The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, nestled in San Francisco’s historic and uberly artistic SoMa district, instantaneously became a favorite of mine, earlier this summer. We had just landed at San Francisco International, in town visiting family and for the 117th U.S. Open, grabbed the electric blue rocket ship that was my rental and made a beeline towards the intersection of 2nd Street & South Park Avenue.
As I walked into the the transformed space, where an early-20th century tobacco warehouse once called home, I immediately had flashbacks of my granny’s kitchen. My senses were suddenly overtaken by the ninja-like combination of wooden picture frames, cast-iron skillets, vintage wallpaper, an antique cuckoo-clock, Americana folk art, and the comforting smells produced by a hot, well-greased griddle. In a flash I was incapacitated, unable to move, just standing there with a cheesy (damn right this pun’s intended) grin on my face…
Once I snapped out of it, I was fixated on their chalkboard menu, graced with nothing but deliciousness. Stepping up to the register to place our order, we asked for the Jalapeño Popper and Piglet, both “varietals” of grilled cheese sandwiches and a few Empire colas. Now, for those of you out there who question going out for a grilled cheese sandwich, when’s the last time you whipped up a grilled cheese sandwiches that included chèvre, Monterrey jack, applewood-smoked bacon, apricot-jalapeño relish on Pinkie’s rustic levain (descriptor for the Jalapeño Popper) and one that consisted of Tillamook sharp cheddar, artisan cured ham, apple mustard, rosemary butter on levain (aka, the Piglet)? Okay, that’s what I thought, too.
Upon placing our order, we were welcomed by the super friendly staff, behind the counter. One kindly asked where we were from, noticing we weren’t from “around these parts” picking up on my ever-so-charming and undisguisable southern accent. Discovering we shared a common thread of both having once lived in North Carolina, we had a nice conversation and then pulled up a seat at the counter, awaiting our food.
Looking over at my beautiful wife, I blurted out “I should have gotten the soup” and, as if Granny overheard me, I was asked by a smiling face standing between me and the kitchen if I’d like a complimentary Smoky Tomato Soup (I swear I heard the angelic belting of H-A-L-L-E-L-U-J-A-H! above me). Apparently it was plated by accident, but I was completely okay with it. There it was, a simple yet rich and tasty homemade creation crafted with crème fraîche and croutons. It was the perfect pairing to my Piglet.
We sat there not saying much, crunching into the locally baked levain’s millimeter-thick crust, both amazed with what our taste buds were experiencing. The sandwiches were absolutely delicious. A little forewarning, the Jalapeño Popper isn’t for the casual pepper eater. It packs some Jalapeño punch, serious robust flavor. The sourdough surrounding the Piglet was seasoned with rosemary butter, which perfectly balanced the bold taste of sharp cheddar, cured ham, and apple mustard. Speaking of apples, both grilled cheeses came with one – a nice motherly touch.
The what felt like family at The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen is serving up fantastic food in a setting that’s familiar and calming, taking you back to a time when things were a little simpler, slower and full of flavor. Offering seating both inside and out, they’ll bring your food out quickly and with personality, which is genuine. At the corner of 2nd Street and South Park Avenue, they’re making magic, turning quality ingredients into gourmet grilled cheese masterpieces, and, for me personally, memories of Granny…but I don’t remember Granny’s grilled cheese sandwiches ever tasting this damn good!