The newest restaurant in Linden Hills is the result of a test drive in a food truck. But — geez Louise — did anyone really need to give this dining concept a dry run before settling into a bricks-and-mortar kitchen? Not when the niche is the star of Mom’s all-time-best school lunch or Sunday supper. A mere mention of a grilled cheese sandwich and the memories start flowing. Add homemade tomato soup, and the only remaining question is: How did we manage to face the traumas of adulthood for so long without a place that takes this primal comfort food as seriously as it merits?
Proof: The sidewalk patio was full-full-full on a recent balmy Tuesday. Come winter, and its generous indoor space (the former home of a similarly counter-service-style restaurant) will come in handy. A caveat, however: It could use a bit of primping to warm the sterile setting.
Or just leave that to the menu. Cheese Louise was launched by a pair of women who perfected its best-selling, straight-arrow grilled cheese sandwich, composed of plenty of cheddar, havarti and fontina oozing from uber-buttery grilled brioche. The chef of the duo comes from Lucia’s kitchen, so she not only has a passion for prime ingredients built into her culinary DNA, but she also knows how to spin a number of foodie touches into her list of variations on the theme.
The Hasselhoff rendition reminds me of a well-made Reuben: picnic ham slathered with tangy housemade German mustard, then topped with nutty, yummy Swiss that melts all over a tangle of sauerkraut, all served on substantial artisan bread. We also split the Veggie Zissou number, my favorite of our samplings. Picture roasted eggplant, sweet red peppers and earthy mushrooms slathered with a parsley pesto and loads of slightly salty, bracing feta, and you get the idea.
All sandwiches come with the choice of that lusty tomato soup — its native sweetness kept in check by the tomatoes’ touch of acid, delivered in a thick puree. Or choose a bouncy salad of field greens in a tingle of vinaigrette that also offsets the richness of the sandwiches. Or add fries — thin, tender and spared of grease — for an extra charge. And for a few cents more, order the truffled version, just to make sure they’re unfailingly addictive. (You can also add bacon to any of the sandwiches.)
Next-time: The Moz, featuring fresh mozzarella, bacon, sundried tomato aioli and spinach. The Babe the Blue, where blue cheese serves as the superstar, married with caramelized onions, fig jam and crunches of crisp apple. Or Get Your Goat, which gives goat cheese the spotlight, melded with roasted peppers, an olive tapenade and sprigs of arugula.
No desserts on offer, but who needs, or even craves, one after such lush, rich comfort food? Geez Louise! The good news is that beer and wine also are available, and everything comes delivered by a cheery, caring server. There’s only one flaw here: They’re closed Mondays. (Just kidding. Even mom-cooks deserve a day off.)
4279 Sheridan Ave. S.