The market for grilled cheese in Toronto has been growing over the last year—five months ago, there was only one grilled cheese restaurant in the GTA, and now there are four.
Cheesewerks is a family-owned restaurant, which was opened by Kevin Durkee and his husband Tom Douangmixay in December.
The secret to making the perfect grilled cheese, Durkee said is grating the cheese.
“It’s really the best way. Give more room for the cheese to melt and air to circulate on a grill.”
At the Grilled Cheese in Kensington Market, they take the idea of simple comfort food to heart, sticking to familiar cheeses and classic fillers like ham, tomato, and onion for $6-8.
Shanghai Cowgirl, a rock n’ roll-style diner, features elaborate grilled cheese sandwiches between $8-13 such as the “triple decker grilled cheese,” with combinations such as garlic, butter and tomato; havarti, jalapeno and avocado; or bleu cheese and peameal.
English-pub-style Victory Cafe in Mirvish Village offers grilled cheese connoisseurs the “Victory Grilled Cheese,” with cheddar, gruyere, and homemade red pesto on calabrese bread with pumpkin seeds that goes for $8.95.
To many, the most exciting feature of Cheesewerks may be the fact that it carries local beverages such as craft beer and wine from Prince Edward County. As for their ingredients, Durkee said Cheesewerks uses 100 per cent Canadian product.
The menu, however, takes a more international approach.
Durkee said he was inspired to create one of their sandwiches after getting married in Beijing. The sandwich, called The Beijing, includes Asiago cheese, BBQ pork, hoisin, and slivered green onion grilled on their “signature” green onion potato bread for $10.
“The cities come from cities we’ve travelled to and that mean something very special to us, or that we have just really enjoyed,” Durkee said.
Co-owners Cobi and his cousin Bernie Druxerman at restaurant The Construction Site take recommendations from customers when designing their grilled cheese menu.
“The menu changes every month. What happens is we have a feature sandwich, and it’s all customer selected,” Druxerman said. “We get young families, retirees, we get high school students, all over the place, and it doesn’t seem like one group really outweighs another.”
At The Construction Site, Druxerman said the focus is the cheese.
“Bread is more of a vehicle, and we don’t want it to be such a huge part of the sandwich,” Druxerman said. “The bread itself is never the main show. It complements with flavours but what we found with other breads was that it was too thin or too thick.”
Druxerman said this is the reason they chose French bread because of its light and fluffy center that doesn’t overpower the cheese.
“It’s about choosing good ingredients, and keeping things pretty simple.”
—Photo courtesy of Sarah H