Grilled cheese, grown up

by Karen Phillips

Ilove grilled-cheese sandwiches. My mom used to make them for me all the time when I was younger. I had to have it on white bread — because I was picky— with two slices of American cheese (but not the kind that came in the plastic wrapping because that’s made with oil and water), and just a little butter for cooking. The butter helped the bread brown just right and kept it from drying out. My mom would even add a tomato slice in there every once in a while for good measure.

I hated grilled cheese at my friends’ houses. They would just slap a single slice of pre-wrapped American cheese in between two pieces of bread and throw it in the toaster. The end result was a dry, flavorless, unsatisfying, toasted mess. And the cheese wasn’t even really melted. I used to answer with a polite “No, thank you,” when they offered me one as I hungrily watched them eat their cardboard sandwich, but as I got a little older and a little wiser, I started offering to make them grilled cheese a la my mom, and passed on the not-sosecret secret recipe.

I don’t really eat grilled-cheese sandwiches anymore in my old age, but Simplyummy Café in Winston-Salem has one that I just couldn’t pass up. It’s a quaint little restaurant located in Reynolda Village with both indoor and outdoor seating and a bar area with free wifi to sit and relax. It offers many organic and locally grown produce and products, as well as hormone-free dairy products, free-range eggs, and preservative-free and chemical-free breads.

Their grilled cheese recipe would make my mother proud.

Or jealous, I’m not sure which. I ordered the Old School sandwich and opted for white bread — to make the younger Karen happy — and gruyere cheese. The twist? They put a touch of brown sugar in the sandwich before they cook it, so it melts together with the cheese. Best. Idea. Ever.

I rounded out the meal with a cup of their homemade tomato Soup O’ The Moment and a latté. The soup was warm and satisfying, albeit a little heavy on the tomato paste, but it paired well with my grilled cheese crust. I was having trouble deciding between a side of carrot sticks with Thai peanut butter dip, or the fresh fruit, but I opted for the latter. The fruit was a nice palate cleanser at the end of the meal. It wasn’t until about half way through my latté that I noticed they had a warm caramel-apple cider on the menu. I’ll definitely have to try that the next time.

The one thing I miss about my mom making me grilled cheese is the comfort of my kitchen table and the quiet atmosphere of home. Simplyummy gets pretty busy around noon on a Friday, and the staff has a lot on their hands at that time of day. They must be doing something right to have such a following.

My husband makes grilled cheese the way my friends used to make it — the boring way. He loves my version, but doesn’t feel like taking the time to do it that way for himself. I’m going to try to make us grilled-cheese sandwiches with gruyere and brown sugar. I’ll let you know how it goes. Either way, I’ll be visiting Simplyummy again, next time for breakfast, so I can try that caramel-apple cider and their Nutella panini.


Simplyummy Café; 122 Reynolda Villiage, Winston-Salem; 336.724.9779;