Restaurant Review: MacCheesy

My grandson Dayan made a surprise trip home from college this weekend. He spent a fun day with his happy mom and step-dad, Josh. And we all made plans to meet for dinner tonight. Dayan suggested a new restaurant in Joplin, MacCheesy.

I love experiencing new places in town! It took my grandson, who lives in Columbia, Missouri now, to bring my attention to this recently opened diner. I am so glad that he did!

MacCheesy, featuring gourmet mac & cheese, is located at 116 North Range Line Road, Suite 101, Joplin, across the street from the Northpark Mall. Restaurant hours are 11:00 – 9:00 Monday through Saturday. They are closed on Sundays.

Although this restaurant offers many variations on the quintessential comfort food, mac & cheese, as one who adheres to a plant based lifestyle, and avoids dairy products and gluten, I was prepared to sip on water and visit with family while they dined. However, before meeting at MacCheesy, I checked out the online menu on their website. I was encouraged to see a “build your own” option. Dinner was on!

Greg and I met Elissa, Josh and Dayan at the restaurant. MacCheesy offers a couple of traditional mac & cheese options, and gourmet choices such as lobster mac, BBQ chicken mac, pesto chicken mac and taco mac…17 delectable selections in all. Plus, there is the build your own option, allowing for endless possibilities. The mac & cheese is available in a regular and large size, both served in cast iron skillets, and combo meals include a dessert.

Chicken bacon ranch mac

Pizza mac

Dayan sampled the chicken bacon ranch mac, while Elissa and Josh tried the pizza mac. These arrived piping hot in their skillets. The appreciative murmurs, and the speed at which these mac & cheeses disappeared indicated how good they were! There were discussions about trying the other options…and stopping by after work for carry outs.

Greg and I opted to share one of the small build your own skillets. At this time, MacCheesy does not offer gluten free pasta, however, owner Sharif Magd assured me that will soon be an option. My skillet included regular pasta, marinara sauce, mushrooms, broccoli, green peppers and onions. I omitted cheese and meat and any additional sauces or toppings.

Build your own skillet, without meat or cheese.

Our skillet arrived…and it was so good! We didn’t miss the cheese or meat at all and didn’t feel like we missed out on the experience. Sharif stopped by our table, checking to see that we were happy with what we had ordered. He offered to make us something else if we didn’t like our meal. What a generous offer. We not only loved our dinner, we appreciated his concern and personal follow up. It was with great pleasure that I turned to give Sharif a thumbs up after my first bite!

I highly recommend MacCheesy. The restaurant is clean, has ample seating, and a friendly and helpful wait staff. They are a reflection of the excellent owner. The menu offers a lot of variety, for being built around mac & cheese! And with more vegan and gluten free options coming, even plant based eaters can enjoy this specialty restaurant. Prices are extremely reasonable and the portions are perfectly sized.

I am so glad Dayan suggested MacCheesy tonight. Now that my other hand isn’t clutching a fork, I give it two thumbs up!

Aloo Masala to Go

Joplin has not had an Indian restaurant for several years. Which is a shame, because I like Indian food. So imagine my excitement to learn that a new Indian cuisine cafe had opened on West 7th Street.

Today, driving back from Kansas after lunch with my grandson Jonathan, I decided to stop by this new place and grab some lunch to go.

Driving down 7th Street, heading west from Main, I thought I could surely spot the restaurant. I was wrong! I actually drove by it twice without seeing it. The cafe, located at 1825 W 7th Street, sits back from the road, at the end of a row of businesses, and faces west.

I found it by watching my phone’s GPS and turning into the parking lot when the dot that was my car was even with the larger dot that was the cafe. For future reverence, I now know to turn right before Woody’s Pizza, if I am headed west.

The owner of the restaurant greeted me. He was friendly and helpful. I was thrilled to see a good selection of vegetarian meals on the menu. One great thing about Indian food is that there are lots of veggies used in the dishes.

I selected aloo masala for my first take away meal from this new cafe. Aloo masala is a mix of veggies including potatoes, onions, cauliflower, carrots and peas in an aromatic and spicy curry sauce. The scents within the restaurant were tantalizing, as I waited for my order! I couldn’t wait to get my lunch home.

What a savory treat it was. The rice was delicately flavored and the aloo masala, wonderfully rich with spices. The meals come with rice and naan, Indian flat bread, but I requested rice only.

There was enough food in my to go meal to split it in two, and enjoy the second helping tonight for dinner. It was just as good, reheated.

As I was leaving with my order, the owner made a request. If you enjoy your lunch, please come back, he said, with a hopeful smile.

I so enjoyed my Indian lunch. I will go back, and one by one, try all the vegetarian meals.

JJs Woodfire Pizza

I enjoy trying out a new restaurant, especially when I know the owner. This evening my mom, stepdad, sister and I checked out JJs Woodfire Pizza, located at 1612 S Madison, Suite E, Webb City. The restaurant is now under new management, by a friend of mine.

Traditional pizza is not part of my plant based lifestyle. So I was prepared to order a salad and watch my family chow down on pizza. Imagine my delight to discover that JJ’s offers gluten free crust and a “make your own pizza” option with plenty of veggies to choose from for toppings.

The restaurant is clean, bright and cheery, with ample seating. I liked the eclectic mix of tables and chairs, that includes high tops and traditional tables. For the sports minded there are tvs scattered around the perimeter of the dining area and yet the volume was set low, so if one doesn’t want to catch a game, the tvs can easily be ignored.

Tucked into a corner is a small stage equipped with sound equipment and a mic. Friday and Saturday evenings, beginning at 7:00, are karaoke nights. My sister Linda and I exchanged looks! We have discussed trying karaoke as a new experience, one that would definitely push us out of our comfort zones! This could be the place to go beyond.

Everyone in my group tried a different pizza, with three of us going with the “create your own” option. Our waitress was patient and helpful with our special requests.

Here are our yummy orders:

My stepfather Walter chose a black olive and mushroom pizza. This is a large, and he ate most of it!

Mom ordered a small mushroom and onion pizza on gluten free crust. A small is about 10″, providing plenty of pizza for one person.

Linda went with a small taco pizza, and raved about it! Look at the amount of ingredients on that pizza.

And I created my own small veggie pizza on gluten free crust, without cheese. I selected mushrooms, green peppers and black olives for my toppings, however, any veggies could be used.

While we waited for our pizzas, which appeared in a very timely manner, we signed up for JJ’s coupons and specials via text message. I had to snap a pic of my almost 90 year old stepdad figuring out how to do that, under my mom’s watchful supervision. Yes, that’s a flip phone, and I’m proud of them, that they do their best to keep up with technology!

The pizzas arrived and they were delicious! My family appreciates a thin, crispy crust and these pizzas were perfection. We enjoyed our dinners, chatting and laughing and comparing pizzas as we ate. All of us boxed up leftovers to take home and finish up tomorrow.

Two thumbs up for an authentic, woodfired pizza, made with fresh ingredients. And a heart felt thanks to my friend, for offering gluten free, dairy free, veggie options. This is my new go-to pizza restaurant. I’ll be a frequent customer.

And watch out. One night soon, my sister and I are going to do karaoke!