What do you crave when times get tough?
Comfort food, of course. And if that comfort food happens to be mac and cheese, all the better.
At least, that’s what Jason and Michele Whipland, the husband-and-wife duo behind Mix N Mac think. And they’ve opened a new, second restaurant in Wappingers Falls to prove it.
Prior to opening the original Mix N Mac in Middletown, Jason Whipland, who boasts an extensive culinary background at high-end restaurants and national brands like P.F. Changs, always sought to do something different.
“I’ve worked in, probably 34 restaurants in my career, and I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t,” he says. “We’re laid-back, we make comfort food to keep people fed through these times.”
The Whiplands have been doing exactly that for more than nine years in Middletown. The pair met in a restaurant — where else? — and both shared a passion for food and a desire to give people something that would make them smile.
“We met at our favorite restaurant, and there was an instant connection,” Michele remembers. “On our first date, we said, ‘We’re going to open a restaurant together someday.’ And we’ve been together for almost 20 years.”
They talked about different concepts for bars and restaurants over the years in the way that artists brainstorm their next big project. Something unique and something beloved was the aim. When they had their first child, the inspiration came quickly. Knowing that children love mac and cheese and adults who seek comfort from nostalgia also love mac and cheese, the pair went to work on a plethora of crazy combinations.
As for how they come up with their off-the-wall flavors, Michele and Jason look at everything they eat and ask, “Can we turn that into a mac and cheese?” The answer is almost always a resounding yes.
At the original Mix N Mac location in Middletown, diners can choose from over 35 different kinds of fresh mac and cheese, with an option for every occasion. Mac for breakfast? Fried eggs, ham, bacon, caramelized onions, potato sticks, and a heap of American cheddar work. Are you a fan of Big Macs? Try the Big Mic, which comes chock-full of ground beef, pickles, onions, and a homemade special sauce. As if that wasn’t enough, Mix N Mac also makes a Reuben Mac, a Chicken Marsala Mac, a Lobster Alfredo Mac, and even a deconstructed nacho mac and cheese.
A “Mac of the Month” program allows the Whiplands to experiment even further. When a special works well, it may even make it onto the menu permanently.
“Think about chicken and waffles. You get this delicious maple glaze over grilled chicken in a mac, then you’re getting a fresh waffle with melted smoked gouda and mozzarella over top of that, and then a sweet drizzle with crumbled bacon,” Michele explains of one such creation.
For Hudson Valley visitors with allergies, any combination at the restaurant can be made with gluten-free rice noodles. Mix N Mac also features deep-fried mac and cheese balls, homemade desserts, and a delicious cold mac salad.
Mix N Mac has been a favorite in the Hudson Valley from the start. The Whiplands have earned numerous awards, including a Best of Hudson Valley Award for Best Mac ‘n’ Cheese in 2020.
Regular patrons would routinely drive over an hour to try the most unique mac and cheese they had ever eaten — until next time. Eventually, Jason and Michele knew a move to the east side of the Hudson River was imminent.
When Wappingers Falls got a Starbucks with a drive-through location, the landlord invited the Whiplands to set up shop in the village. According to the couple, the added traffic of commuters looking for coffee is an extremely helpful awareness boost. People honk and wave at the future Mix N Mac spot from their cars, excited to get their hands on a fresh bowl.
Although the pandemic delayed the opening, which was originally scheduled for summer 2020, the growing hype made a “soft open” realistic for December. By January, this delightfully different comfort food location is up and running for pickup only.
Plus, because a new restaurant isn’t exciting enough, the Whiplands added to the celebration with a special appearance by Jason Whipland on Chopped on the Food Network show’s November 24 episode.
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“I’m a competitive person. I’ll get out there and give it my best,” Jason says. “It was breathtaking to watch the operation, and to compete with the other chefs.”
Jason’s appearance is a part of Food Network Chopped‘s comfort food series, which consists of burgers, bacons, pizzas, and, of course, mac and cheese. The shoot took place over a 14-hour day, with added regulations due to health safety. He battled among 18 chefs for a position to compete again, all while giving viewers something familiar and fun.
“I think that was their objective at Chopped, to keep things fun and give America some hope,” Jason said.
In a way, there’s been no better timing for Jason’s episode(s) to air, and no better timing for the couple to bring their feel-good food to Wappingers.
Mix N Mac
1557 Route 9, Wappingers Falls