The humble grilled cheese has gone gourmet at Little Muenster, the tiny Lower East Side sandwich shop. Indeed, you won’t find Kraft on Wonder Bread, but rather combos like Asiago, Parmesan, butternut squash puree and brown butter, or Oaxaca cheese with jalapeño-corn puree and cojita. It’s not a place for purists, nor for those who think a grilled cheese should cost less than a fiver. But if you’re into gourmet sammies (somewhat overpriced, that is) and don’t feel like venturing uptown to the tastier Earl’s Beer & Cheese, it’s worth checking out. The menu offers eight different types of grilled cheese, which led us to wonder what’s better: “super-fancy” classic grilled cheese or “super-fancy” newfangled grilled cheese. We put two to the test in a Battle of the Dishes.
We started off simple, with the #1, a sandwich featuring white American singles with tomato and bacon on peasant bread for $7.25. As with all of the sandwiches available, it came with a side of browned kettle chips, and the option of adding on a side of tomato soup for $1.25.
The sandwich was good, with fairly crisp bacon and tomatoes that were neither mealy nor watery — a pet peeve when it comes to grilled cheese with tomatoes. Although the cheese was nicely melty, compared with the amount of bread, there could have been more cheese going on. The great thing about spongy, pliable Wonder Bread (or a Pullman loaf) is that it’s really just a vehicle for the cheese and the whole shebang becomes one gooey, delicious mess. That wasn’t totally the case here.
Next we went for the #2, a combo of Gruyère, chèvre, leek confit, and pancetta on French sourdough for $8.75. After all, what’s fancier than French food, right? Although mixing goat and cow cheeses seemed a little intense at first, this duo worked well, simultaneously nutty and tart. The leek confit also added a nice vegetal accent and the pancetta an extra layer of saltiness.
So which sandwich did we like better?
The fancier fancy grilled cheese!
Maybe it’s because we believe American singles work best when they aren’t gussied up. If you’re gonna make fancy sandwiches, better to go all out on fanciness than try to fix the humble grilled cheese that isn’t broke and really doesn’t want to be fixed. And, quite frankly, the ingredients in sandwich #2 simply worked better with the bread than those in sandwich #1. Yes, you’re still paying $9 for a grilled cheese, but hey, at least it’s a super-fancy-pants grilled cheese.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 28, 2011