You can say we're having a grilled cheese moment.
Our favorite childhood comfort food is suddenly commanding not just a spot on menus, but full-fledged restaurants.
Last November, longtime Miami chef Allen Susser opened Daily Melt, a grilled cheesery in the food court at Coral Square Mall. A second has since come to Miami's Midtown neighborhood.
February saw the arrival of New York Grilled Cheese Company in Wilton Manors. This fall, the owners of the popular food truck Ms. Cheezious plan to open their first brick-and-mortar location. Many people consider Ms. Cheezious the originator of South Florida's grilled-cheese movement, since the now two-truck-operation started selling its creations almost three years ago.
Lots of places serve grilled cheese sandwiches. But these three operations built their businesses on them. Come along.
Daily Melt: Coral Square Mall food court, 9409 W. Atlantic Blvd., Coral Springs, 954-227-8505, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday; the Shops at Midtown Miami, 305-573-0101, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, DailyMeltGrill.com
"I think grilled cheese is one of those comfort foods that just brings back good memories," says Susser, who for 25 years operated the high-end Chef Allen's in Aventura. Now, he's making grilled cheese sandwiches imbued with a chef's touch.
"Anything that I'm going to get involved with, it still has to be within the network of the things that I've always done with food," he says. "I believe in keeping food fresh, keeping it simple and focusing on details where it makes a difference."
The fast-casual Daily Melt offers 15 sandwiches, including a barbecue pulled pork and Swiss sandwich and a white-truffle-butter sandwich with cheddar, provolone and Roma tomatoes.
But the biggest sellers are the three-cheese sandwich — with mozzarella, provolone and cheddar — and the bacon melt with cheddar, bacon, spinach and tomatoes.
"Bacon sells," Susser says. "In the restaurant business today, it's all about bacon. You have to put something tasty and original on the plate without having to go to the bank. And that's really what we're doing here."
Susser plans to open additional Daily Melt restaurants in Fort Lauderdale, Coral Gables, South Miami and Miami's Brickell neighborhood.
New York Grilled Cheese Company: 2207 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors, 954-564-6887, noon-11 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, noon-3 a.m. Thursday, noon-4 a.m., Friday-Saturday and noon-3 a.m. Sunday, NewYorkGrilledCheese.com
Since owner Leor Barak added New York Grilled Cheese Company to the back of his Nuts About Yogurt store, business has quadrupled.
"We opened March 11," he says. "I'll never forget, because we wanted to do a real quiet opening to work out the kinks. We were bombarded."
It helps that Barak serves grilled cheese sandwiches until the wee hours on weekends, catching the crowds leaving Wilton Manors' bars. "That's when our sales just peak," he says. "The drunk folks from the bars are really eating with their eyes."
Barak uses three kinds of bread: sourdough, country loaf and oatmeal wheat. The macaroni and cheese and tomato bisque, the latter of which comes with each sandwich, are made in-house. A favorite on the menu is the Wall Street Grindr Award sandwich: toasted sourdough with American-cheddar cheese, French fries, bacon, crispy onions, garlic butter and a fried egg.
New York Grilled Cheese Company also a hot pork sundae, with fries, shredded pork, gravy and Cajun American-cheddar cheese. Barak, who is Canadian, also offers the French-Canadian favorite known as poutine: French fries, cheese morsels and hot gravy.
The tiny restaurant has just a few tables and a long sofa. The cheddar-colored walls are decorated with famous cheese-related quotes. My favorite comes from comedian George Carlin: "When cheese gets its picture taken, what does it say?"
Ms. Cheezious food trucks, MsCheezious.com
When the pair behind the Ms. Cheezious food truck opened for business on the first day of Art Basel in December 2010, they didn't know what to expect.
"We had never made a sandwich out of the truck, and we had a line before we even opened," co-owner Brian Mullins says. "After that first day, we kind of felt right about our decision to open."
These days, Mullins and co-owner M. Christian Dickens operate not one but two trucks that travel as far north as Jupiter. They're at ArtsPark at Young Circle in Hollywood most Mondays and set up shop across the region during lunchtime. Keep up with the truck on Twitter at @MsCheezious.
Mullins' most-popular sandwich is the Grilled Blue and Bacon: crisp bacon with creamy blue cheese and green onion on sourdough bread. It's won several awards, including best food-truck sandwich at the 2012 South Beach Wine and Food Festival. At this year's festival, Ms. Cheezious won for a creation called South in Your Mouth: house-smoked pulled pork, barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese and fried pickles on Texas toast.
That sandwich isn't sold on either food truck, but it will be on the menu at the first brick-and-mortar Ms. Cheezious restaurant, expected to open by November in Miami's MiMo Biscayne Boulevard Historic District. The 75-seat restaurant will feature a big backyard garden with fresh herbs. Beer and wine will be served.
"We're going to keep to our core menu, but we'll also offer salads, breakfast items and some desserts," Mullins says. "We'll finally have some space to work in."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times