The day has finally arrived. CHEESEWERKS, the city’s answer to what is essentially a restaurant haven for cheese lovers, opens today at 56 Bathurst Street, bringing with it (in the words stolen from Iron Chef America, seemed apropos for the occasion) a veritable pantheon of artisan grilled cheese selections to the drooling masses. We checked out the space and offerings last night during an intimate media preview…and we may have found our newest obsession. (We’re already contemplating elastic waistbands…)
CHEESEWERKS is the concept borne of ‘Big Cheese’ Kevin Durkee and his partner Tom Douangmixay. At its core, CHEESEWERKS seeks to satiate the appetites of those with a mild addiction for all things cheese. Using 100 per cent Canadian cheeses, this restaurant and small-scale retail operation – there are artisanal goods for purchase alongside the menu selections – provides much needed respite for those seeking elevated comfort food.
The interior is rustic chic, with a vibrant back wall anchoring the industrial stylings throughout the space. Galvanized steel, walnut woods, and exposed white piping complete the look, but it all takes a back seat to, not surprisingly, the fantastic grilled cheese choices.
From the ooey, gooey layerings to the city-inspired combinations, each CHEESEWERKS sandwich has been thoughtfully crafted using breads from St. John’s Bakery and many of Canada’s finest artisan cheeses. The Original is a marriage of Balderson aged and double-smoked cheddars on cracked peppercorn sourdough; the Los Angeles combines Havarti, smashed avocado, arugula, and citrus compote; Swiss cheese, spiced pastrami, red pickled cabbage, grainy mustard and whole-grain rye make up the New York; the Charleston has caramelized vidalia onions and apricot chutney over double-cream brie on walnut raisin bread; Asiago, BBQ pork, hoisin, and green onion potato bread comprise the Beijing, while the Houston has jalapeno Jack, braised beef brisket and house-made BBQ sauce adorning marble sourdough. FYI, our faves from the tasting were the New York, the Los Angeles, and the Charleston, though all are notable in their own right.
Of course, CHEESEWERKS would be remiss to not name a sammy after its home city, but since we’ve no defining culinary style, a selection of sliders is on offer, showcasing Toronto’s foodie neighbourhoods. Currently, Koreatown (kimchi and gruyere), The Danforth (aged goat cheddar and olive tapenade), and Little Italy (buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil) are showcased, but expect those selections to change up from time to time.
While grilled cheese is obviously the star of the show at CHEESEWERKS, house-made soups – we tried the rustic herb tomato at the Distillery Christmas Market, twas divine – flights of cheese, and Covered Bridge Kettle Chips are just some of the sides and smaller fare available. CHEESWERKS is also licensed, so craft brews and local wine can be paired with your grilled cheese of choice. PS, Order the house-made ketchup to really get that good ol’ fashioned nostalgia going while you’re noshing away.
We love that a novel concept came from a harkening to traditional favourites, and what Kevin and Tom have accomplished is nothing short of a re-imagining of childhood, just done for adults’ more refined palates. Stop in, order a grilled cheese, grab a beer, and bask in memories from days past.