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30 October, 2014

Mac & Cheese Night #5: American Grilled Cheese Kitchen

Posted in : Dining in San Francisco - CA, Restaurants on by : The Gourmez

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Fifth macaroni and cheese night already? And I’m not even sick of the stuff yet. I must say, though, that all this mac and cheese analysis has affected my standards. Let’s just say that a recent order from a fast food chain was NOT up to snuff. Bright orange sauce lacking flavor and overcooked noodles doesn’t do it for me as easily as it used to.

The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen does commit the atrocity of overcooked noodles, but in their case, it’s no crime. We went to the Mission location (2400 Harrison St.), a spot that’s steadily busy even at 2 on a Saturday afternoon.

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That menu is composed of sandwiches made of locally sourced ingredients, which results in quality that you can taste. The drinks illustrated that for me most clearly.

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My lemon-thyme soda hit the spot. The thyme wasn’t any bit player; it was a refreshing counterpoint to commanding citrus with just enough sugar to make it palatable. Husband’s pomegranate-rosemary soda was also tasty, but it didn’t hold a candle to the lemon-thyme for me. Obviously, I was not in a berry mood.

And both Husband and Friend #1 were not in mac & cheese moods, opting instead for the club turkey and cubano, respectively.

Club with cheddar, havarti, smoked turkey, roasted tomatoes, bacon, stout mustard, and arugula on sourdough.

Club with cheddar, havarti, smoked turkey, roasted tomatoes, bacon, stout mustard, and arugula on sourdough.

Cubano with monterey and garlic-herb jack cheeses, coffee-rubbed pulled pork, ham, stout mustard, pickles, pickled red onions, and chipotle butter on levain bread.

Cubano with monterey and garlic-herb jack cheeses, coffee-rubbed pulled pork, ham, stout mustard, pickles, pickled red onions, and chipotle butter on levain bread.

It’s cute that all the sandwiches come with an apple, but I’m pretty sure we ate ours out of a sense of duty rather than any real interest. Cut those apples into wedges, and it would have been a different story. Both gentlemen thought their sandwiches were quite good, without dipping into superlatives.

I have no problem dipping into superlatives. Expect me to apply them liberally. While American Grilled Cheese Kitchen does offer a daily mac & cheese special with rotating ingredients, that is not what I’m reviewing here. Because the entry in the 7×7 list invokes a sandwich as well, and I fixated on it.

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Yep, a grilled cheese made of mac & cheese. Its majesty is known in the heavens. And as the article reads, it likely contains 1/3 lb. of cheese. Even more heavenly.

Price: $9. Worth every penny just for the amount of cheese used to make it.

Cheese: Gruyere and a creamy cheddar sauce.

Creamy vs. Stringy: Stringy, because the cheddar sauce bakes into the filling layer, leaving the Swiss in charge of texture.

Noodles: Overcooked elbow macaroni. In this case, overcooked makes it soar as a sandwich filling rather than detract from the bread or take too much flavor from the cheese’s rightful place centerstage. The overcooked pasta is key to making this sandwich work, and knowing that is proof of American Grilled Cheese Kitchen’s sandwich-making prowess.

Breadcrumbs: Or in this case, slices of bread. Expertly grilled slices of sourdough, that is, with plenty of flavor and char from the grill. I cannot relay how perfectly crunchy it was. I do not have the words to describe such majesty.

Grease: Lots of it. 1/3 lb. of cheese, y’all. Embrace the grease. Embrace every calorie it represents.

Verdict: In case you couldn’t tell, I loved it. That sandwich should be the archetype for all future grilled cheeses. But I wouldn’t say it qualifies as mac & cheese. That’ll take it out of contention for my final ranking, sadly. But if I get too sad about it, I’ll just have another one. And then I’ll never be sad again.

I can also highly recommend the side of fries.

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It’s a winner with shoestring-cut potatoes evenly crisped and tossed in a light mix of salt and pepper. I also hear the brussel sprouts with maple and cayenne are amazing.

See you next month, when Paragon’s mac & cheese must submit to my judgment. My taste buds are ready.

Reviewed 4 October 14.

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