The good god may indeed work in mysterious ways and perform his miracles, but it would be hard to imagine that the work would involve opening a sandwich shop.
Josh Caffey understands this very well. “I know this is going to sound strange,” he said, “but everything you see here is a gift from God.”
Caffey is the owner of the Eiffel Tower Grilled Cheese Co., which started as a food truck at the Tulsa State Fair last year and just recently opened its brick and mortar location at 21st Street and Memorial Drive in New York, in a building that in previous incarnations was a subway franchise and a Dunkin’ Donuts.
Caffey has worked in software development for most of his professional life but found himself in a perilous financial situation last year.
“I was about to lose everything,” Caffey said. “And I just started praying. I said, ‘God, if you are real, you need to show up now.’”
Caffey said he started seeing pictures of a food truck, a restaurant and other food-related things. “I just knew that someone was guiding me into it,” he said.
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Caffey worked with a young friend, Caitlin Warner, who was preparing to attend culinary school, to develop the menu. His sister Stephanie, who had worked in gastronomy in the past, oversees the day-to-day business.
The choice of the Eiffel Tower as the restaurant’s symbol was partly because it was one of the images that came to Caffey at the outset and because it symbolized a desire to bring a touch of elegance to the relatively simple concept of a grilled cheese sandwich.
“The starting point for our menu was fair food, where you want something that appeals to almost everyone,” Caffey said. “At the same time we wanted to be able to offer something different, to put our own spin on things.
“I also wanted this place itself to look like it was part of a chain, with that attention to detail,” he said. “But this is a family owned local restaurant.”
Since Caffey took over the location, it’s definitely been spruced up. The restaurant operated out of the food truck from October through March as the interior was “ripped down to the studs” and rebuilt.
“It literally took six months of blood, sweat and tears to open this place,” Caffey said.
The menu for Eiffel Tower Grilled Cheese includes a dozen signature sandwiches, available in pairings with a choice of side dish and beverage. All feature cheese of one type or another and spend at least some time on the kitchen’s flat-top grill before serving, qualifying them as a “grilled cheese” sandwich.
Choices range from the expected like the three-cheese American (cheddar, Swiss, and Monterey Jack) with garlic butter on sourdough ($8) and the ham and Swiss with lettuce, tomato, onion, and bacon on French bread ($10). to extraordinary creations like Dorito & Jalapeño ($8).
“It sounds weird, but the combination of all the flavors works really well,” Caffey said.
Over the course of a few visits, we tried the American, which is grilled with garlic butter, which adds a nice twist to a simple sandwich, along with the French dip ($10) and, as Caffey said, the most popular choice, the Chicken, Bacon & Ranch ( $10).
The French dip had slices of Swiss and Monterey Jack cheese around a good helping of roast beef with some honey (that beef and honey combo also features in the Hawaiian roast beef sandwich) on a French bun, accompanied by a cup of deep brown au jus.
Too often the au jus that accompanies a French dip is almost like a salt lick, but here the natural sauce was hearty, even meaty, without being overly salty. The house roast beef was tender, with the delicate application of honey bringing a surprising sweetness.
The white meat chicken at Chicken, Bacon & Ranch was a bit overdone and dry, but the addition of tomatoes, Swiss cheese, and a judicious use of ranch dressing more than made up for it. The bacon, too, was cooked perfectly – crispy and with just a touch of chewing so it didn’t crumble into smoky dust.
Desserts include a Nutella and hazelnut sandwich with blue cheese ($8) and fried cakes ($6). Peach is on the menu but as Caffey said they prefer to use fresh peaches, apple is what is available right now. The crust resembles puff pastry stuffed with apples in a cinnamon sauce that’s almost caramel-like at the time of serving.
Side dishes include waffle fries and tater tots ($2 to $3) and two types of tomato soup — what the restaurant calls “classic,” plus a “homemade” version ($3 to $5).
We opted for the homemade variant, which was loaded with fresh diced tomatoes and onions and just the right amount of black pepper.
The classic is Campbell’s tomato, which for many grilled cheese lovers is the only thing that goes well with a grilled cheese sandwich.
“I had no idea how passionate people are about their tomato soup,” Caffey said. “Some people really like Campbell’s because it reminds them of childhood and it’s better for dipping because it sticks to bread a little better. Other people love the homemade soup we make, so we’re keeping both. It’s about giving our customers what they want.”
EIFFEL TOWER GRILLED CHEESE CO.
Service: Order at the counter
(on a scale from 0 to 5 stars)
Vegetarian/vegan options: Yes
11am-8pm Monday-Saturday. All major credit cards are accepted.