ROGERS PARK — Rogers Park's new make-your-own macaroni joint opened to an "overwhelming" amount of fanfare during its debut over the weekend — so much so it's now expanding to include a dine-in seating areas, owners told DNAinfo Tuesday.
After DNAinfo first reported on Midnight Mac and Cheeserie, 6979 N. Sheridan Road, owner Antony van Zyl said he began preparing for a busy opening weekend, but did not anticipate that would include 30-40 online pre-orders or a steady line down the block that began before the diner even opened.
"It has been wonderful, people have been so friendly, so understanding," van Zyl said. "We expected we'd be a little bit busy because it was opening weekend, but we did not expect a line waiting ... and that's just the way we started the evening."
By 6:30 p.m., just 2½ hours later, the restaurant had no more food left, van Zyl said.
"We opened last Friday to an overwhelming response, I think would be the best way to put it," van Zyl said with a chuckle. "We literally sold out in about 2½ hours — of everything we had."
The next day, van Zyl readied his store by quadrupling his inventory, but that only stretched his supplies until 7 p.m. Ideally, the restaurant is set to stay open until 2 a.m. (or midnight on Sundays).
By Sunday, van Zyl had made his goal of fulfilling orders until midnight, though he had to turn off online ordering to do so. By closing time, he'd gone through 200 pounds of gooey, cheesy pasta, four chocolate cakes and a case of lobster tails.
His biggest seller: Antonia's Decadent Lobster, a house specialty that mixes Gruyere cheese, lobster, roasted garlic and crunchy bread crumbs.
"It's been phenomenal, it's been absolutely incredible," the restaurateur said.
Having heard his customers — some of whom traveled from as far away as suburban Naperville — loud and clear, van Zyl said he's more than doubling his staff and taking Monday through Thursday off this week to restock and add a dining room.
His current storefront will now be used for pick-ups and deliveries, while customers who prefer to sit down and eat can use tables and a counter in the adjacent storefront, which will be a breakfast cafe called Nibbles and Nosh during the day.
Additional space and the option to dine-in were requests made throughout opening weekend from customers, he said.
"We'd been told by a number of people before we opened, 'If you want to succeed here, listen to Rogers Park, listen to what they want,'" the owner said. "And boy did people want a place to sit and eat."
Despite having to close early, van Zyl said he was grateful for the overwhelming response from the community and his customers. He especially thanked those who weren't able to place orders for their understanding.
Overall, the owner said he was humbled by the support of his diners and is hopes to continue to live up to expectations.
"We couldn't ask for a nicer welcome to the neighborhood," van Zyl said. "I'm so glad we chose Rogers Park."