Grilled Cheese, with variety

Simple sandwiches are done well at this new restaurant in Catonsville

even a dessert offering is cheesy

May 14, 2010|By Rob Kasper, The Baltimore Sun

A grilled cheese sandwich is not exactly high cuisine, but it can be satisfying. The crew at Grilled Cheese & Co. in Catonsville makes several versions of the sandwich, most on toasted ciabatta bread and made in a panini press. It is Mom food, if Mom had a panini press.

The interiors of these crusty sandwiches contain — what else? — cheese. But in many varieties, and with any number of accompaniments: cheddar with the bacon, cheese and tomato; pepper jack on the grilled chicken; mozzarella in the pepper and pesto sandwich and also in the Italian sausage and pepper sandwich. Then there is Swiss tucked in the ham and chicken, bleu in the grilled steak and Monterey jack in the crab melt.

There is little on the menu, including the salads and the dessert, that does not contain cheese. A dessert option, for example, is a serving of brie, mascarpone and chocolate chips.

This is not fast food — the sandwiches are made to order. But it is not slow food — we are talking sandwiches, not pot roast. But it is reasonably quick and pleasing.

Grilled Cheese & Co has been open about five weeks and is tucked into a former bakery on Edmondson Avenue just off Exit 14 of the Beltway.

Like much of Catonsville, it has a neighborhood feel to it. It is counter service, and the counter is staffed by cheerful youths, a group clad in shorts and T-shirts, who look as if they could have just walked out of a musical at Catonsville High School. In fact, the night I was there, they broke into a chorus of "Happy Birthday" for one of their customers, who was being treated to a sandwich by her relatives. The small-town atmosphere extends to the front porch of the building, where customers sit waiting for their takeout orders and chatting.

I had the Fredo ($7), also known as the Italian sausage, peppers and onions, with mozzarella. It was warm, comforting, cheesy, like a hug from Mama. I was less impressed with the crabby melt ($7), a blend of melted cheeses, crab meat and spices. Yes, there was crab flavor there, but it was smothered with the cheeses and ended up tasting more like crab dip than a sandwich.

The house salad ($4.50), with a mixture of greens, vegetables and shredded cheddar cheese, was crisp and filling.

The shoestring fries ($1.50) cooked in peanut oil were outstanding. They had snap and flavor. I have a weakness for skinny fried potatoes.

I dodged the brie and raspberry flavored mascarpone item ($7.50) for dessert — there is only so much cheese my arteries can take — and settled for a pleasing, if unexciting, blondie bar, a pale brownie with chocolate chips ($1.50).

Servers were smiling, yet they seemed required to encourage customers to upsize their orders, to add "a combo" to a sandwich order, or to add grilled chicken to a salad.

Business was brisk when I visited Grilled Cheese & Co., proving, I guess, that if you take a simple dish and do it well, customers will come.

Grilled Cheese & Co.

Where: 500 Edmondson Ave., Catonsville

Contact: 410-747-2610;

Open: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily

Sandwiches: $5-$7.50

Credit cards: Amex, Visa, MC, Discover

Food: ✭✭1/2

Service: ✭✭✭

Atmosphere: ✭✭

[Key: Outstanding: ✭✭✭✭; Good: ✭✭✭; Fair or uneven: ✭✭; Poor: ✭]

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