July 13, 2014

MACS opens at Prairie Lakes

Sun Prairie Star

Nick Morse was a little stressed in early June — and it wasn’t because he was about to open his second MACS location in Wisconsin at Prairie Lakes in Sun Prairie. It was because the Travel Channel and Fox Sports were scheduled to be at his Wisconsin Dells location to film — on back to back days.

 

“It’s a show called Food Paradise,” Morse said, referring to the Travel Channel crew filming nearby. “One episode, they’ll concentrate on one type of food — pizza or steak . . . they’re doing one on macaroni and cheese and they were just kind of doing a search and we were on the top of the list. They liked our special — our chili mac — representing Wisconsin and Wisconsin cheese and just kind of the brand and the theme of the whole thing.”

 

Oh yeah — and there was a major food festival going on in downtown Wisconsin Dells, too.

MACS — the acronym stands for Macaroni and Cheese Shop — opened its second location in Sun Prairie in mid-June and had its grand opening on June 23.

 

“We’re really excited about being in the new development . . . I know a lot of people from the area and I hear nothing but good things about Sun Prairie,” Morse said in the interview at his Dells location. He said he’s heard Sun Prairie is a growing community but still small enough to feel close-knit — all of which is appealing to a retailer with less than a year in business.

 

That’s right — Morse and his wife, Jackie, opened two restaurants in a year (the first one opened June 16, 2013). “We’re very confident in the area and very excited to be here,” Morse added.

 

The traffic counts at Prairie Lakes — combined with tenants already under construction — appealed to Morse being in a Dells location that relied a lot on seasonal traffic.

 

“There’s still a lot of opportunity for other retail to be developed,” Morse said.

 

He also pointed out that one of their Dells neighbors — Monk’s — will also be their neighbors in Sun Prairie. Morse said he believed the reason both had chosen Sun Prairie was because of the familiarity people in the Dells have with the Madison area, and in particular, with Sun Prairie.

 

And with other restaurants such as Rocky Rococo and Which Wich located nearby, Morse said he believed it was good to offer more competition for the would-be diner’s dollar.

 

“Good competitors bring the best out in you,” Morse said. “It really forces you to up your game, and the competitors out there are going to force you to do the same.”

 

The Sun Prairie location is about 400 square feet smaller than the Dells location, but offers the same menu. Using about 12 macaroni and cheese dishes as the basis for the menu, MACS also offers six “melts” — variations on classic grilled cheese sandwiches — and wedge salads in addition to desserts. There’s even a kids menu with a PB&J.

 

“We’ll run specialty macs — like for instance today we have a chili mac — that’s not on the everyday menu,” Morse said. “We’ve done like philly cheese steak, Hawaiian, beef stroganoff — just all different kinds of combinations.”

 

What’s the most popular mac and cheese at MACS? “Our chicken bacon ranch and our loaded baked potato,” Morse replied without hesitation. The chicken bacon ranch features cheddar, mozzarella, chicken, bacon and ranch. The loaded baked potato mac includes cheddar, mozzarella, baked potato, bacon, sour cream, and chives.

 

Most macs are available in two sizes — regular and Mac Daddy — but the loaded baked potato appears on the menu with only one size — the Mac Daddy at $9.75.

 

Customers order at the counter and get their drinks. A MACS staffer will give them a number and bring their food order to the table. “The whole process takes between five and 10 minutes,” Morse said. “The service model is very similar to like a Culver’s . . . it’s fast casual. It’s the happy medium. It’s definitely not sit-down, but it’s also not sit-down where you’re going to have to be there for an hour and have to tip a waitress or waiter. We really get the people in and out as fast as we can to accommodate their schedule.

 

“We’re really hoping for a good lunch crowd with all the businesses in the area,” Morse confessed. “But at the same time, especially with outdoor seating, we’ll have people who will stay and chat with each other for an hour or so. Either way, it’s fine with us.”

 

With Wisconsin being the dairy state, and cheese being part of the restaurant’s name, MACS purchases most of its cheese from Wisconsin farmers or a Wisconsin connection. “Being so new, we like to experiment as much as we can, so we’re always looking for the newest cheese from different local cheese makers. We rotate as much as we can but we try to keep as much as we can from Wisconsin.”

 

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