Cheese is one of those ingredients with which I have a love/hate relationship. I don’t like it in Mexican food, I’m okay with it on hamburgers, but I am consistently drawn to it with macaroni. The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen opened up in the neighborhood some time last year, and admittedly I was curious but not enough to rush on over despite it being only a 5 minute walk away. It started out being open only for lunch on Monday through Friday, but over time, the hours have expanded where I am actually able to check it out now.
So after an exhausting run along the Embarcadero today, we decided to swing on by and pick up some lunch. The place was quite bustling with a very healthy lunchtime crowd. Inside seating is limited to a stretch of counter space, but with such nice weather on this particular day, it would have been more desirable to snag one of the tables outside anyways. Although the space inside is not very big, it had a very cozy, neighborhoody feel that I really liked. With the wood-paneled walls and open kitchen, it felt like a mom & pop style kitchen in some cabin somewhere serving simple sandwiches. On this particular day, since we were out running, we decided to take the food home, but we ended up returning a couple of weeks later armed with a camera.
Ambiance-wise, the restaurant is really cute. With its rich brown counter tops and colorful chalk board menus, there is more of a rustic feel but when you see everyone working in the restaurant, you immediately know you’re in San Francisco. There is a characteristic look to young average San Franciscans that can probably only be described as hippy-ish and this restaurant is full of them…. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but it’s something quite noticeable.
I have a weakness for biscuits and even though I know it’s bad for me, I can’t help but take a bite. Even though these biscuits were $2.50, they looked too tempting to give up, and boy was that a good bet. The biscuits were delicious. In addition to the characteristic denseness of the biscuit, there was the subtle flavor of cheese and nice chunks of ham baked throughout the biscuit. It was worth the $2.50.
We ordered the Pigelet sandwich and Smoky Tomato Soup to share. The Piglet had Tillamook sharp cheddar, artisan cured ham, apple mustard, and rosemary butter on fresh levain, which is a country-style wheat bread. It was nicely grilled which resulted in a crisp and toasty crunch to the sandwich. I really liked the subtle sweetness of what I assume must have been the apple mustard. It added a unique twist to the entire taste of the sandwich.
The Smoky Tomato Soup was topped with crème fraîche and croutons. It was smooth, creamy and delicious. It went very well with the Piglet, but I imagine it would probably go well with any grilled cheese sandwich on the menu. A very nice companion that I would highly recommend to complete the meal.
Although the concept of grilled cheese sandwiches sounds really simple, it’s quite impressive what they have done here to take it to another level. The quality and freshness of the ingredients along with the refined flavors have turned this all American lunch dish into more of a gourmet meal for SF yuppies. I really enjoyed the food, and I look forward to being able to enjoy another lunch at this quaint neighborhood spot again.
American Grilled Cheese Kitchen
1 South Park Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
PAFO Ratings for American Grilled Cheese Kitchen:
Price 1½ stars
Ambiance 3½ stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3½ stars