American Grilled Cheese Kitchen Expected to Launch Any Day Now

Categories: Opening, Palmer

John Birdsall
The decor feels like a hug and a kiss from Grandma.
​Just under two years ago, right after she'd won the Grilled Cheese Invitational in Los Angeles (again), Heidi Gibson was asked if she had any words to celebrate her victory.

"Yes," she screamed, "I'm opening a grilled cheese restaurant in San Francisco!"

It might have sounded like pie-in-the-sky enthusiasm to strangers in the crowd, the culinary equivalent of, "I'm going to Disneyland!" But to those who know Gibson, a go-getter who holds two engineering degrees from MIT, the idea was not so easily dismissed. This week, Gibson (who just snatched her seventh Grilled Cheese Invitational win) will open the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in South Park with her partner, Nate Pollak.

John Birdsall
AGCK's opening should come later this week, after final permit sign-off.
​"I still do the same approach when I come up with a new sandwich idea," Gibson said of engineering both her GCI victories and her new menu. "Either I'll be inspired by some other dish that involves cheese and I'll try and turn that into a sandwich, or I'll have an ingredient that I want to work with ― like, asparagus is in season right now ― and I'll come up with an idea matrix of different things to try. Different breads, different thickness of the bread, different cheese, different techniques. I'll just come up with this whole test matrix and work through it. Because I worked as an engineer for a long time, I have a very engineering breakdown of it: What are my variables? How do I control my variables? And then I try to isolate my variables in my sandwich design.

"I also have some rules," she continued. "I like to think of the power of three. In the recipe there are usually three dominant flavors: two complementary and one contrasting. And it usually takes four of five rounds to get to the sandwich I want."

Andrew Headington
Rendering of the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen's patio seating.
​Gibson and Pollak hope the interior, designed by architect Wylie Price with an abundance of recycled/found materials (the pair have an eye towards becoming a green certified business), evokes a hug and a kiss from Grandma. There will also be patio seating for warm afternoons and evenings, which should bring a human touch to the brick-dominated block.

Eater SF has a nice pictorial of the space as it gets its last minute touches and reports that the restaurant will begin with lunch service and will expand to eventually take care of all daily meals. Most sandwiches will be priced around $6-$9, and the menu will change at least slightly each month; Gibson also wants to have a special sandwich each month, part of whose proceeds will be donated to charity. Thrillist adds that there will be seven sandwiches to start, including
a take on a classic Reuben and Gibson's award-winning Mousetrap (Havarti, Jack, and sharp cheddar on Pinkie's levain), and got the skinny on some sample house-made soda flavors (orange-cardamom and spicy pomegranate).

"I get asked all the time if there's going to be a children's menu," said Gibson, "and I'm like, 'The whole thing's a children's menu!'"

Bread, butter, cheese, victory. That's the motto of the Grilled Cheese Invitational, and also of a dream that will ultimately be realized this week. No doubt, your inner child is taking note.

American Grilled Cheese Kitchen 2 South Park (at Second St.), 243-0107.

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