T he scientific principles that apply to the process of gently heating two pieces of bread coated in butter and filled with cheese seem so simplistic when compared to the emotional response that this process produces.
Glorious grilled cheese. Is it the nostalgia associated with memories of childhood or the simple yet filling ingredients that make this American staple so comforting?
Whatever the answer, it’s clear this is a near-universally loved food. And thanks to The Cheese Truck, that love goes mobile on a regular basis.
An extension of New Haven’s Caseus Fromagerie & Bistro (a cheese-lover’s paradise given its extensive specialty cheese shop and associated offerings on the restaurant menu), the truck is all about the grilled cheese sandwich, offering not only the “classic” but a variety of add-ons, from your basic tomato, bacon or grilled red onions to your not-so-basic guacamole, Berkshire pulled pork or jambon de Paris.
The truck’s motto is, “Crispy Melty.” As you bite into the perfectly toasted, buttery sourdough bread and just-right abundance of cheese threatening to escape the corners—although no true fan would allow such a transgression—those two words perfectly sum up this particular sandwich experience. Grainy mustard and cornichon pickles, both ideal for cutting the richness of the cheese, come standard.
“The idea with this was to bring high-quality-ingredient-based comfort food to the [Yale] campus,” says Tom Sobocinski, who manages cheese truck activity on a regular basis.
It’s a family business. He co-owns both The Cheese Truck and restaurant with his older brother, Jason, who originally founded and opened the cheese shop and bistro. After Tom joined the crew, the two decided that taking the Caseus experience beyond the walls of the restaurant itself was the next logical step.
The truck was a New Jersey Craigslist find at the right price (“real cheap,” says Tom), and it first hit New Haven streets in 2010. The streets are where you’ll find it most Tuesdays through Fridays, set up for lunch hour from about 10:30 until 2:30 or 3.
It’s often parked closed to campus, in part to cater to students who might not make it to the bistro that often, as meals there can get pricey; favorite spots include the intersections of College and Wall Streets, or at York and Chapel. But luckily getting your fix is as easy as following The Cheese Truck on Twitter or Facebook, where daily locations are posted.
Or you could simply follow the smell of the frying bacon. And not just any bacon, mind you. The Sobocinski philosophy involves using only the best ingredients, meaning a limited, but reliably delicious, menu.
Health food? Not exactly. They know where every part of your meal came from, however, which speaks to health on a broader level.
The basic grilled cheese—at an affordable $5—includes the Caseus signature cheese blend of provolone, Swiss, comte, gruyere, gouda, sharp cheddar, muenster and more. Sustainability is important, says Sobocinski, so when a particular cheese is running low in the shop, they’ll toss it into the mix to use up every last bit (blue cheese, with its particularly strong flavor, excepted).
Jeff Weaver, a regular chef in the truck from day one, often goes “shopping” at the fromagerie for these delectable finds. Beyond enhancing the cheese blend, he often discovers the inspiration for the grilled cheese of the day, like the pear and Roquefort blue cheese or charred green onion and taleggio specials served recently. An impromptu pastrami hash also proved a big hit recently.
The commitment to quality ingredients—and to a well-rounded menu including artisan lettuce salads, creamy tomato soup and grilled sausages—is undoubtedly one of the reasons the truck’s catering service attracts a wide customer base.
“Grilled cheese is a universal food,” says Tom. The truck has fed birthday parties for two-year-olds and sixty-year-olds, in addition to large corporate gatherings and weddings. Beyond the main event, it’s catered after-parties and cocktail hours, where they get inventive with grilled cheese bites and tomato soup shooters.
As Tom puts it, “Pretty much any place where people want to eat, we’ll do it.” And as far as downtown New Haven goes, pretty much anywhere they want to park, people will come.
There’s no shortage of food trucks in this city, offering every ethnic specialty you can imagine. But there is nothing quite like the simple pleasure of a perfect grilled cheese on a crisp October day; or when the rain won’t stop; or when the frigid winter air is numbing your fingers.
Or because you’re simply passing by the truck and can’t resist. It’s ok, you’re in good company. After all, we are talking crispy. Melty. Wonderful.
The Cheese Truck
Follow on Facebook or Twitter to check the truck’s location on any given day.
Tues-Fri 10:30am-2:30pm (usually)
(203) 850-3504 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Written and photographed by Cara McDonough.