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I witnessed the glory and gluttony that is a vegetarian who refuses to eat vegetables. I don’t want a grilled cheese sandwich every time I crave a meatless sandwich. Sometimes, though, that is exactly what I want. While a true DMV-wide grilled cheese search is in order, I’m testing the ones readers submitted—from Sticky Fingers Bakery, Five Guys Burgers &Fries, Busboys and Poets, and Jaleo—as a great alternative to boring veggie-filled vegetarian sandwiches.
Where: Sticky Fingers What: Grilled Diya (original comment). Bread: Multi-grain, from Lyon Bakeries. Cheesiness: A mix of shredded mozzarella and cheddar, from Daiya. This vegan cheese didn’t allow for the gooey, melty factor, much need for a proper grilled cheese: when tearing the two halves apart there weren’t those “strings” of cheese. The flavor of the cheese was pretty bland, but I’m also not used to vegan cheese. Extras: Because it was a vegan sandwich (and, again, I’m not used to vegan cheese) I figured the cheese needed as much help as it could get and ordered it with all of the available toppings. But, none of them helped – the tomatoes were flagrantly mealy, the onions were mostly raw (which was unpleasant textural contrast to the cheese) and the tempeh was flavorless. It didn’t add the body, crunch, flavor and depth that a bacon strip would have contributed. Grease Factor: Impressive, for the lack of real dairy fat. The grill is greased with Earth Balance margarine, which gives the sandwich that delicious shiny coating. Back For Seconds: No. Maybe if I didn’t eat real cheese, this could cut it. But I do, so I’ll stick with a black coffee from Sticky Fingers for now.
Where: Five Guys Burgers and Fries What: Grilled cheese (original comment). Bread: A hamburger bun, turned inside out. Frankly, this creative use of bread won the sandwich some points—actually, its only points. With the sesame coating facing the cheese, the plain white side turns into that definitive grilled cheese crust. Cheesiness: It’s cheesy and has that weird yellow-orange color. I know ya’ll are gonna swear I shouldn’t be a food writer when you hear this: but I hate American cheese. I hated it my whole life, back when I was the quintessential picky eater as a kid. I hate the way it coats my teeth. I just keep rubbing my tongue around my mouth, and sometimes I even take a napkin try to wipe the remnants off my tongue and teeth. It’s a life-long hatred. Just go with it. This sandwich is filled with American cheese, so, clearly, it skeeves me. But you might like it. Extras: Sauteed mushrooms, which couldn’t save the sandwich. Grease Factor: It’s from Five Guys. Yes. Back for Seconds: Absolutely not.
Where: Busboys and Poets What: Grilled Brie Panini (original comment). Bread: Ciabatta, beautifully pressed with grill lines. Cheesiness: The brie softens from the heat, but stops short of melting into creaminess. Extras: Spinach, caramelized onions, and tomato. After one bite I pulled the lifeless tomato off the sandwich. The onions offer a nice sweetness but the spinach is barely noticeable. I added the yellow table mustard for some help, but the sandwich stayed bland. Grease Factor: Not too greasy, but I did wipe my fingertips before tapping on my keyboard. Back for Seconds: Nah. There was nothing wrong with the sandwich, it just wasn’t impressive. D.C. offers too many better sandwiches to try than to give this a second go.
Where: Jaleo What: Grilled Cheese with Manchego, Murcia, Valdeón, and goat cheese with truffle oil (original comment). Bread: It’s called “rustic bread” on the menu, but it’s really a French loaf. Extras: Served with honey alioli, which combines house-made garlic mayo and honey. Cheesiness: The combination of different cheeses creates both a creamy and gooey sandwich, which is quite rich, and is only enhanced with the sweetness of the side sauce. Grease Factor: A classy amount of grease: just enough to remind you it’s a grilled cheese, but not enough to be turned off. Back for Seconds: Absolutely.
In order of appearance in the comments
- Cork Market
- Cowgirl Creamery
- Busboys and Poets (sandwich 1) (sandwich 2)
- Taylor Gourmet (sandwich 1) (sandwich 2)
- Pret a Manger
- California Tortilla
- Jaleo (sandwich 1) (sandwich 2)
- Highland Cafe
- Jimmy John’s
- Greek Spot
- Sticky Fingers
- Super Taco
- Luna Grill
- Five Guys
- Everlasting Life
- Au Bon Pain
- Devon & Blakely
- Corner Bakery
- Black Squirrel
Photos by Stefanie Gans