Keep on Trucking is a new feature that profiles the best food trucks that pass through West Hollywood and other Los Angeles communities. If you have a favorite truck, tell us about it!
Grilled cheese is one of those rare foods that pretty much nobody dislikes. Even when stacked up against other hall-of-fame crowd pleasers, it still seems to be the safest bet.
What makes the Grilled Cheese Truck such a brilliant and buzzy addition to the rich LA food truck tapestry is not, however, its commitment to the classic grilled cheese (which it does offer, and very well), but rather its willingness to push the boundaries and deliver inventive and adventurous concoctions. For this truck, the grilled cheese is not a be all and end all, but rather a blank slate, a springboard for delicious experimentation.
The truck made its name with its signature cheesy mac and rib, and it is easy to see why. This sandwich steps outside the mold just enough to warrant attention. But its flavor profile is still rooted in that rich, gooey cheesiness we all know and love. The combo of both melted cheddar cheese and thick globs of macaroni provides several layers of cheese flavor, and the melt's other accessories—sweet caramelized onions, barbecued pork—are merely there to support and enhance the intense cheesy goodness.
The brie melt sounds like it would be more refined, but in fact, it is just as over-the-top, with an oozing richness that comes from a very substantial portion of brie. The truck pairs the brie with fig paste—a classic combination, and the earthy sweetness of the figs plays beautifully against the nutty pungency of the brie. There are almonds too, mostly there to provide crunch.
The truck's moniker is "chef-driven grilled cheese," and that really comes into focus with the specials. Changing almost daily, the special melts often incorporate seasonal ingredients and more unconventional preparations.
The special on my last visit was fontina cheese with red-wine braised short rib, sauteed crimini mushrooms and arugula—a great French-inspired flavor combination. The arugula was a particularly smart touch as the sharp bitterness provided a wonderful contrast with the meaty, unctuous short ribs.
It also has several dessert options on display. The s'more melt—a combination of marshmallow cream, nutella and crumbled graham crackers on sweet brioche—may sound like the most gluttonous sandwich of the night, but in fact, its ingredient assembly shows a good deal of restraint. If the nutella was globbed onto the bread with the same reckless abandon as the brie or the macaroni and cheese on my other melts, it would be far too rich.
And why not try it with bacon? Recommended by many a truck worker, the saltiness of the bacon enhances the sweetness of the other ingredients. The magic of a salty/sweet dessert combo should be evident to anyone who has ever eaten a chocolate covered pretzel.
There are side dishes as well, including tator tots, mac and cheese, and, on special, a vibrant tomato gazpacho. Its homemade pickles, a side order coming in at only 50 cents, is a must. The pickles, more sweet than sour, are fresh, bright and very aromatic. They are a great combination with the rich melts.
The service at the Grilled Cheese Truck is also worth noting—a perfect mixture of gregariousness and razor-sharp efficiency. Tonight, the truck will be on Melrose Avenue between Ogden and Stanley for Melrose Night from 6 to 10.