Grilled cheese restaurant transforms childhood classic into gourmet sandwich

Media Credit: Erica Christian | Photo Editor

The French Onion grilled cheese is one of the most popular specialty sandwiches served at GCDC. Erica Christian | Photo Editor

Media Credit: Erica Christian | Photo Editor
The French Onion grilled cheese is one of the most popular specialty sandwiches served at GCDC. Erica Christian | Photo Editor

The grilled cheese sandwich is a dish that, though simple, can be difficult to master. Grilled Cheese D.C., a restaurant just a block from the White House that opened this spring, has transformed the greasy, gooey childhood favorite and into a classy meal for downtown’s professional crowd.

The meals are not your mom’s sandwiches that you used to dip in canned tomato soup or a blob of ketchup.

“I’ve underestimated the emotional bond people have with grilled cheese and how happy it makes them,” the grilled cheese bar’s owner Bruce Klores said. “Virtually everybody that comes in here is happy.”

The menu offers six signature grilled cheeses that range from a spicy Buffalo Blue ($9) to the Kim-Cheese-Steak ($11), a Korean take on cheesesteak.

Klores said the French Onion grilled cheese ($9) is the most popular. Between the challah slices of this sandwich are gruyere cheese and sweet caramelized onions, resembling the taste of bread dipped into your favorite French onion soup, without having to deal with the annoyingly sticky cheese at the top. In fact, the onions are more prominent than the cheese. Instead of soggy bread with cheese oozing out, the challah crust has a distinct crunch.

The Buffalo Blue pays homage to the upstate New York city known for its spicy sauce. The sandwich consists of a cheddar blend, Wisconsin bleu cheese, spicy chicken, onions and Frank’s Red Hot sauce on white bread.

Although it isn’t actually that spicy, the cheese here is more striking than in the French Onion grilled cheese, so stay away if you’re not a bleu cheese fan. If you’re looking for a gooey grilled cheese with a satisfying melted texture, you won’t find it in the Buffalo Blue. What you will find, though, is an intense cheese flavor minus the gooey consistency.

Other signature sandwiches include the District Cemita ($10) – served with chorizo, avocado, spicy salsa, queso fresco and manchego cheeses on white bread – and the Grilled Carbonara ($10), which consists of gruyere, goat cheese, sautéed leeks and pancetta.

While the flavors may vary, crispiness is consistent among all of the sandwiches. Plus, most of the sandwiches taste great dipped in the house tomato soup.

This is not the typical watered-down tomato soup that comes out of a can or carton. It’s chunky and hearty, akin to a tomato sauce chili and sticks perfectly to your sandwich.

The restaurant also serves tater tots, which means Tonic might have some new competition. At GCDC, tots are served either plain ($4), Canadian-poutine style ($9) with gravy and cheese or American-style ($9) with cheddar, bacon, jalapenos, onions and spicy sauce.

GCDC also offers cheese and charcuterie plates, as well as wines, beers and cocktails during evening service hours.

Whether you’re looking for comfort food between classes or an upscale but relaxed place for wine and cheese, GCDC is your spot.

Grilled Cheese D.C. is located at 1730 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

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