Name of restaurant: Mac-O-Licious in Valley Village
Chef/Owner: Kelly Chapman, a singer-songwriter from Cleveland, grew up cooking Southern food with both of her grandmothers. She perfected her mac and cheese recipe with the help of her mom, Wilma. An avid philanthropist (and former Microsoft employee), she founded Kelly Chapman Ministries Mobile Pantry, which feeds single mothers, battered women and low-income families.
Concept: A restaurant devoted to the glory of mac and cheese. Chapman originally ran Mac-O-Licious out of a food truck, and then switched to farmers' markets after several truck breakdowns and equipment failures.
She spotted the Valley Village restaurant location after being rejected on CNBC's "Restaurant Startup" (which co-stars Mozza partner Joe Bastianich). Kelly noted, "It was an amazing experience and the show has been very insightful about the realities of trying to make business decisions: menu selections, pricing and, of course, designing a new location."
With support from friends, family and the Valley Economic Development Center (which gave her a loan), Chapman finally opened her dream restaurant last month.
The Mac-O-Licious menu offers 10 mac and cheese options, plus "mac flights" (choose three) if you can't decide on just one. A few of the many toppings include bacon (of course), hot dogs, cornbread, black truffle and fiery ghost pepper.
The restaurant décor is fresh and whimsical with macaroni-covered lampshades, faux grass and family photos on display. Oversized macaroni handles even crown the bathroom sink.
What dish represents the restaurant, and why? The 5-Cheese Mac is baked with Asiago, Fontina, Gruyere, Parmesan and Cheddar and topped with bread crumbs. It's hearty, rich and you won't want to share.
Runner-up: The luxurious Crab and Bacon Fried Mac Pops are fun to eat, and a pint-size version is available in the kids meal.
Still hungry? There's plenty of meat on the menu, including grilled chicken, roast beef and spicy pork sausage. Healthier options include salads and grilled veggies but come on, it's all about the mac and cheese!
Who's at the next table? A toddler on a lunch date with dad, plus a large group of friends near the counter. The place is packed by 12:30 p.m.
Appropriate for...: Everyone. There are vegetarian and gluten-free offerings as well.
Uh-oh...: An icy PBR would've been a perfect companion to the classic macs -- but alas, no wine or beer.
Service: Incredibly friendly.
What are you drinking? Refreshing cranberry mango punch.