offers creative signature bowls like lobster & white truffle mac & cheese, short rib Philly mac & cheese and Buffalo blue mac & cheese (complete with carrots and celery). If you're not in the mood for macaroni and cheese, I Heart offers grilled cheese sandwiches that are a few notches above what we grew up eating at home or in elementary school. They can also be customized to your liking.

The Hixson location will be locally owned and operated by Kyle and Kris Waters.

"I was the area director for Panera Bread since 2004, and that's when I fell in love with the area that our first location will be in," Kyle Waters said by phone. "Our mission is to really support and be a part of the community."

The Waters brothers also have plans on expanding I Heart Mac & Cheese into Chattanooga sometime in 2024.

And don't worry, even if you are not one of the first 10 paying customers, the first 100 customers will get various prizes and swag giveaways if and when they download the I Heart Mac & Cheese app on their phone.

Contact Andre James at [email protected] or 423-757-6327.

  photo  Andre James