A Visit to LA’s Grilled Cheese Truck

Welcome to Grilled Cheese Month on Panini Happy! Throughout April we’ll be celebrating the much beloved grilled cheese sandwich in all kinds of ways – a grilled cheese food truck (that’s today!), a national grilled cheese competition, grilled cheese gadgets and, of course, a bunch of melty sandwich recipes. It’s my favorite month on this blog!

What better way to kick off this month of celebration than a visit to LA’s Grilled Cheese Truck. Food trucks are the new, hip thing in the foodie world these days and the Grilled Cheese Truck is right at the top of the heap. It’s hard to imagine why throngs of people would wait upwards of an hour for a grilled cheese sandwich – nope, I’m not kidding – but as I discovered, there’s more to the experience of catching up with this food truck than just the food.

One line to order, one line to wait for your order

Ordering at the Grilled Cheese Truck

On a rare overcast afternoon in Southern California I drove up to the Valley where the Grilled Cheese Truck was scheduled to be stationed for lunch. This was my first time visiting one of these cool, new food trucks. I’d envisioned it in a big open parking lot with a smattering of folding tables and chairs set up, which is evidence that I’ve been living in the suburbs for way too long now. Nope, the big yellow truck was parallel parked right at the curb on Ventura Boulevard (outside a business whose name wouldn’t be prudent to mention on my PG-rated blog – I can say it contains the word “toys”). No tables or chairs, this was a grab-and-go operation. All right, no big deal – I just went with the flow.

Grilled Cheese Truck graphics
Groovy graphics from the side of the truck

About ten minutes into lunch service, the line was already about 30 people deep. The line to order, that is. There was a second line where everyone waited to pick up their food. One by one, people happily departed from the second line with their little silver square pouches. It was all kind of hush-hush in a way. As an observer, I was given absolutely no clue what was inside these silver pouches. Obviously, it was grilled cheese sandwiches (they call them “melts”), but there was no way to actually catch a glimpse of them. This only added to my anticipation.

After thirty minutes in the order line it was my turn at the window. I ordered their #1 seller, the Cheesy Mac & Rib – macaroni and cheese with sharp cheddar, barbecue pork and caramelized onions for $7.50. And tater tots. I moved over to the pickup line.

"Please limit your order to 5 melts maximum"

It’s not every day that you see a business placing a cap on how many orders you can place with them, but a “5 melt maximum” policy is in effect at the Grilled Cheese Truck. I respect that. This truck attracts a ton of customers and, as fast as these guys are cranking out sandwiches, if someone came up to the window with an order for their whole office…well, it definitely would not be cool to be that next person in line. Good policy.

Food trucks rely heavily on social media for getting the word out

Tens of thousands follow The Grilled Cheese Truck’s whereabouts on Twitter and Facebook. Most food trucks rely heavily on social media to spread the word about their location and to generate a community around their business. Don’t you wish we had these tools when we were kids to know when the ice cream truck was coming?

Co-owner Michele Grant gets the orders ready
Co-owner Michele Grant gets the orders ready

As busy as Michele Grant, the truck’s “Cheese Executive Officer”, was during lunch that day I couldn’t help but be a little envious of the exciting venture she and her business partner Dave Danhi have embarked on. In less than two years they have harnessed the widespread enthusiasm for a childhood comfort food and channeled it into what appears to be a thriving business that puts smiles on people’s faces. Michele herself appeared to be in an upbeat mood as she swiftly moved through tickets, distributing the little silver pouches to the queued up customers. I just love watching entrepreneurship in action.

The Melt is ready!
A quick glimpse of what's going inside the little silver pouch
At last!
At last...mine!

After forty-five minutes of waiting, it kind of felt like winning the lottery when I finally had a silver square Grilled Cheese Truck pouch in my hand. I wanted to get right down to business and dig into this thing immediately. But…I thought it might be nice if I photographed it first so you could what this Cheesy Mac & Rib sandwich that I waited forty-five minutes for in two lines on the sidewalk one hundred miles from my house up in Tarzana (did I mention it was cold out and I’d left my jacket in the car?) looked like.

The Grilled Cheese Truck's #1 seller - Cheesy Mac & Rib Melt
The Grilled Cheese Truck's #1 seller - Cheesy Mac & Rib Melt

Yes, I found it to be delicious. Yes, I have much guilt over this. Yes, I did consume the entire thing.

