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Cheese it! It's the cops!
September 22, 2010 7:00 AM   Subscribe

NYC's underground grilled cheese

"You're Ronnie? Do you have the stuff?"

"I do. I have the stuff right here for you."

"We didn't even talk about price?"

"Price? This is a $5 sandwich."
posted by overeducated_alligator (66 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Well, it's the perfect pseudonym because it's my name also."

Nice.
posted by mhoye at 7:03 AM on September 22, 2010 [14 favorites]


Hopefully he won't be shut down like the lobster roll guy.
posted by JaredSeth at 7:06 AM on September 22, 2010


I've been dreaming about starting an all grilled cheese restaurant for the last decade.

Well, all grilled cheese and washing machines. A sort of grilled laundromat.
posted by sonascope at 7:08 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hopefully he won't be shut down like the lobster roll guy.

Ah, man! I knew it wouldn't last forever, but I was hoping to have a chance to visit him before he was shut down.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:09 AM on September 22, 2010


In Chicago, we have The Tamale Guy.
posted by timsteil at 7:14 AM on September 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've been dreaming about starting an all grilled cheese restaurant for the last decade

I've been dreaming of starting a continental bakery for years. I want to call it "House of Pain."
posted by MuffinMan at 7:14 AM on September 22, 2010 [36 favorites]


Sonascope:
Startup focuses on grilled cheese
The Cheese Truck
posted by pretzel at 7:16 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


A salute to all the hardworking Nutcracker bootleggers in the greater NYC area. West Indian Parade wouldn't have been the same w/o them.
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 7:17 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


After hearing this on NPR yesterday (and at the risk of starting another grilled cheese thread) I just had to have a grilled cheddar on rye with granny smith apples for dinner.

It was awesome.
posted by JoanArkham at 7:19 AM on September 22, 2010


One of my all fondest memories of the US Festival back in 1982, was of
a scruffy dude sitting on a curb selling grill cheese with this witty banter "Grill cheese for a buck, what the fuck". I later came to find out that he was a deadhead (my first exposure BTW) and he followed the band around the country. He appeared to sell a tremendous amount, and the net margin was HUGE. I wrote a short story based on him cornering the concert grilled cheese market for school that semester. I've often wondered if he went on to traveling with Phish, rolled his profits into something bigger, or they just went up in smoke.
posted by HappyHippo at 7:24 AM on September 22, 2010


I brought my lunch today, but I totally want to get a grilled cheese sandwich now. Damn it.
posted by chunking express at 7:25 AM on September 22, 2010


Underground grilled cheese? Is this the NYC version of Kimchi?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:26 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am so happy that the Grilled Cheese Truck is coming to my work 'hood today.

They also make damn good tater tots.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:27 AM on September 22, 2010


Today we are all New Yorkers. I am heading to the store shortly for rye bread, granny smith apples and cheddar cheese.
posted by jquinby at 7:36 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


If he ever makes it to Boston this guy will be relieved. (from this MeFi post)
posted by ALongDecember at 7:36 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've wanted to do a food truck for years, but here in Quebec they're super illegal. We don't even get the street dog carts that singlehandedly successfully prevented me from going vegetarian for years in Toronto.
posted by Shepherd at 7:38 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


What is it that strikes my passion about this?

Is it the comfort food?
The "underground" delivery?
The devil may care REGULATIONS BE DAMNED have a sammich?

I'm so tickled. And hungry.
posted by cavalier at 7:40 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


You posted this just for the title, didn't you?
posted by maryr at 7:47 AM on September 22, 2010


I no longer have the ability to read the words "grilled cheese" (especially on Metafilter) without thinking it's an euphemism.
posted by kmz at 7:51 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


And ... there used to be Grilled Cheese NYC.
posted by ericb at 7:51 AM on September 22, 2010


And ... there used to be Grilled Cheese NYC.

