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Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Grilled Cheese Grill

Ah, cheese. There’s nothing much like watching an ooey, gooey sandwich—two buttery bread slices stuffed with melted cheddar, Swiss and jack—slide off the frying pan and onto my plate, wet with grease. And there sure as heck is nothing better than biting into it.

Except, I suppose, not having to fry it myself first.

One Saturday afternoon, I venture the short distance to Portland’s Alberta Street, where I nearly drive smack into a big yellow bus. (Like the kind kids ride to school.) But this one isn’t a school bus, really, because it no longer transports children to and from elementary school; it’s a restaurant called The Grilled Cheese Grill.

My mouth waters.

I meet eyes with the man behind the counter. He’s rugged and dirty, but cool. His hair explodes from his once white beanie, which looks as though it hasn’t been washed in decades. (My first year back in Portland has taught me this is chic, not disgusting. So I don’t judge.)

(In fact? My hairdresser practically orders me to stop washing my hair. She says all hair looks better this way, dirty and kind of crusty.)

(Hmm.)

The menu features items like “The Kindergartner”—the classic grilled cheese, however you like it, with white or wheat bread and American or cheddar cheese—and “The Pre-Schooler”—the same as “The Kindergartner” but with the crusts cut off. It also has more grown-up sandwiches such as “The Pops”—tomato, havarti and honey mustard on Dave’s Killer Cracked Wheat—which is exactly what I order.

I sit in the school bus, which is loaded with tables and chairs and has a lot more room than I remember it having eighteen years ago, even though I’m twice (or three times?) the size as I was then. Underneath the glass tables, photographs of school-aged kids from the seventies, eighties and nineties are plastered in a row, offering a charming yet unnerving ambiance. The walls pop with brightly painted murals.

I savor my cooked-to-perfection sandwich while wondering how and where the owners store all that cheese—and still have room to cook!—in their little cart right outside the school bus.

Then I think about how much I adore these quirky little eateries that can be found only in Portland.


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  1. I must go there! It sounds delicious, and fun!

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