Friday, May 1, 2015

Restaurant Review: Tom + Chee

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup?!!!


Can it get any better than this?

When I think of grilled cheese and tomato soup, I think comfort food. I reminisce about sitting on the couch curled in a blanket, when I stayed home from school because I was sick. Of course in that memory it's a can of Campbell's Tomato Soup with a can of milk added, and there's a side of Frito's but those are just small details.

Tomato soup is still a staple in my own home but the grilled cheese is a little upgraded. After all, it's not American Cheese in waxy squares toasted between two slices of white bread anymore. If I'm really fancy there may be a selection of cheese and a dab of honey, all fried up nicely in a non stick skillet with butter. On other days, and it's most days with picky eaters here, it is shredded mild cheddar cheese and the idea of fancy is an inside out grilled cheese.

Of course there are days when having someone else make your comfort food sounds really good. After all there are restaurants or carry out joints that specialize in soup and there are places that can make killer sandwiches. The best is when you discover it's not just a matter of convenience but that they are actually kicking it up a notch, or two.

Enter Tom + Chee. I first discovered this notion of a grilled cheese and tomato soup place on an episode of Shark Tank in Season 4 in 2013. Tom + Chee was Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup as a restaurant and I was disappointed to know that at that time their locations were in the Cincinnati area and the first franchise was in Kentucky. But the best part of Shark Tank are the updates and recently they mentioned their increased sales and additional locations. . . Wait, additional locations of franchises?!!! I quickly checked their website and sure enough there was one in Lansing, Michigan and another one coming to Northville.

While Lansing is not exactly walking distance my job takes me there quite often and this location was very close to the capital. I recently was a few blocks away at a conference and used this as an excuse to stop by and try them for lunch. I dragged a couple of friends because a culinary adventure always warrants companions and I have to say that everyone liked it.

One friend ordered a half a sandwich (she displays much more self control when it comes to food than me) and a cup of soup. Now with the soup you have options. There is a classic tomato, a chunky tomato basil (pictured here) and then a creamy tomato basil. They even have non tomato soup offerings - on this day there was a chicken tortilla I believe as well as a second choice. Her sandwich was on whole wheat, and included the addition of red peppers as well as pepper jack cheese. She really enjoyed all of it.

My other friend ordered a small salad and a cup of soup. Now really, why do I have friends that demonstrate such self restraint? They make me look completely out of control as you will see by my order but I digress. She ordered the Green Goat Salad which really had some choice toppings including goat cheese, almonds and cranberries. That salad pictured is a "small" and was $3.45 for that generous portion. She also had the creamy tomato basil soup and pronounced it "delicious".  By the way, a cup of soup is only $3.00 so this is bargain eating when you really think about it.

So now on to what I ordered, right? You know it wasn't that conventional. I'm here to try new things. Things I don't have at home.

You can build your own grilled cheese at Tom + Chee or you can choose one of their suggested offerings. Then there is a whole section of grilled cheeses that come on a donut. Yes, you heard me right, a donut. Now before you start telling me all the reasons why that is gross, if you are inclined to do that, just stop right there. I recently posted a quick snapshot of my sandwich on Instagram and it turned out to be a very passionate and debated topic on Facebook. There are those naysayers that say a donut grilled cheese is disgusting but I'm going to respectfully disagree. Think savory and sweet. If you pair this with some sharper cheese there is a balance. Now, I should note that there were some options with the donut that included items like strawberries and marscarpone cheese, or bacon, or peanut butter, or even blueberry compote with blue cheese. I wanted more of a balance so I made my own combination.

My grilled cheese included a donut with grilled brie and mozzarella as well as mushrooms. As you can see the donut is split in half and then reversed so the flat inside portion is grilled. I also ordered a "dipper" side of classic tomato soup. When you add a really hearty tomato soup there is even more of a yin yang thing going on with that donut. The donut with the cheese is not as sweet as you may think but again, I didn't do it with chocolate pieces and bacon. I might on another day if I wanted dessert but today this was lunch. It was a very good lunch too! While a donut may be a little off the regular path I would do it again and it wouldn't be just to say I tried it like this first experience.

So there you have it. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup in a new and exciting way. Comfort food with some rock star tendencies and also on a budget. You should try it. I think a franchise in my local neck of the woods would be a great idea if someone is interested. Mmmm soup is good.

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