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Review: Grilled Cheese Truck

Two Fridays ago, the Grilled Cheese Truck parked itself on Seward Street just north of Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, and served lunch from 12 to 2. At 12:30, there was no line – eight or 10 quasi-hipsters/post-production-house types were milling around, but they’d ordered already. This was my second visit to the truck – no, not that day; I mean I’d first checked it out in early December. That time, I’d had the Harvest Melt with roasted butternut squash, Gruyere, agave syrup, thyme and balsamic reduction ($5), and a Plain and Simple Sharp Cheddar sandwich ($4). I remembered that the squash was tender without being mushy, and that the cheddar tasted pleasingly expensive despite the sandwich’s reasonable price tag.

Grilled Cheese Truck

Stepping up to the ordering window this time, I heard a guy inside the truck tell a customer that the owner was standing next to the truck. I looked where he pointed, and saw Michelle Grant, who, along with chef Dave Danhi, opened the Grilled Cheese Truck in November 2009. Grilled cheese royalty! The guy who took my order wasn’t Danhi, but he was very friendly and helpful. Whoever served me last time hadn’t mentioned that there were dipping sauces besides ketchup for the Tater Tots ($3): garlic aioli, chipotle aioli and barbecue sauce. I chose the chipotle aioli – whenever I go to Wurstküche, the sausage joint in downtown LA’s arts district, I practically bathe in the stuff. The GCT’s version was just as good.

The food took about 10 minutes to come up. I grabbed a wad of napkins as thick as my forearm, and dove in. The Plain and Simple American and Gruyere sandwich with an add-on of sliced apple ($4.50) was the perfect combination of tart and funky – the apple was a Granny Smith with a nice crunch. Next was the Cheesy Mac Melt ($5), which slapped Southern macaroni and cheese with sharp cheddar between two slices of wheat bread. A mac-and-cheese sandwich sounded dodgy: how to stop the bread from getting soggy? Whatever it took, the GCT managed to do it – no sog whatsoever. The sauce was creamy and the pasta was toothsome, as Top Chef contestants would say. I had the option of adding BBQ pork and caramelized onions for an extra $2, but I didn’t this time. Finally, I had another go at the Harvest Melt. It wasn’t as good as the first time. The squash was slightly undercooked, and the Gruyere was at the sweaty, rather than the melted, stage. One of my dining companions suggested that if I’d saved the Harvest Melt to eat last, perhaps it would have cooked a little more while it sat in its foil wrapper, and the squash might have attained a better consistency. I’ll try that next time – the sandwich was still good enough for me to want to eat again. I didn’t finish this one, though, instead turning my attention to the Tater Tots, which were crispy and awesome, but could have used a touch more salt.

Grilled Cheese Truck food

Vegetarian-friendly? Yes. Most of the sandwiches are meatless.

Vegan-friendly? Not really - cheese is the star here.

Overall impression: I smelled like grilled cheese for several hours afterward, and I liked it. Next time I’ll try the tomato soup ($2) and the dessert melt, which features roasted banana puree, Nutella and marshmallow fluff ($6).

The Owen-ometer: Owen, my 21-month-old son, always joins me on my food-truck adventures. He’s a legendarily picky eater who dines almost exclusively on Trader Joe’s cereal bars, so I thought he might make a good, tough truck critic. What did he think of the Grilled Cheese Truck? He devoured the Tater Tots, just like a stereotypical kid. He’s a fan of spicy flavors, so I asked if he’d like to dip a Tater Tot in the chipotle aioli. “No,” was his succinct reply. He took a piece of the Cheesy Mac Melt, and I waited with bated breath to see if he’d actually have a bite, but no dice: after walking around with it for 10 minutes, he said “Mama’s turn,” and handed it to me.

EDITED TO ADD: The Grilled Cheese Truck informs me that their tomato soup is vegetarian, but has a little parmesan cheese in it, so it's not vegan.

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