Monday, January 24, 2011
Dan happily agreed to write a post on Catonsville's Grilled Cheese & Co.. Isn't he an awesome writer? I need to get him to start writing some more posts on this blog! We could be an adorable husband and wife eating team! Enjoy!
Last Sunday, Nakiya and I decided to try out a place called Grilled Cheese and Co., which is located in Catonsville, right off of the Edmonson avenue exit of 695. I will be flat out honest: having never heard about this place, and knowing only the name of the establishment, I was NOT very excited about the idea of us driving 20 minutes around the Beltway to go to a place that sounded like it was going to serve me something a small child could make, and probably charge me a fortune for it. I never saw a menu beforehand, I never read what anyone else had said about it. I was armed with only the name and location, and I had predetermined visions in my head of one of those standard trendy places that charges a boatload of cash for below average food, solely for the sake of being different and unique.
We arrive right around lunch time, only to find that the somewhat small parking lot is completely full, but luckily, there is a side street right next to the building with plenty of room to park. Walking up to the building, there is a chalkboard-style sign on the front steps listing the special for the day, a sandwich called "The Rancher": A grilled cheese with chicken, bacon, and ranch on it. That sounded DELICIOUS; enough so that I told Nakiya I would be ordering it, regardless of what the rest of the menu said.
Upon walking in, all tables in the store were full, and there was a small line at the register as well. The full menu is written on a large chalkboard style menu on the side wall, very well placed and easy to see as you wait in line to order. On the regular menu, they have about ten different sandwiches (lets be clear here: apart from one true "grilled cheese" in the traditional sense, most of these share only the fact that they happen to be sandwiches that all involve grilled bread and cheese as ingredients). They also have a few different salads and soups, and also french fries, sweet potato fries, and chips. I was VERY impressed with the selection of sandwiches, as they had a very wide variety to choose from, and many of them sounded excellent. My heart was still set on the special I saw on the sign out front, and I did not waver. My sandwich by itself happened to be the most expensive item on the menu, at $8.00 for just the sandwich. I opted to get it as a combo, which came with a fountain soda and a side of my choice (I chose sweet potato fries), for an additional $2.00; making my total meal $10.00. Nakiya chose to order an item off the regular menu, a sandwich called the "Crabby Melt". Her sandwich was listed as "melted monterey jack cheese on top of our homemade house blend of cheese, crab meat, and spices". At $7.50, her meal was slightly less expensive, and she opted to get it with a drink and a side of regular french fries, for a total of $9.50. They handed us a receipt with a number on it, and I stood there wondering if I just grossly overpaid for a simple sandwich that was likely not even going to fill me up.
After placing our order, we lucked out and got a table for two immediately, as we happened to be walking by right as the previous patrons stood up. Given how crowded the restaurant was, we were both absolutely delighted when we heard our number about 5 minutes after we finished ordering; the service time was outstanding. They brought our food out to our table for us, and I was very surprised to see how large the sandwich was, and how big the portion size was for the sides of fries. As I took my first bite of my sandwich, I immediately began to take back every bad preconception I had of this place up until that moment. For starters, the bread was thick and delicious, and it was toasted absolutely PERFECTLY; I wouldn't have wanted it toasted more or less by a single degree. I was expecting to receive a small sandwich with a tiny amount of chicken and bacon, and what I actually received was LOADED with cubes of chicken, chunks of bacon, and just the right amount of ranch mixed in, just a light spread. The sweet potato fries were OK, they weren't the best I have tried by any measure, but I still enjoyed them and the portion size was very filling, even given my large appetite. Nakiya's Crabby Melt was also very delicious. Like my sandwich, the bread was done perfectly. Her sandwich tasted like a slightly cheesier version of crab dip, on bread. I tried a bite and I was very satisfied, although Nakiya did feel that it was a little too creamy and heavy to consume an entire sandwich worth of it. However, she did love how it tasted. Her regular shoestring french fries were EXCELLENT, and both of us preferred them over the sweet potato fries.
In the end, we both left very satisfied, very full, and very eager to return. This place certainly laid my preconceived notions to waste in almost every regard. The one thing we were both surprised to see, however, was that a "traditional" grilled cheese, with only toasted cheese on bread, was $5.00, which we felt was on the high side. But I don't imagine many people go out of their way to order a plain grilled cheese when they could easily make it at home. The rest of the menu felt like a good price and value for the large portions and delicious food that they serve. I can't wait to return!