He moved to Toronto.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:57 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dammit. Now I want a grilled cheese.
posted by papercake at 8:00 AM on September 22, 2010


Well, he's not underground anymore. Keep fighting the tasty fight, Ronnie... don't let the DOH get you!
posted by inmediasres at 8:01 AM on September 22, 2010


I can't imagine the barriers to entry of a mobile food business in NYC. In Portland there are hundreds of food carts, all unique, because the city makes it easy. Their customers love them, but restaurants are pissed because they don't have to deal with, well, all the crap of owning a restaurant.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:03 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been dreaming about starting an all grilled cheese restaurant for the last decade.

There's a place down the street working that niche, and it's hella-delicious. Oh, look at the time!
posted by waxboy at 8:04 AM on September 22, 2010


I've wanted to do a food truck for years, but here in Quebec they're super illegal.

Seriously? That really sucks.

I don't think they used to be illegal, though. My aunt and uncle had a food truck up in the Laurentians that served decent hamburgers, strawberry ice cream, Pepsi (of course!) in the 10 ounce bottles, Snow White cream soda, and the best goddamn fries ever made by mortal man or woman.
posted by maudlin at 8:14 AM on September 22, 2010


I fucking cried when Grilled Cheese NYC closed.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:15 AM on September 22, 2010


After our big MeTa post on the topic I bought a big loaf of bread and block of old cheddar and offered anyone at my Friday evening part time gig a grilled cheese sandwich. Four or five people took me up on it and I had two myself.

I should do that again this Friday.
posted by ODiV at 8:41 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thankfully this is in time to remind me that tomorrow is the day the aforementioned New Haven truck stops conveniently to me. And it'll have been just post my first exam. Grilled cheese, there is little you can't fix :)

except my lactose intolerance but that is what the chalky pills are for
posted by cobaltnine at 8:48 AM on September 22, 2010


Funny to see this just as I'm about to head out and pick up lunch from...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:56 AM on September 22, 2010


I think the lesson here is that grilled cheese sandwiches are always welcome.
posted by Edgewise at 8:57 AM on September 22, 2010


New York mag did a great article this summer on the underground lobster roll texting biz. The info lifted the underground or budding entrepreneurs right up into legit and very successful biz. I hope that happens with this Cheez Wiz guy, who sounds like he's a smart cookie.

I love this sort of Prohibition bathtub gin supposed-to-be-not-in-Recession creative ingenuity.
posted by nickyskye at 9:00 AM on September 22, 2010


I've been dreaming about starting an all grilled cheese restaurant for the last decade.

Here I was going to point out that there's been a all-grilled-cheese place in the LES since 2000-ish, but apparently, two things:
  1. nothing good ever lasts
  2. all good ideas are eventually recycled as revolutionary because nobody learned their history and nobody remembers shit
Please at least tell me Pomme Frites is still in business.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:04 AM on September 22, 2010


Please at least tell me Pomme Frites is still in business.

Yep, it is. Still delicious, too.
posted by defenestration at 9:09 AM on September 22, 2010


I fucking cried when Grilled Cheese NYC closed.

My band mainly rehearsed under the bodega that's now an overpriced health food shop across the street & down the block (closer to Katz's) when Grilled Cheese was there. That place was SO GOOD. And they were incredibly nice, and would make us sandwiches with like ten seconds until closing time and never even rolled their eyes about how irritating that was. I hope they're tearing it up in Toronto. (Anyone lucky enough to live near their new spot: try the Black Jack. Wow.)
posted by mintcake! at 9:19 AM on September 22, 2010


Toronto sounds to have their own mobile food issues.
posted by HLD at 9:31 AM on September 22, 2010


This all sounds good until someone gets food poisoning and Ronnie's nowhere to be found. The regulations are certainly tough, and I'm sure he's a nice guy keeping a clean kitchen, but the DoH needs to crack down, all the same. Primarily because if nice, clean guys like Ronnie can do it without penalty, it emboldens crooked, dirty Lonnie to try it as well.
posted by explosion at 9:59 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


New York mag did a great article this summer on the underground lobster roll texting biz. The info lifted the underground or budding entrepreneurs right up into legit and very successful biz.


nah. that guy got shut down by the DOH
posted by JPD at 9:59 AM on September 22, 2010


He should get a patent on the process. That's the sign of a true innovator.

