July 10, 2013

Taste Bud: Grilled cheese sandwiches (with meat)

When I was a kid, my mom would often make grilled cheese sandwiches, and they were the simplest of concoctions — two slices of white bread, buttered, surrounding a single slice of cheese (sometimes American, sometimes Velveeta), and heated in a frying pan until browned.

Man, you combine that with some grape Kool-Aid, and maybe some potato chips, and as a suburban adolescent, you truly had the finest summer afternoon comfort food money could buy.

Of course, Lil Cheezers, Tom + Chee and other such concept eateries have taken the simple grilled cheese sandwich to some pretty lofty new heights, but it’s still a staple. Heck, I still make grilled cheese at home sometimes, and I usually put a little hot sauce on the inside of the bread to add kick, or I will occasionally add spicy brown mustard to make a quickie version of a Welsh rabbit.

Simple, delicious and comforting.

As such, I discovered something recently at an East End place called the O-Line Sports Grill that I had to try out: the grilled cheeseburger. As in, a quarter-pound patty of ground Angus beef, with two grilled cheese sandwiches serving as the bun.

When I first saw this thing (thanks to a Groupon), I chuckled. I mean, what a fun idea. I had to try it.

And so my girlfriend Cynthia and I ventured to O-Line, which is located near the corner of Westport Road and Hurstbourne Lane, for lunch one day and were fairly impressed by both the menu and the specials: Kids 12 and under eat free on Wednesdays, there’s a $1 beer special on Sundays, and on the day we were there (a Tuesday), you could get one of three different burger-and-fry combos for $3.99.

(Also, O-Line has New Albanian Brewing Company’s Hoptimus on draft, and any friend of local breweries is a friend of mine.)

Part of why this grilled cheeseburger contraption appealed to me is because as a kid and even into my teen years, whenever I ate a cheeseburger, I ate it absolutely plain — no lettuce, no tomato, no nothing. Meat and cheese were plenty for me, mostly because I liked the raw flavors of the beef and cheese and how they blended together. People always made fun of me, but the rest was just clutter to my taste buds. (And I still refuse to eat ketchup on a burger. Yuck.)

Well, the O-Line’s grilled cheeseburger is a sandwich that very much appeals to that side of my younger self. The two grilled cheese sandwiches are exactly like the ones you make at home, with white bread and American cheese, and plenty of butter on the bread. The crust is a tad crispy, with the center brown but still soft and slightly gooey.

“I can tell,” Cynthia said after trying a bite, “that individually those grilled cheese sandwiches could stand on their own.”

It’s true — they’re just like the ones my mom made, except there are two of them. With meat.

And the burger is a basic, lean patty that is cooked your choice of medium well or well. And that’s the whole sandwich; if you want extras, you’ll have to add them yourself. You might wrinkle your nose at that notion, but it’s what helped sell it for me.

Also, it came with a generous helping of crispy, crinkle-cut fries, another childhood favorite. I had asked for some hot sauce to dip my fries in, and a few bites into my lunch I decided to dunk the sandwich’s edges into the hot sauce for an added jolt. Holy cow.

Cynthia also enjoyed her $4 lunch of a chipotle burger and fries. The grilled cheeseburger and fries is $8.95, which is pretty reasonable considering you’re sort of getting three sandwiches in one. Not to mention the trip down memory lane.

Wait, that just made me wonder something — can you order a grilled cheeseburger with the crusts cut off?

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