Friday, May 21, 2010

Grilled Cheese & Co.

Ah, Twitter. It's turning out to be much more useful than I had ever imagined. Thanks to Twitter, I found out about the wonderful Iced Gems Baking. And also thanks to Twitter, I found out about a much-needed restaurant right off of Exit 14, that I will have to add to my Back to the Beltway series, starting in June. The catch: this place specializes in all manners of grilled cheese. Wonderful, gooey, filling grilled cheese. And a grilled cheese was exactly what I needed on an unusually cold and damp day in the middle of May.

Obviously, I have come to the Grilled Cheese & Co dance late. The place has only been open for two months, and already it's so popular it was packed - I mean packed - around lunch time. Grilled Cheese & Co's many offerings are written in big, colorful chalk letters all across one wall in the extremely cozy establishment. It's not easy to hear because the place is buzzing with lunchgoers having loud, grilled-cheese-addled conversations. Who knew grilled cheese could be so exciting?

I'm not quite sure if Grilled Cheese & Co is a franchise or not. There is but one location, in Catonsville, but the website gives the impression that they're all over the place. Perhaps it'll spread?

Grilled Cheese & Co definitely puts a new spin on this old American classic. If you want just the standard American cheese sandwich, it'll cost you $5. You will probably want something a bit more fascinating, and this place can accommodate you handily. Just a few of their offerings include: the Blue Ox Crumbled Sandwich ($7), the first grilled blue cheese sandwich I have ever heard of, and also with grilled steak and horseradish sauce; the Crabby Melt ($7.50) with both Monterey Jack, cheese and - gasp! - blue crab; and the Sweetest Thing sandwich ($7.50), a sinful combination of brie, raspberry mascarpone and chocolate chips. This was what originally enticed me into the place, but it seemed too sweet and sugary for lunch.

I went for the more savory Fresco ($7), a grilled cheese with two types of mozzarella, as well as roasted peppers, pesto and a balsamic glaze and olive oil. For just $2 more I also got sweet potato fries and a 22 oz drink. The sandwich was absolutely luscious. The blend of the sweet peppers with the hearty mozzarella and the pesto all melded well in this sandwich that I had never even thought of before. Although greasy on the outside - I mean, it is a grilled cheese sandwich - the bread remained crispy and crunchy while the mozzarella filling was substantive and gooey. I had planned to save half of the sandwich for later, but I just couldn't. I ate the whole thing at once. It was that good. I cannot say as much for the sweet potato fries. I've had more interesting ones. These were pretty average as sweet potato fries go. But you probably won't go there for the fries.

It's about damn well time somebody opened a restaurant that specialized in grilled cheeses! If you just want the standard with American cheese and nothing else, it'll probably be much better than those nasty ones you got in grade school that were heated in their plastic wrap and somehow managed to be both tough and gummy at the same time. The age of that grilled cheese is gone.