Oh, wait.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:04 AM on September 22, 2010


I don't understand. You don't put the apples ON the sandwich, do you? That's just weird and wrong. Then again, it is NYC.
posted by desjardins at 10:11 AM on September 22, 2010


I don't think they used to be illegal, though. My aunt and uncle had a food truck up in the Laurentians(...)

You can have a food service truck if it will be in the same place at the same time every day, and both the truck and location have been vetted by the provincial government. So you can see things like casse-croute vans at festivals etc., and "stable" food trucks that only serve one factory at lunches per day, every day, because those permits (both for the vehicle and for the location) have been submitted and authorized and etc. etc. Effectively you're just building a restaurant in a tent for the day, or for special events.

"Roving" food trucks, though, are interdit. Ditto daily set-up-and-strike food carts. You can apply for a permit in advance to have a pretzel stand at the local fair for the three days it's open, but you could never run a pretzel cart on Ste-Catherine street in Montréal.

(A bit more digging: the street cart issue seems to be a city bylaw, not a provincial regulation, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's both.)

Honestly, I looked into this two years ago, so I'm now a bit fuzzy on the actual law involved. I might dive back in for my own satisfaction.
posted by Shepherd at 10:12 AM on September 22, 2010


Also, is grilled cheese the new cupcake?
posted by desjardins at 10:12 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I bought my Jamaican Stew Chicken lunch from out the back of a guy's minivan in the parking lot ... something that handy and tasty must be illegal in Toronto.
posted by scruss at 10:15 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, is grilled cheese the new cupcake?

Cha! I't like a cupcake that you can add bacon to.

Also, oddly, apples.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:15 AM on September 22, 2010


Would be much appreciated if someone that's done this send me his contact info? I'm going to NY soon and my friend in the LES wants a piece of this hipsterlicious action.
posted by artificialard at 10:26 AM on September 22, 2010


try the Black Jack. Wow.
QUOTED FOR TRUTH.

The only thing that comes close to the ecstasy of The Black Jack is the shroomburger from Shake Shack.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:27 AM on September 22, 2010


You don't put the apples ON the sandwich, do you?

Yes. Yes, you do. I am not one of those cheddar-cheese-on-apple-pie type people, but I guess it's sort of the same thing. The apples are tart and crispy, and go well with the gooey sharp cheddar and...ok, I think I know what's for dinner. Again.
posted by JoanArkham at 10:57 AM on September 22, 2010


I am not one of those cheddar-cheese-on-apple-pie type people

I can't fathom eating apple pie without cheddar cheese on hand. Oddly, it has never occurred to me to put apples on a grilled cheese sandwich, but now I am itching to try it.
posted by pemberkins at 11:50 AM on September 22, 2010


The best grilled cheese sandwiches I have ever had included apple.
posted by KS at 11:55 AM on September 22, 2010


Bread Butter Cheese
posted by P.o.B. at 11:58 AM on September 22, 2010


hey, i drove and operated a hot lunch truck for over 30 years and you would'nt believe what customers asked the cook to put on their grilled cheese that she was starting. From grilled jalapenos to grilled tuna, but ain't that a tuna melt. I guess the customer was trying to get a quality sandwich for a grilled cheese cheaper price!
posted by tustinrick at 12:20 PM on September 22, 2010


I don't understand. You don't put the apples ON the sandwich, do you? That's just weird and wrong. Then again, it is NYC.

Weird and wrong!? No, you have it wrong. It's awesome. Exquisite, really. Sharp, crisp, tart apples with extra sharp cheddar. You can even brown 'em a little in a pan first, or just plop them right down in the melting cheese on the still open sandwich on your pan/grill. Slice them thin. Try it with slivers of red onions or fresh garlic. Dip it in some honey mustard or tomato soup, or alternatively wash it down with an ice cold glass of veggie-tomato juice like V8 - or a bloody mary.

