Is the grilled cheese sandwich the last unexploited comfort food?
If so, the comfort genre is now depleted. The grilled cheese sandwich is following the same path as pot roast, meatloaf, and macaroni and cheese before it, becoming the darling of restaurant menus that strive to attract guests seeking sustenance from a long ago childhood. The grilled cheese sandwich has long been a staple of kids’ lunches. And it’s often the first food that children learn to “cook” for themselves, the simple assemblage of buttered bread and cheese “grilled” in a pan.
Which makes one wonder: why would anyone over the age of five would order a grilled cheese sandwich in a restaurant?
But they do, in droves, if the attraction of Toasted, a new “crafted grilled cheese & burgers” restaurant, is any indication.
Toasted is owned by Jeff Yarmuth, the former president and CEO of Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-b-q, and his daughter, Megan. The restaurant space is attractive and small. Guests line up along one cheese-sculpted wall painted a cheddary yellow and place their orders at the counter. Then they grab a seat at one of the patio tables or inside at tall-tops along the other wall, which has a fun display of the “Periodic Table of Cheese.” Orders are delivered by food runners.
The process is smooth, and the staff were all terrific -- friendly and composed, even with the longish lines during a noontime rush.
And the initial taste of my grilled cheese sandwich had the delightful tingle of butter on the bread. But I was left wondering, “Where’s the cheese?” Especially given that my selection was the one called The Big Cheese, with jack, muenster and white cheddar between the slices, along with some arugula. It didn’t seem as though there was one of those cheeses, let alone all three. I would think if one were to hawk grilled cheese sandwiches, said sandwiches would be ooey and gooey to the Nth degree. Not so. And at five and a half bucks, this has got to be one of the best food-cost items a restaurant could ever offer.
Other grilled cheese options include sandwiches with chicken, mushrooms, truffle oil, and bacon
The burger I sampled was somewhat better. I was heartened when the young woman who took my order for The Classic (cheddar, Toasted’s sauce, leaf lettuce and tomato) asked, before I could request it, how I wanted the patty cooked. I would have been so much more impressed if it had been anywhere near the asked-for medium-rare, but that temperature had been passed by several minutes. Still, it was a nice patty, still not a lot cheese, but at least I could see it, and I liked the buttered bun. The burger, at $5.75, was a more filling option for the money, too.
By the way, Toasted has a good selection of vegan items, including vegan “cheese” made on the premises.
Toasted is not the only restaurant dedicated to grilled cheese sandwiches, nor is it the first. Others around the country include The Melt, Cheeseboy, Grilled Cheese & Co, Melty Way, the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen and Cheeseboy. In Ft. Lauderdale over the weekend, I noticed another grilled cheese restaurant about to open in a strip mall. Whether it’s a nostalgia thing or the opportunity to capitalize on a profitable food item -- or both -- it looks like grilled cheese sandwiches are going to be around a while.
Toasted is at 1945 Aloma Ave., Winter Park. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. Here is a link to igettoasted.com, the restaurant’s euphemistically memorable website. The phone number is 407-960-3922.