The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen

| January 11, 2011 | 12 Comments
  • 12 Comments

American Grilled Cheese KitchenTo say that the grilled cheese sandwich is one of my favorite things in the world would be an understatement. And you know what? I’m not alone in that. I come from a generation that grew up on the beloved grilled cheese. The dish I came to love was simple and comforting: a layer of warm, melty American cheese embraced by two fluffy slices of toasted white sandwich bread, so crispy and buttery that it crackled like the top of a creme brulee at every bite.

Ok, so maybe I’m romanticizing a bit. I grew up on Kraft singles and Wonder Bread, and if I ate those things today, I doubt they’d taste as good as I remember. I grew up, and dammit, I wanted my beloved grilled cheese sandwich to grow up with me.

After years wandering in a grilled cheese arctic wasteland, someone stepped in to save me: Nate Pollak and Heidi Gibson, the “Big Cheeses” at a hot new South Park lunch eatery, the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen. Nate and Heidi matured the dish, taking it to a level of adult grilled cheese perfection that will completely overshadow any trace memories you have of thin Denny’s cheese sammies that linger in your subconscious. Think gourmet cheeses, local produce, and a levain bread that would make Baby Jesus cry.

To give credit where credit is due, I was introduced to this place by my good friend Kirstin Jackson, the goddess of all things dairy. Whenever Kirstin tells me to jump at a new cheese dish, I listen. Kirstin and I met for lunch at the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen a few weeks ago, and I ordered something called the Butternut Buster. I had no idea what I was ordering, though I knew that I love butternut squash and cheese, so why wouldn’t they go together?

American Grilled Cheese Kitchen

A few minutes later my lunch showed up, and before me sat a sandwich that must have measured 4-inches thick. Between the thick, moist slices of toasted levain bread were layer upon layer of fresh sage butter, caramelized onions, roasted butternut squash, tender prosciutto, and some of the most gooshy, melty gruyere and fontina cheese I’ve ever eaten. I dove into the sandwich like a dinosaur eating a caveman, and before long I was covered in cheese, meat, and breadcrumbs. I swear, I don’t think I took a breath through the first half of my lunch. For that two minutes, my life was nothing but a lambada of flavor, texture, and aroma.

The menu at the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen changes frequently, peppered with a series of tantalizing daily specials on top of their hometown heros. Here’s a sample of their current lunch offerings:

  • Piglet — Tillamook sharp cheddar, artisan cured ham, apple mustard, rosemary butter
  • Mushroom Gruyère — fontina, gruyère, roasted wild mushrooms + gold potatoes, melted leeks, caramelized onions, thyme butter
  • Jalapeño Popper — chèvre, monterey jack, applewood-smoked bacon, apricot-jalapeño relish
  • Club Turkey — Tillamook sharp cheddar, creamy havarti, Willie Bird smoked turkey, applewood-smoked bacon, Sierra Nevada stout mustard, roasted tomatos, arugula
  • Mousetrap — Tillamook sharp cheddar, creamy havarti, monterey jack, on artisan sourdough (extra add-ons: applewood-smoked bacon, artisan cured ham, roasted tomato, and/or bread n’butter pickles)
  • Moscone — fresh mozzarella, fontina, roasted tomatoes, basil-lavender pesto, kalamata olive tapenade
  • Smoky Tomato Soup — house made with crème fraîche, croutons
  • Stella’s Cobb Salad — chèvre, organic mixed greens, egg, organic cherry tomatoes, pickled red onions, smoked turkey, applewood-smoked bacon, buttermilk dressing
  • Tilly’s Veggie Salad — fresh mozzarella, organic mixed greens, egg, organic cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, capers, croutons, champagne vinaigrette

Nate and Heidi even offer breakfast sandwiches:

  • Classic Breakfast — sharp cheddar, jack, cage-free egg
  • Veggie Breakfast — sharp cheddar, jack, egg, roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, bell peppers
  • Breakfast Piglet — sharp cheddar, ham, egg, apple mustard, rosemary butter
  • Farmer’s Breakfast — sharp cheddar, roasted potatoes, applewood-smoked bacon, cage-free egg, chive butter

American Grilled Cheese Kitchen

Food allergy note: Guess what? The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen makes their own gluten-free bread, and all sandwiches on the menu can be served on this amazing bread for only fifty cents more. They even sell their bread by the loaf, and I guarantee you’ll want to pick some up for reconstructing your own grilled cheese dreams at home.

What’s my overall opinion? Get thee to the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen as soon as possible. Only open for breakfast and lunch, this place does mid-day meals right, and I can guarantee that the memory of your perfectly savory, perfectly grown-up grilled cheese sandwich will linger in your mind long after lunch if over. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you headed back the next day.

American Grilled Cheese Kitchen
1 South Park Ave. Map
Suite 103A
San Francisco, 94107
Hours:
Mon-Fri 8am-3pm
Sat & Sun 9am-4pm

You can also follow the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen on Facebook and Twitter.

