I'm really going way out on a limb here, but I think Joplin's new MacCheesy restaurant, which will open in mid-September, could be a breakthrough concept.
That's a bold statement about something I have not even tried yet, but let's just say this thing has been cooking for a while, and the time for the roll-out has arrived. First, you have to begin with the premise that mac and cheese, when properly prepared, is one of the premier comfort foods. It's simple and tasty. The thing about mac and cheese is that it's hard to stop eating it once you have started. You start out with three or four tablespoons of it, then it's half the bowl, and then it just disappears.
Now, imagine taking your common mac and cheese to a higher level. That's been the objective of Sherif Magd, a Joplin resident who hails from Brooklyn, New York. For the past six to seven months, Magd has been experimenting in his kitchen "manipulating the flavors" to maximize your mac and cheese experience. In the process, he's gained about 15 pounds, but he's managed to create variations of mac and cheese that will taste like pizza, or a cheeseburger or the combined flavors of chicken, bacon and ranch. You will be able to build your own customized variation of mac and cheese based on a list of available ingredients.
"It's taken a lot of time to get all of the things down and the right amounts of everything," he said. "Our mac and cheese will be cooked in cast-iron skillets so that it will have that golden-brown flavor. We'll use cornbread, bread crumbs and even shoestring potatoes to enhance the flavors of the ingredients."
The cast-iron skillets will come in two sizes — regular and large. The large version will contain about four cups of ingredients, which should be enough to feed two or three people. You also will be able to order your mac and cheese to go. You'll take it away in something like a pizza box. The shop will have a small refrigerator in which variations of mac and cheese have been prepared for "take and bake.'' To check out the menu, visit mymaccheesy.com. Magd plans to offer online ordering and delivery.
The ovens in which the mac and cheese will be baked cost about $15,000 each. Instead of baking for 20 to 30 minutes, these ovens will get the job done in less than two minutes, which puts this restaurant in the fast-casual segment. You will place your order at a counter. You will be given a number, and the food will be delivered to your table inside or to an area outside where some seating has been created.
Magd will be hiring soon. You can apply via MacCheesy's Facebook page.
"We want people to join our team who are excited about the idea," he said, noting that friendly customer service and product consistency are two of his primary goals. "We want someone to acknowledge you the moment you walk through the door."
The restaurant, in Bayberry Square, 116 N. Range Line Road, is directly west of the main entrance to Northpark Mall. The restaurant will have a soft opening for family and friends before opening to the public.
New mall storefront
Deal Depot, a discount store with all kinds of clothing, baby stuff, home decor and even some furniture, had a soft opening on Aug. 19 in Northpark Mall. The place is across from Shoe Depot and near the Macy's men's and women's store.
A store manager said all of the store's clothing is $9.99 or less, or 50 percent off the lowest tag.
Deal Depot started in Springdale, Arkansas. The Joplin store is the second for the company, which plans to open two more stores in other cities.