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Farmington to get first I Heart Mac & Cheese restaurant in New Mexico


The franchise owners hope to open in Winter this year

FARMINGTON — A new quick serve restaurant is coming to Farmington that focuses on elevating the macaroni and cheese side dish into the main entrée. It will be company’s first location in New Mexico.

The I Heart Mac & Cheese fast casual restaurant is scheduled to open in the winter of 2021 at 4903 E. Main St, Unit B in Farmington, according to Co-Owner Autumn Santangelo.

The site is where a QDOBA restaurant used to operate in the Four Corners Marketplace, next door to a Wendy’s restaurant.

Autumn and her husband, Kyle Santangelo, visited a franchise location in Florida and decided to open up a location in Farmington.

This is the first restaurant the couple will operate, Autumn told The Daily Times.

“We saw this opportunity and we decided this would be a fun concept for Farmington, Autumn Santangelo said. “So, we looked into it, and we went for it.”

The co-owners believe the I Heart Mac & Cheese restaurants bring an enjoyable, fast and casual restaurant experience that is fun for families to visit and has something for everyone on the menu.

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“What's not fun about mac and cheese, and grilled cheese?" Autumn Santangelo said.

Matthew Pappas, director of marketing for I Heart Mac & Cheese corporate, told The Daily Times the company specializes in build your own macaroni and cheese bowls, salads and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Customers select their own salad, pasta or bread base then select items like vegetables, sauce, proteins and cheeses to add to their order. There are vegan and gluten-free options customers can use to build their own mac bowl or grilled cheese sandwich.

"Our whole mission is to transform the side dish of mac and cheese into the actual meal,” Pappas said.  “We have great proteins like short rib, meatball, pepperoni, ham and then of course there are vegan options.”

Customers can also select from signature bowl and grilled cheese recipes including a Buffalo Blue bowl which contains crispy chicken, buffalo sauce, blue cheese, celery and carrots.

For Autumn, the Best of Both Worlds grilled cheese was one of her personal favorites. The sandwich is on sourdough bread with macaroni and cheese, barbecue sauce, white cheddar cheese, short ribs and cheddar cheese.

The Santangelo’s hope to open the restaurant in the winter, as the construction permits are still awaiting approval. Renovating the space with a contractor could take a little longer than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Autumn somewhat appreciated the slow down as it gives the couple time to focus and  learn about opening a business.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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