Gut Check had a chance to speak with Bill Courtney
, the owner and chef of Cheese-ology
, a new Delmar Loop restaurant devoted to mac & cheese. Courtney projects an early June opening at 6602 Delmar Boulevard (the former St. Louis Pizza Haus location).
Cheese-ology is the first restaurant venture for Courtney, who last August voluntarily left his position as a medical researcher at Washington University after fourteen years to, in his words, "try something new."
After a few months, he says, "My wife came up with this brilliant idea: Why don't you cook macaroni?"
"I've been experimenting with [mac & cheese] recipes for years," Courtney explains. "Whenever my wife's out of town, that's what I make."
He adds, "I had been really amazed by the two mac & cheese restaurants in New York City and fell in love with the concept."
The restaurant's Delmar Loop location is a key part of that concept, thanks to its proximity to Wash U and its hungry students: "I always kept a box of Kraft next to the microwave in college. It was a great quick meal if I needed one. [Also,] the incredible eclectic nature of the Loop drew me in. I absolutely fell in love with the place."
Courtney sent along a prototype menu, which includes mac & cheese versions both basic (American and cheddar cheeses) and not (the "Santa Fe, with Chihuahua and Monterey jack cheese, chicken and a black bean and corn salsa). There is a four-cheese variation with provolone, Gruyère, Muenster and goat cheese and the "Bacon Bacon," with Gruyère, mozzarella and a hefty dose of either thick-cut bacon or pancetta (Courtney hasn't decided which.)
"I actually had a woman on Facebook threaten to picket me in a pig suit if I didn't have a bacon one," notes Courtney.
Cheese-ology will offer three sizes, with the prices still to be determined: small (likely $7-$10), large (literally double the size of the small, likely $13-$17) and a "flight" of three different mac & cheese styles, which would add up to the size of a small.
As for the eternal mac & cheese -- bread crumbs or no? -- Courtney is ecumenical: "I was raised in New England, where most people make mac & cheese in a pot. Most people in the south, make mac & cheese as a casserole, and bread crumbs have to be on it.
"We are offering bread crumbs to anyone who wants them on top."