A new trend is developing on restaurant menus, particularly those with sandwich and bar fare. Grilled cheese sandwiches, which have always been popular, are getting gussied up for sophisticated eaters. As someone who writes about sandwiches, and has written about a pair of fantastic grilled cheese sandwiches here, I am all in favor of fancified cheese and bread concoctions.
And I am willing to accept some additions to this comfort food classic. At Classic All Day, they add pickles. There are many (my wife is among them) who feel a grilled cheese is not complete without tomato, which is a very southern approach. I enjoy cheese without any additions, whether it be on a sandwich or a pizza or just cubes of of the delicious dairy goodness.
But, what is really strange to me are when a sandwich is billed as grilled cheese when it, in fact, contains meat. What is this new and rather strange decision?
When I read the ingredients on a grilled cheese sandwich, I expect tomato and butter or mayo, maybe a blend of cheeses or, yes, even pickles. But if it says "ham" or even "bacon," my dear restaurateur, that is not a grilled cheese. That is a "ham and cheese." And I'll be honest, I had to bite my tongue a bit when I wrote about the East Hampton Sandwich Company's Lobster Grilled Cheese.
But, after having now seen multiple grilled cheese sandwiches with meat as a primary component, I could stay silent no longer. This is because, when it comes to food — particularly in Western culture — meat always gets top billing. And it is worth saying that a good ham and cheese sandwich can be as good as it gets in the world of sandwiches, but it's still a ham cheese. Calling it a grilled cheese almost sounds like a fake out. No one calls it a veggie sandwich if your BLT has, you know, bacon.
This isn't to say that anyone should hold back on the creativity when it comes to cheesy creations. Keep on building beautiful, interesting sandwiches, you guys. But if you put meat on it, don't call it a grilled cheese.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.