Fuck, I'm going to have a foodgasm.
posted by loquacious at 1:31 PM on September 22, 2010


Grilled cheese for dinner tonight!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:37 PM on September 22, 2010


You can't COOK apples!!! What the fuck is wrong with you people? Good god, why would you ruin perfectly good fruit by applying heat to it? I don't agree with cooking vegetables (most veggies are best raw, cold, and crisp!), but I can kind of see it. But fruit? No. Stop. Go away and stop ruining things.
posted by Eideteker at 1:55 PM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Eideteker, you've never had a grilled peach? Or pineapple?

quietly weeps for you
posted by JoanArkham at 2:12 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good god, why would you ruin perfectly good fruit by applying heat to it?

hibachi w/ maplewood charcoal
+
mango slices
=
oh my dear sweet lord yes yes yes
posted by Shepherd at 2:25 PM on September 22, 2010


You people stay the fuck away from my kitchen.
posted by Eideteker at 2:59 PM on September 22, 2010


Eideteker: "Good god, why would you ruin perfectly good fruit by applying heat to it?"

My Bananas Foster would like you to step outside.
posted by jquinby at 3:00 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't fathom eating apple pie without cheddar cheese on hand.

I'm with you! "Apple pie without cheese is like a hug without a squeeze."

Let's not forget: Apple Cheddar Cheese Pie.
posted by ericb at 3:08 PM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am so happy that the Grilled Cheese Truck is coming to my work 'hood today.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:27 AM on September 22 [+] [!]


The Grilled Cheese Truck is infuriating, because it's a grilled cheese with an hour-plus wait (and sometimes closer to two hours, if you're in a neighborhood where the truck doesn't go very often, like PASADENAAAA) from the time you decide to get in a line to get a grilled cheese, to the time you actually get to eat it. The cognitive dissonance of waiting more than 3 minutes to eat a grilled cheese is way too intense for me, despite the deliciousness of the Cheesy Mac.
posted by so_gracefully at 3:22 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Grilled Cheese Truck is infuriating, because it's a grilled cheese with an hour-plus wait (and sometimes closer to two hours, if you're in a neighborhood where the truck doesn't go very often, like PASADENAAAA)

A co-worker waited in line for two and a half hours in Pasadena, but did in fact manage to get her sandwiches. You really have to follow them on twitter or facebook and get in line before they begin taking orders. Today I waited for twenty minutes, and I'm willing to do that for very few gourmet trucks.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:44 PM on September 22, 2010


This all sounds good until someone gets food poisoning and Ronnie's nowhere to be found.

Because nobody ever got sick eating in a real restaurant.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:41 AM on September 23, 2010


Where I went to college, we had an entire "buggy" culture (look, it's a food truck, but they call 'em buggies, whaddaya want, I didn't name them) -- Burrito Buggy is probably the best known and most-frequented circa 1 a.m. when you are drunk and need an awesome burrito.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:59 AM on September 23, 2010


The lobster roll guy was an idiot. He would 'yell' at people to not expect change or that they didn't know how to do the pickup right, but the last time I was out there waiting for rolls, he had a camera crew from a German TV network out interviewing the three of us standing in front of the red wall. He could have been so much subtler, and he didn't. He was constantly interviewed, constantly in the paper. None of that helped him get out of his apartment and into a restaurant. So now he's shut down, and trying to sell FREE DR. CLAW tshirts. Dude, you had your chance, you wanted it to be about you rather than about the food.
posted by micawber at 10:33 AM on September 23, 2010


Just chiming in (late) to say that if you're in Chicago and don't know about the Gaztro Wagon... man you are missing out. And I (I smugly add) live less than a block from the kitchen / shop!

Also, grilled cheese for dinner here, too.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 10:09 AM on September 24, 2010


Hey, thanks for posting in the thread and reminding me to make grilled cheese again tonight.
posted by ODiV at 10:24 AM on September 24, 2010


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