There is little that scratches the comfort food itch as well as a grilled cheese sandwich straight off the griddle and a piping-hot bowl of tomato soup.
There is something so soothing and nostalgic about the combination of oozing, melted cheese between two golden slices of bread that several pop-ups and food trucks have jumped on the trend in recent years, hawking gourmet versions of the tried-and-true staple.
Joining the bandwagon is The Big Cheezy, a new restaurant across the street from the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court on the corner of Tulane Avenue and South Broad Street. It's the first full-fledged restaurant endeavor from chef/owners Adam York and Josh Fogarty, who run the operation along with friends and business partners Thomas Jacobs and Richard Tinney.
The team takes pride in showing off its unwavering affinity for the childhood classic, offering 14 varieties of sandwiches that include myriad combinations of gourmet cheeses, breads and other toppings.
The restaurant has an airy, casual feel and at lunchtime is packed with employees and attorneys from the courthouse. Customers can place a sandwich order in front and take a seat at one of the space's many wooden tables surrounded by walls painted bright marigold, a nod to the restaurant's yellow-orange namesake.
While some sandwich aficionados may swear by coating the bread with mayonnaise before it hits the grill, the sandwiches here are a testament to the classic butter veneer: crusts are golden and crispy and not overly greasy.
The restaurant's signature sandwich, The Big Cheezy, is a towering triple-decker of thick slices of challah filled with six types of cheese: Gouda, Gruyere, pepper Jack, cheddar, mozzarella and Monterey Jack — all vie for attention, but cheddar is the dominating force.
The chefs don't practice restraint when it comes to the goods, and most options are not for the lactose or gluten averse.
A sandwich named The Juice boasts roast beef debris soaked with gravy piled onto sourdough bread with thick slices of cheddar and pepper Jack cheeses. Grilled green peppers add a nice crunch and freshness to the medley, but the number and type of components make the sandwich soggy quickly, and it is not the best takeout option.
In the Mac N' Cheezy, a mound of bacon macaroni and cheese is piled on white bread with thick slices of cheddar and thrown on the grill. The pasta is not the Kraft macaroni and cheese variety, but a decadent and smoky four-cheese combination, and it can be ordered as a separate side.
Several sandwiches offer respite from their heavier counterparts, like the Willie Nelson, in which melted Gouda accompanies creamy house-roasted red pepper hummus, cucumbers and tomatoes on wheat bread.
The Crazy Old Goat pairs soft goat cheese, Monterey Jack and a generous amount of applewood-smoked bacon with grilled green peppers and red pepper jelly. The peppers and jelly help balance the heavier flavors and the result is surprisingly light.
Several salads provide healthier options to diners looking for an alternative to the cheese and carbohydrate formula. The selection runs the gamut from traditional (Caesar, Greek) to a take on a spring salad featuing mixed greens, blueberries, blackberries, dried cranberries, toasted pecans and goat cheese.
The finishing touch is, of course, the tomato basil soup. Made fresh daily, the creamy, tangy soup is available in a cup, bowl or a dipper — just enough for a couple of dunks, which is sure to bring all your childhood memories rushing back.