FAIRFIELD, Conn.− Robert Dunn uses many different nicknames for his restaurant’s signature dish. “Comfort food” and “American classic” are just two. But when Macdaddy’s Macaroni and Cheese Bar opens its Fairfield location on Black Rock Turnpike on May 15, just don’t call it “fast food.”
“It’s right in between,” Dunn says. “We take a few extra minutes, but we make it that much better.”
Dunn comes from what he calls a “foodie family.” His mother was more likely to cook up lobster Thermidor for her kids than hamburgers and hot dogs.
He followed her into the gourmet food world, spending 29 years in fine dining before starting his latest venture. He held on to some of his high-end instincts when designing Macdaddy’s menu.
“I thought, ‘I don’t have to just have simple mac and cheese,’” Dunn says. “I could just go nuts with it.”
His first personal test was to take a mushroom-infused risotto and twist it into a macaroni and cheese dish. Today, you can grab a “mac mushroom” at his restaurant, which takes macaroni and adds crimini and shiitake mushrooms, baked with a porcini emulsion and manchego cheese, and topped with truffle oil.
Other recipes are more simple. The “mac doggy,” for instance, takes sliced hot dogs and mixes them with macaroni and cheddar. The “mac attack” does the same with chili in place of the franks. In total, Dunn has devised 25 different variations.
After a trial period in Georgetown, Dunn opened his first permanent Macdaddy’s in Monroe last July. Fairfield will host the brand’s first franchise, followed by an opening on the Post Road in Milford in June. The company has also worked out a deal to open 10 franchises in Texas as well.
But Dunn already has bigger dreams for what he says is his “newborn baby.” He envisions opening quick-serve, limited-menu branches at airports and other travel spots, with the first planned for Darien’s rest stop on Interstate 95. He also pictures marketing a frozen version to sell in supermarkets.
“It’s my goal to see Macdaddy’s grow across the entire country, to be the best macaroni and cheese eatery in the world,” Dunn says. “I don’t feel cocky or arrogant to say that I’m the best at this mac and cheese game.”