American Grilled Cheese Kitchen

Butternut Buster
Butternut Squash Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Caramelized Onion and Sage Butter
By Nate Pollak and Heidi Gibson

Makes: 1 sandwich

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons sage butter (see recipe below)
2 slices of country bread
3 tablespoons caramelized onions (see recipe below)
3 tablespoons gruyere cheese
6 thin slices prosciutto
3 slices of roasted butternut squash (see recipe below)
3 tablespoons fontina cheese (preferably a stinky Italian fontina)

Preparation:

Sandwich Assembly and Cooking
Preheat oven to 500°.
1. Spread a thin layer of sage butter on the outer side of each of the slices of bread. Lay the bread butter-side down on a cookie surface.
2. Spread a thin layer of caramelized onions on the inside of one of the slices of bread. Follow with a layer of gruyere, a thin layer of prosciutto, 3 slices of roasted squash slices, and a layer of fontina cheese.
3. Place the other piece of buttered bread (butter-side out) on top of the layer of fontina.
4. Place the sandwich on a baking sheet and slide into oven. Cook for 1 minute, until top slice of bread is toasted and golden-brown. Remove the sandwich from the oven, flip it over, and bake again until the new top slice of bread is also golden-brown and all cheese is fully melted.
5. Remove from oven. Eat and Enjoy!

To Make Sage Butter

Ingredients:
1 pound salted butter
2 large sprigs of fresh sage leaves

Preparation:
1. Cream the salted butter with a stand mixer or electric hand beater.
2. Pluck leaves off sage sprigs and chop them coarsely.
3. Add chopped leaves to butter and mix until evenly distributed.

To Make Caramelized Onions

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 white onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preparation:
1. Coat a skillet with a thin layer of vegetable oil, add the diced onions and salt, and cook on medium heat, stirring regularly, until onions are fully caramelized (dark brown color, sweet smell/taste, no more liquid in the pan).
2. Remove onions from heat and set aside.

To Make Roasted Butternut Squash

Ingredients:
1 butternut squash
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Peel the skin off the squash and slice the squash into thin rounds (so you get thin squash “disks”).
3. Spread the squash slices onto a baking sheet with a sheet liner coated in a non-stick cooking spray. Drizzle oil over the squash and sprinkle a few pinches of salt.
4. Bake the squash for about 10-15 minutes, rotating the pan half way through. Bake until the slices are soft and darken in color to a rich orange.
5. Remove from oven and set aside.

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Category: bay area, Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, local food businesses, recipes, restaurants, bars, cafes, san francisco

About the Author ()

Stephanie is a writer and cookbook author recovering from her former tech-startup life. On the side she's also a media consultant, specializing in all forms of digital goodness: audio, video, print, design, and social media. After leaving the tech world nearly a decade ago, Stephanie made a career jump to her lifetime love, writing. She currently writes for the Huffington Post, KQED's Bay Area Bites, NPR, and other select media outlets. Her first cookbook,Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, is due out in fall 2013 on Little, Brown with coauthor Garrett McCord. Being a recovering techy leaves an indelible mark, and everything Stephanie does is infused with her deep fascination with digital technology. She has been blogging since 1999, before blog engines even existed and a great readership consisted of a handful of friends who occasionally thought to check out your site. In 2005 she started her first food blog, which she repurposed in 2007 to become The Culinary Life. Stephanie can be called many things: food writer, essayist, professional recipe developer, cookbook author, social media consultant, videographer, documentary maker, website developer, archivist of life. Despite all of these titles, she most commonly responds to Steph.
  • http://saffronlane.typepad.com Elizabeth @ Saffron Lane

    That butternut squash grilled cheese has all of my favorites combined in one gooey bite — especially the stinky Italian fontina! This will be made in my kitchen very soon.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • http://krisbordessa.com Kris Bordessa

    Oh my goodness. An entire restaurant devoted to grilled cheese? AND they can make it GF? I think I’m in love!

  • http://www.blog.judithstock.com Judy stock

    Great post Steph!!! I love grilled cheese as much as BLT’s, and that’s plenty!! Now wish they’d annex themselves in Los Angeles.

  • sheryl

    Wow. To take such a pedestrian sandwich and make it so creative is just genius. I think I’d eat all three meals here if it was in my neck of the woods!

  • http://www.nopotcooking.com NoPotCoooking

    Well this place is totally insane and I would go there in a second if it was near me!

  • Merr

    Grilled cheese: one of the original comfort foods (in my book). I’ll keep this on my list of places to visit when we are in northern Cal.

  • http://www.projecthappilyeverafter.com Alisa Bowman

    WOW– the smartest person in the world started this restaurant. Wish there was one closer to me.

  • http://www.goodfoodstories.com Casey@Good. Food. Stories.

    We used to have a fantastic little place devoted to grilled cheese on the Lower East Side, but which was pushed out by high rents. You’re making me miss it terribly!

  • http://www.MyKidsEatSquid.com MyKidsEatSquid

    Grilled cheese is a staple around our house. So cool to know I’m not the only one who likes making a good grilled cheese sandwich. Love the idea of pairing the squash, onions and stinky fontina.

  • http://atravelerslibrary.com Vera Marie Badertscher

    That is just a BRILLIANT restaurant idea! Talk about comfort food.

  • http://mothering.com/jennifermargulis/ Jennifer Margulis

    I’ve never even heard of this restaurant. I’m impressed. Sounds like a super fun place to eat.

  • http://chezsven.blogspot.com Alexandra

    This post really whetted my appetite! Thanks for sharing the recipe.