Cheesed Off. A childhood staple becomes a fad

The Melt, a high-tech restaurant chain specializing in grilled cheese sandwiches, is getting ready to make its debut in San Francisco.  Customers will order ahead via a smart-phone app and pick up a sandwich cooked in less than one minute by a new gadget that sears the bread and melts the cheese at the same time.  My immediate response on hearing about this latest attempt to cash in on America’s grilled-cheese mania was sadness.  The grilled cheese sandwich is a childhood classic, and restaurants are harvesting our nostalgia as part of their business plans.  Jonathan Kaplan, creator of the Melt (and inventor of the now extinct Flip camera), says grilled cheese has an emotional context:  it “just makes people happy.”

He’s right, but that’s where the disconnect comes in.  Most Americans who enjoyed grilled cheese at home had a sandwich so simple that no remotely hip restaurant would dare serve it:  two slices of skimpy bread, two slices of American cheese and some margarine.  Although that may sound crude and unappetizing, we all know it was anything but.  The airy, diaphanous white bread crisps up, absorbing the flavors (and the luscious mouthfeel) of the fat, and the result is just crunch and melted cheese.  But places like Gooeyz in Ohio and the Grilled Cheese Truck in Los Angeles corrupt the sandwich with thicker fancier ingredients.  And of course, any effort to wrap grilled cheese for takeout invariably steams it, depriving it of its signature crispiness.  These places kill the sandwich in order to serve it.  Maybe, just maybe, they should consider leaving this one to the amateurs.

**This article was taken from Time Magazine.  None of the content was orginated by NBC, Inc. or any of our affiliates.**

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