Comfort Food Redux
Aug 03, 2016 10:19AM
● By Ashley Pape
You’ve certainly had a grilled cheese sandwich in your lifetime—probably made with Mrs. Baird’s white bread (or Wonder, if you’re a Yankee) slathered in margarine with a slice or two of American cheese peeled from a piece of plastic wrap placed in between. But no matter how talented your mom was with a skillet, we’re betting she never used artisan breads or added fresh sliced apples and brie to your sandwich.
Diana Ezzell knew the grilled cheese sandwich had never reached its full potential, so the Oak Cliff resident shared with a few friends her idea for using the 1960s lunchtime staple as a platform for a restaurant. “Grilled cheese is meant to be fun,” says Mack Simpson, who handles marketing for Dallas Grilled Cheese Co. “It’s meant to evoke good memories.”
The restaurant’s partners, who are all scratch cooks, continually experiment with new combinations to add to the menu. Concoctions that meet their strict standards become weekly specials to gauge customers’ enthusiasm. Recently the BBQ Short Rib Mac ‘n’ Cheese sandwich was unveiled to rave reviews. “If we think it can go between two slices of bread, we’re going to try it,” Simpson adds. “We’d like to cover the w orld in cheese.”
Along with The Classic (rustic white bread, American cheese), regular menu fare includes a Grilled PB&J, Fried Bologna and The Favorite—Parmesan-crusted grilled sourdough with American, aged Cheddar and Gruyére cheeses, crumbled bacon and Dijon mustard. Yeah, we’re thinking Mom didn’t come up with one quite that fancy at your house. “We make the nostalgic true classics all the way up to things you’d expect to be served at a museum with a glass of wine,” Simpson says.
If you dine with a group, we recommend ordering a variety of sandwiches and asking your waiter to cut them in quarters for sharing. But if grilled cheese is not your passion, you’ll still find plenty to choose from including starters such as the Pretzel-Fried Mozz with marinara sauce for dipping and DCG Wings. Or dive into a soup or salad, but leave room for dessert. Try the Bread Pudding or order The Elvis—featuring grilled brioche, peanut butter/cream cheese/honey mix, banana slices, marshmallows and hazelnut spread.
While the menu is kid-friendly, it’s adult-approved, especially the bar, which features 23 beers on tap as well as wine and cocktails. “We take the same approach of playing around with ingredients with our drinks,” says Simpson. “We make our own sangrias in-house and create unique cocktails.” Dallas Grilled Cheese Co. also makes their own pickles, ranch dressing, cucumbers and more. “Anything we can make fresh, we figure out a way to do it. It’s better that way,” adds Simpson.
The restaurant has adapted to its surroundings particularly well, with a patio dining area that basically overlooks the parking lot. When we visited on a Saturday for lunch, the public lot was full and there was already a 45-minute wait. But it’s easy to pass the time while waiting for your text message that your table is ready; stroll around the block and browse through the eclectic mix of local merchants, antique stores, pop-up shops and art galleries. Or simp ly people-watch.
Simpson says during the week, tables are a little easier to come by, but on the weekend, “All bets are off,” he says. “This has become a real des tination spot and we often see huge crowds who spend the day at the Bishop Arts District.” But no crowd has equaled the one the restaurant saw on their anniversary January 19. Dallas Grilled Cheese offered $1 classic grilled cheese sandwiches and $1 draught beer all day long.
“The line stretched through the parking lot and into the street,” recalls Simpson, who said at times they had a two-hour wait. “We served about 3,000 sandwiches and ran through six kegs of beer. We ran out of white bread by 3 p.m. and sourdough at 6 p.m., so we had to get creative. It was literally crazy. A madhouse.” Will they do it again next January? “Oh, probably. People were singing in line and taking photos. It was a lot of fun, too.”
Which is pretty telling about the restaurant’s overreaching attitude toward their concept. “We’re very serious about running the restaurant,” says Simpson, “but we like to have fun. If you’re pretentious about grilled cheese, you’re doing it wrong.”