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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

American Grilled Cheese Kitchen

Okay, I take it back. I know last last week I said I never order grilled cheese in restaurants! But that was before I'd made up my mind about American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in South Park, a new(ish) place that puts this classic sandwich front and center.

Initially, I had my reservations. It smelled of a gimmicky/
theme restaurant, and I didn't want to battle the long lines that Yelpers described. (Plus, there's the issue of my increasing dairy intolerance that I don't want to get into right now). But I have to say I was intrigued. There's something nostalgic, satisfying and a tad bit indulgent about this comfort-food staple. Plus, there was a twist.

There's always some kind of twist, right? Here it was all about the buzz. In the months leading up to its opening, blogs and food sites posted a bunch of articles about this place. Words like "innovative," "re-invented" and "artisanal" kept popping up as did the description "grilled cheese for adults." What exactly does that mean? It was just enough to get me to try it out.

The lines were long, as expected. But moved surprisingly fast during a weekday lunch. The menu is simple and very focussed - with 6 variations of grilled cheese as well as a few soups, salads, and specials. I counted 7 different kinds of cheese - cheddar, havarti, goat, feta, gruyere, monterey jack, and fontina.

So here's what I think makes a sandwich "adult." While the names were cute and kid-like (like the Piglet & the Mousetrap) - the ingredients were definitely elevated and for more mature tastes. My Piglet came with Tillamook cheddar, artisan-cured ham, apple mustard and rosemary butter. And my co-worker ordered a mushroom version which came with gruyere, fontina, grilled mushrooms, roasted potatoes, melted leeks, carmelized onions and thyme butter.

Also decidedly "adult" was their mac & cheese which packed a kick with jalapenos and bacon. And their smoky tomato soup which offered creme fraiche and housemade croutons.

So again, I'll take what I said back. All in all, everything here works. The sandwiches are tasty, substantial, and somehow makes you a bit happier in the process. I think that's just one of those universal qualities that grilled cheese has. Sure, I can make one at home. But for a perfectly melty grilled cheese with an elevated combination of ingredients and flavors, I'll happily return to American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, again and again.



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