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– Once upon a time I was a university student. Without giving you an exact number of how many years it’s been, I will tell you that Gap wanted everyone in khakis, pagers weren’t quite obsolete, and Mambo #5 was tearing up the charts. So thankfully a lot has changed, but two things remain, and will always remain the same, about student life. Number one: students are broke. Number two: they are hungry. Say Cheese is going to make many U of T students very happy.
I haven’t met a grilled cheese sandwich I didn’t like, and I haven’t met anyone that doesn’t like a grilled cheese sandwich. That might be why so many gourmet grilled cheese places are popping up these days, but it’s a risky business. The people have spoken and they want grilled cheese sammies…but they don’t want to pay a lot for them. After all, you can make a perfectly good one at home with white bread, and cheese that’s more plastic than it is dairy. And that’s where Say Cheese comes in. Nigel Koo, part owner and operator wants to satisfy stomachs without putting a dent in wallets. He doesn’t see why he can’t serve up a high quality sandwich at a low(ish) cost and have customers walking out in a lactose induced ecstasy.
It was quiet when I arrived but word wasn’t really out yet, and the boys were still experimenting in their test kitchen. I was happy to be a guinea pig. I asked to try their most popular meat and veggie options, and this is what followed.
I started with Indira’s Pulled Pork made with Beemster. Diners can choose to have regular cheese, such as cheddar, on their sandwich ($6.50) or upgrade to a premium choice ($8.50). My creation came topped with homemade mac & cheese (fun!) on whole wheat bread. I only ate half as I had more coming my way, but the sandwiches here are generous, and I had to pace myself. The different textures paired nicely, but I would have liked it more had the meat been a touch saucier, or came with something in which to dip it.
Next, came the Italian Classic. Not that I’m taking bets, but if you put Buffalo mozzarella on anything, I will eat it. So I was pleased when they said one of their best meatless sellers was filled with the stuff. I like a good Margharita pizza, and this was the sandwich version.
As if that wasn’t enough (and by all dietary standards, it was more than that) I was offered their dessert sandwich. It didn’t take a lot of prodding, and went something like this;
Nigel: You should try our dessert option.
Me: Wow, I don’t know. I’m really stuffed. Okay.
The French Grilled Toast is like a ménage a trois between a grilled cheese, some French toast, and a piece of cheesecake. It’s good. Scary good. Filled with ricotta, mascarpone and a berry compote, the sandwich is then dusted with turbinado sugar, and drizzled with maple syrup. As with French toast, this needed to be eaten with a knife and fork, which probably worked in my best interest as it stopped me from inhaling it. I will be going back for this one. As it is now, I think about it more than anyone should think about a sandwich.
So in total I ended up eating just a little bit more than a full sandwich thanks to the few bites I had of the French toast, and I was beyond full. So much so, that I actually skipped dinner that night. Now by my calculations, that equals two meals for the price of one, and a low price at that. This bodes well for hungry students up to their necks in debt.
Footnote: During the week, for a mere thirty minutes between 4:20 and 4:50 you can get yourself a sandwich and side (including soup, salad and possible ramen…) for just $4.20.
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