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Grilled cheese science

This grilled peanut butter and jelly would be better on whole wheat, not sourdough.
This grilled peanut butter and jelly would be better on whole wheat, not sourdough.

To our credit or to our chagrin, San Diego has been the breeding ground for at least a couple of successful fast food chains: most notably Jack in the Box and Rubio’s Coastal Grill. Not by coincidence, it’s one of these two chains I tend to visit when the fast food itch arises: i.e., when I’m desperate and there’s no In-N-Out in sight.

Place

Grater Grilled Cheese

5618 Mission Center Road #1002, San Diego

Place

Grater Grilled Cheese-Del Mar

3545 Del Mar Heights Road, C6, San Diego

But lately, another has caught my eye when I find myself in suburban shopping center country with little time to spare. What started out as a food truck has become the small but growing Grater Grilled Cheese chain, pledging to offer a “chef-inspired twist” on the “great American grilled cheese sandwich.” Grater has five locations and counting, including two that have crossed the border into Orange County.

Locally, an Eastlake shop is incoming, and the La Jolla spot is temporarily closed for remodeling. But my visits to storefronts in Del Mar (3545 Del Mar Heights Rd. C6) and Mission Valley (5618 Mission Center Rd.) have followed the first rule of operating a fast food chain: consistency.

A basic five-cheese grilled cheese with pale ale chipotle aoili

The menu starts with the Basic 5 grilled cheese, made on sourdough bread with a “secret” blend of cheeses that, I’m told, combine provolone, Swiss, muenster, Colby, and Monterey Jack.

Watching staff at these shops making these sandwiches makes it clear that the people behind Grater have boiled the art of the grilled cheese down to a science. Uniform slices of half-inch thick sourdough sit on a flat top, cooking on the same heat for the same amount of time, yielding consistently golden-brown crusts with consistently warm and gooey cheese centers.

A Philly-style grilled cheese melt, with sliced beef and red peppers

They get close to perfect, every time. I say close because the best grilled cheeses, in my opinion, are cooked with butter, olive oil, or a combination of the two. Grater goes with margarine, which I’m sure helps with the consistent cooking, and results in toast that’s crisp without being greasy. Really, the only tradeoff is flavor.

The Grater Grilled Cheese shop in Mission Valley

Despite the earthiness of Swiss, the otherwise mild cheese blend emphasizes an ideal melt. Perhaps to make up for this, perhaps to justify the $6.90 price tag, each sandwich may be grilled with a complimentary spread, whether pesto or roasted garlic aioli, or deli mustard.

I opted for pale ale chipotle aioli on my basic, and did relish the residual hoppy notes and light spice. Grilled cheese purists can order a sandwich sans spread, but for better or worse the extra flavor makes it more memorable.

But grater’s not trying to fashion a fast food empire on the back of a basic grilled cheese. The bulk of the menu takes it up a significant notch, building on the five cheese blend to craft a series of cheese melts ranging from Philly cheese steak to lobster. It might be better to build your own sandwich to personal taste, choosing from a list of buck or two add-ons that include the obvious (avocado, bacon, and smoked turkey), less obvious (fried chicken tenders, mac’n’cheese), and additional cheeses (goat and gorgonzola).

You may opt for whole wheat bread instead of sourdough. I wish I’d done so with a grilled peanut butter and jelly. Turns out, sourdough and peanut butter clash.

Time will tell whether this becomes San Diego’s next successful restaurant chain, but for fast food it’s pretty good. And it’s got to be better for kids than a Happy Meal.

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This grilled peanut butter and jelly would be better on whole wheat, not sourdough.
This grilled peanut butter and jelly would be better on whole wheat, not sourdough.

To our credit or to our chagrin, San Diego has been the breeding ground for at least a couple of successful fast food chains: most notably Jack in the Box and Rubio’s Coastal Grill. Not by coincidence, it’s one of these two chains I tend to visit when the fast food itch arises: i.e., when I’m desperate and there’s no In-N-Out in sight.

Place

Grater Grilled Cheese

5618 Mission Center Road #1002, San Diego

Place

Grater Grilled Cheese-Del Mar

3545 Del Mar Heights Road, C6, San Diego

But lately, another has caught my eye when I find myself in suburban shopping center country with little time to spare. What started out as a food truck has become the small but growing Grater Grilled Cheese chain, pledging to offer a “chef-inspired twist” on the “great American grilled cheese sandwich.” Grater has five locations and counting, including two that have crossed the border into Orange County.

Locally, an Eastlake shop is incoming, and the La Jolla spot is temporarily closed for remodeling. But my visits to storefronts in Del Mar (3545 Del Mar Heights Rd. C6) and Mission Valley (5618 Mission Center Rd.) have followed the first rule of operating a fast food chain: consistency.

A basic five-cheese grilled cheese with pale ale chipotle aoili

The menu starts with the Basic 5 grilled cheese, made on sourdough bread with a “secret” blend of cheeses that, I’m told, combine provolone, Swiss, muenster, Colby, and Monterey Jack.

Watching staff at these shops making these sandwiches makes it clear that the people behind Grater have boiled the art of the grilled cheese down to a science. Uniform slices of half-inch thick sourdough sit on a flat top, cooking on the same heat for the same amount of time, yielding consistently golden-brown crusts with consistently warm and gooey cheese centers.

A Philly-style grilled cheese melt, with sliced beef and red peppers

They get close to perfect, every time. I say close because the best grilled cheeses, in my opinion, are cooked with butter, olive oil, or a combination of the two. Grater goes with margarine, which I’m sure helps with the consistent cooking, and results in toast that’s crisp without being greasy. Really, the only tradeoff is flavor.

The Grater Grilled Cheese shop in Mission Valley

Despite the earthiness of Swiss, the otherwise mild cheese blend emphasizes an ideal melt. Perhaps to make up for this, perhaps to justify the $6.90 price tag, each sandwich may be grilled with a complimentary spread, whether pesto or roasted garlic aioli, or deli mustard.

I opted for pale ale chipotle aioli on my basic, and did relish the residual hoppy notes and light spice. Grilled cheese purists can order a sandwich sans spread, but for better or worse the extra flavor makes it more memorable.

But grater’s not trying to fashion a fast food empire on the back of a basic grilled cheese. The bulk of the menu takes it up a significant notch, building on the five cheese blend to craft a series of cheese melts ranging from Philly cheese steak to lobster. It might be better to build your own sandwich to personal taste, choosing from a list of buck or two add-ons that include the obvious (avocado, bacon, and smoked turkey), less obvious (fried chicken tenders, mac’n’cheese), and additional cheeses (goat and gorgonzola).

You may opt for whole wheat bread instead of sourdough. I wish I’d done so with a grilled peanut butter and jelly. Turns out, sourdough and peanut butter clash.

Time will tell whether this becomes San Diego’s next successful restaurant chain, but for fast food it’s pretty good. And it’s got to be better for kids than a Happy Meal.

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Comments
1

It looks like a copy of Tom & Chee - Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup.

http://www.tomandchee.com/menu/

Jan. 1, 2019

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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