Honestly, I expected that the combination of mac and cheese and pulled pork on a sandwich was going to be so over-the-top that I wouldn’t finish it. But it really did work. The outside of the sandwich is extremely crispy, owing to a sweep of butter and mayonnaise on the bread before grilling (no one said it was healthy). Inside, the tangy flavors of the barbecue pork and sharp cheddar cheese melded perfectly. While my arteries probably can’t afford to indulge in this sandwich more than once in a blue moon I believe in enjoying everything in moderation. This was one creative, great-tasting signature sandwich. And the experience as a whole was well worth the wait.

Don't forget the tots!

Let’s not forget the crispy tots, cornucopia-style. 🙂

There’s a lot more grilled cheese coming your way this month. The recipe for the Cheesy Mac & Rib appeared in this month’s Food Network magazine, so you know I had to give it a try on the panini grill…stay tuned later this week!

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KathyPanini Happy, online since 2008, is more than just a sandwich blog. Here, you'll find hundreds of my original panini recipes, my guide to choosing a panini press and a whole lot of other creative uses for the panini press.
~ Kathy Strahs
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22 Comments

  1. Oh my word I think I’ve died and gone to heaven just looking at that grilled cheese. I want a grilled cheese truck right outside my house!

    I can’t wait for the other posts! 🙂

    Posted 4.3.11 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      Oh man, that would be sooo dangerous…but cool! 🙂

      Posted 4.4.11 Reply
  2. bellini wrote:

    It is almost midnight and I am ready to head to the kicthen to make a grilled cheese!!!!

    Posted 4.4.11 Reply
  3. Amanda wrote:

    What a brilliant business idea!

    Posted 4.4.11 Reply
  4. I’ve never seen this one before, I’ll have to check them out if they’re ever in my area, sounds good. I’m excited for grilled cheese month too!

    Posted 4.4.11 Reply
  5. That’s so neat – we don’t have food trucks out here. Well… it’s possible we do but not like LA. What’s got me drooling most is honestly the potato puffs haha. Love those lil things. 🙂

    Posted 4.4.11 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      The tots were awesome. Way better than I remember from school lunch! 🙂

      Posted 4.4.11 Reply
  6. What fun! I’d love to take a huge bite of that rib melt. 🙂

    Posted 4.4.11 Reply
  7. Kristen wrote:

    It has always been a dream of mine to own a little food truck like this…and just went different places each day for the lunch crowd. How cool would that be, seriously? So fun!

    That sandwich looks AMAZING… wow.

    Posted 4.4.11 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      SO cool! I’d make the trip out to KC to catch yours! 🙂

      Posted 4.4.11 Reply
  8. Roxana wrote:

    These guys are way too cool. Hope my food truck will be that successful. The Grilled Cheese Truck was on TV a couple of months ago. The owner said he made $5000 a week and they had just added a new truck. I hope my truck “Roxy’s Bistro on Wheels” will be that successful. We serve Paninis, Sammies, Soups and Salads. We’ve just been in business for about 3 weeks. Each day more and more are discovering how cheese and other foods go together when they are pressed.

    Posted 4.4.11 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      They sure are a great business to emulate. Best of luck with your truck, Roxana – how exciting!

      Posted 4.4.11 Reply
  9. Esi wrote:

    I love the GCT! They have really great specials and even though the lines are always long, the service is really nice.

    Posted 4.4.11 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      You are so lucky to be in LA! There are so many fun trucks there. The San Diego food truck scene is a little more nascent but I’m looking forward to trying them all too.

      Posted 4.4.11 Reply
  10. What a fun and delicious adventure! I have GOT to figure out what the food truck trend is all about, and if I find this grilled cheese truck in the city, I’m hunting it down and grabbing a sandwich for myself! 🙂

    Posted 4.4.11 Reply
  11. Ohhhh my gaaa! I am literally drooling on my keyboard over here. Good thing I have a trip to LA & San Diego booked this summer! I am now super inspired to open a food truck here on the east coast…

    Posted 4.4.11 Reply
  12. Carole wrote:

    Well, yum! Thanks for sharing your GCT adventure w/ us.

    Posted 4.4.11 Reply
  13. Megan wrote:

    Now that is some lunch wagon! Happy Grilled Cheese Month!

    Posted 4.5.11 Reply
  14. Shaina wrote:

    These look lovely. I eat far too little grilled cheese, me thinks.

    Posted 4.5.11 Reply
  15. That looks like a mighty delicious food truck!

    Posted 4.5.11 Reply
  16. Marissa wrote:

    I’m a grad student at UCLA, and there are different food trucks on campus everyday to replace the Sciences’ commons. The Grilled Cheese Truck is my favorite. I haven’t had the mac n rib, but now I want to try it!

    Posted 4.5.11 Reply
  17. I’ve never had seen a panini truck…amazing! That mac and cheese rib melt looks delicous. What a fun post!! 🙂

    Posted 4.11.11 Reply