Cheesewerks is the city's newest, quirky grilled-cheese specialty shop, giving Kensington Market's The Grilled Cheese and the also recently opened Construction Site a little competition. Located in the relatively sparse South Bathurst area, the glassy enclosure boasts fresh house-made soups, baked goods, libations, and of course, plenty of grilled cheese sandwiches, ranging from bare-bones classics to imaginative creations.
The brightly lit, sleek interior of Cheesewerks, though only two weeks old when I stop by earlier this week, is bustling with winter coat-clad thirty-somethings chowing down on oozing sandwiches and drinking house-made "artisan" sodas ($3). With a dining room set against a wall mosaic of cheese-inspired orange and yellows, I feel a little like I'm part of a playtime lunch-break in elementary school. The juxtaposition of playfulness and minimalism punctuates the menu as much as it does the décor.
My friend and I spend some time looking over the city-inspired sandwich menu. Wanting to try a few flavours, I go for the "Toronto" ($9.50), lauded as a "mini-tower of grilled cheese sliders from Toronto's foodie neighbourhoods." I am asked to select two of the following three choices: "Koreatown" (gruyere and kimchi), "Danforth" (aged goat cheddar and olive tapenade), and "Little Italy" (buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil). Salivating, I opt for the Koreatown and Danforth, which sound the most interesting. My friend picks "Los Angeles" (8.50) — a delicious-sounding combo of havarti, smashed avocado, arugula and citrus. Our stomachs rumble in anticipation.
After we wait for seven or eight minutes, my name is called and I feel a little puzzled when I pick up my order. The intriguing "mini-tower" of grilled cheese sliders is just a regular grilled cheese, with two different halves. Misrepresentation aside, the Danforth is quite good — the cheese oozes and drips onto the plate as I eat it, and the tapenade is a welcome salty counterpart to the milder goat cheddar. The Koreatown, however, is disappointing. The shredded gruyere is rigid and unmelted and the cold kimchi only adds to my squeamishness.
My friend is patiently still waiting for her sandwich when we finish the first half of mine. Eventually the counterperson informs us that they're out of arugula, and asks whether she'd like to try something else instead. We ask him for a suggestion and he responds "I don't know... anything else." Thinking he must mean substitutions, we ask again what might be tasty. He suggests "The Charleston" ($9.50) — double cream brie, caramelized onions and citrus compote. Though it's a different sandwich all together, we go for it and ask for some specialty ketchup ($0.75) too.
When the sandwich comes out, he brings us a bag of St. John's Bakery organic gingersnap cookies ($1). We appreciate the gesture and take it as an apology for the wait, though no explanation is provided.
The Charleston is truly delicious. The ultra-soft, melted brie threatens to seep through the bread, halted only by a barrier of toasted walnut crust. The apricot chutney is a touch sweet for my taste, but works nicely with the earthy walnuts and tang of the dripping brie.
It's evident from the staff who seem a little flustered by the rush, and the lack of product knowledge from the counter-person, that the spot is still quite new. When they iron out the kinks a few weeks from now, however, I'll return to get some more of that gooey-goodness into my system.