Cheesie's takes grilled cheese to another level
Published: Friday, May 4, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
“Eating at this place should come with a gym membership,” said Cheesie’s bartender Chance Lydick with a smile.
Since its opening, patrons have regularly lined up at the Lakeview grilled cheese mecca — lines that often stretched out the front door, both because of the late-night hotspot’s excellent sandwiches, but also because of the unfortunate small size of the restaurant. However, after months of expansion and remodeling, Cheesie’s reopens — and with more square footage and an impressive new look, the restaurant finally matches its sandwiches.
For anyone familiar with the look and layout of the old Cheesie’s, walking into the new restaurant is an uncanny experience, because it hardly feels like the same place. Of course, the walls are still painted in the familiar cheddar orange, but the expansion more than doubles the size of Cheesie’s, in terms of both square footage and staff size, which jumped from 8-30 workers. Anchoring the interior is a fully stocked bar at the center of the restaurant; plasma screens line the walls, and many of the tables are fashioned with a chalkboard-top to doodle upon while waiting for grilled cheese.
Though the restaurant has not been open for even a year yet, expansion was always part of the plan for Cheesie’s owner Chris Johnson, 30, who realized that size had long been a problem with his location. After the Thai restaurant neighboring Cheesie’s moved further down Belmont, Johnson was able to acquire the space and soon closed the restaurant from Feb. 12 until April 5 for renovation, reopening just in time for National Grilled Cheese Day.
“The people who work here did a lot of the renovations pro-bono,” said Lydick. “They love this place.” Lydick lists that the kitchen staff fully cleaned and prepared the new kitchen, and even a regular customer designed the new menu in exchange for free sandwiches.
In celebration of its reopening, Cheesie’s is planning an assortment of special offers. Wednesdays May 9, May 16, and May 23, all DePaul students bearing student IDs will receive 20 percent off their orders. And to commemorate Cheesie’s first anniversary, May 12, therestaurant is offering $1 “bomb” drinks–i.e. Jaegerbombs, etc.–and all sandwiches will cost $5.12.
Of course, the physical layout of the restaurant is not the only aspect of Cheesie’s that was given attention. The already-impressive menu, which boasts a roster of sandwiches like the Mac, a fan-favorite that puts a serving of macaroni and cheese between two slices of Texas toast, also received some attention. “You can try to complicate grilled cheese,” said Lydick, “but then you’re messing up the philosophy of grilled cheese.” That being said, with its reopening, Cheesie’s adds an assortment of complex and off-the-wall new items to its menu–such as the Tenderizer, a sandwich containing cheddar cheese, mozzarella, hot sauce, bacon, chicken tenders, and Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce. It is the kind of sandwich only a mad scientist could dream up. The restaurant also boasts the tortilla-wrapped Taco Grilled Cheese, available in May only in celebration of Cinco de Mayo.
“The Tenderizer is dank,” said DePaul digital cinema student Matthew Eriks, who offered a counterpoint: “But the Napoleon is where it’s at,” he said of the bacon, bleu cheese, tater tot sandwich. Also coming soon to the restaurant are pizza versions of Cheesie’s sandwiches, though further details were scant at the time of publishing.
And for those of age, Cheesie’s bar also received a makeover, both in bar size and selection of drinks. The bar’s beer list is filled only with American beers, from Colorado’s Breckenridge Brewery, to Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewery, to local favorites like Goose Island and the Logan Square-based Revolution Brewery. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Cheesie’s bar is the fact that everything, from Bud Light, to 312, to mixed drinks, costs $4.
Customers and staff describe the late-night scene of the restaurant, located at Belmont and Sheffield, as “American Pie meets the Food Network.” Sandwiched between popular late-night spots like Berlin and Big City Tap, the restaurant certainly has a diverse clientele, but Cheesie’s maintains the philosophy that all are welcome and that demographics don’t matter when it comes to great grilled cheese.
Though the restaurant has only just completed its renovation, Cheesie’s is not content to rest on its laurels. Indeed, it has big plans. For the summer, the restaurant is hoping to establish a presence at festivals like Sheffield Fest, Taste of Lincoln and also RibFest–where the restaurant could unveil a rib-grilled cheese. The restaurant also has its sights set on Big Ten campuses and hopes to soon branch out.