GOURMET GRILLED CHEESE IS HEATING UP AROUND THE U.S.

nina | March 26th, 2014 - 9:00 am

pimento-grilled-cheeseIs This Humble Dish The Next Gourmet Pizza?

Once, only Italian grandmas made pizza pies. Then in 1958 came Pizza Hut, and the start of the pie’s journey to becoming the nation’s staple food. As of this year, 93 percent of Americans eat pizza at least once a month and pizza is a $40 billion industry.

More recently, chain pizza has gone upscale, with many gourmet and artisan pies available from fast-growing quick-serve chains. Now that pizza has left its humble origins behind for gourmet ingredients, what will be the next comfort food item to get the foodie treatment?

Quite a few restaurant entrepreneurs are betting on another cheesy dish with equally humble origins to pizza pie: the simple grilled cheese sandwich.

Restaurants focused on gourmet grilled cheese are popping up everywhere, leading foodies to wonder if the humble sandwich might be the basis of the next major fast-food trend.

While most family restaurants have had a basic grilled cheese on their menu forever, the new development is the emergence of restaurants focused entirely on the simple, gooey entree. They’re taking this treat up a notch with better-quality ingredients and interesting additions besides the usual slice of cheddar.

Many restaurants in the gourmet grilled-cheese startup derby across the country, offer their own unique updates and gourmet takes on the lunchtime staple. If your idea of a grilled cheese is a slice of Velveeta on white, watch out — these chains are striving to outdo each other with the fresh produce, organic meats, and whole-grain (or gluten free) breads they offer.

As the melt-wars heat up, some chains are using franchising to grow fast, while others are retaining control and opening company-owned restaurants.

Source:  Forbes.com, 3-24-2014

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