The mad scientists at Cheesy Street are at it again.
After two monthlong shutdowns, the food truck operators have brought their inventive riffs on grilled cheese sandwiches back to the West Side and Rio Rancho. You’ll find them moored at Brew Lab 101 on Wednesday evenings, Tractor Brewing Co. on Friday nights and Marble Brewing Co.’s taproom on Sunday afternoons. They also spend the occasional Saturday evening at Casa Vieja in Corrales. Locations and hours for the coming week are posted on their Facebook page.
Cheesy Street began operating in 2013, making it relatively ancient in the here-today, gone-tomorrow world of food trucks. Its loyal customer base has helped it get through a pandemic that has devastated the food truck business. Customers returned after supply chain issues forced it to close in March and April, and it’s back again after it shut down for equipment upgrades at the end of June. Business was brisk on a recent Sunday afternoon at the Marble taproom. There was a 15-minute wait for walk-up orders as the five people working inside the truck scrambled to fill orders. Most of the patrons came from the Marble patio, but there were a fair number of people driving in to pick up their orders.
Cheesy Street’s success is a testament to the creativity of its ever-changing menu. You can always get Yo Mama’s, the basic grilled cheese, with a choice of American cheese ($4) or cheddar ($5) and lots of potential add-ons, such as bacon, Granny Smith apple slices and a fried egg.
Alternatively, you can venture into the inventively composed specials, where you’ll find provolone paired with pesto, cheddar jack with turkey and green chile and pepper jack with flaming hot Cheetos and jalapeños.
The pizza grilled cheese ($8), a menu mainstay, is undoubtedly the bulkiest sandwich of the lot. Two pieces of sourdough clamp down on a heaping pile of melted mozzarella, pizza sauce and pepperoni. The sandwich isn’t sliced – as you eat it, the contents shift to the center until it assumes the profile of a calzone. It’s a good idea well-executed, like all the sandwiches here.
While the pizza grilled cheese covers the savory side of the spectrum, the Almosty Cristo ($7), a variation of the classic Monte Cristo, is almost as sweet as a dessert. The bread is dusted with powdered sugar, and a thin layer of raspberry jam augments the Swiss and Gruyere cheeses. Thin-sliced ham and brown mustard keep the whole thing from being too sweet.
The offerings at Cheesy Street provide an object lesson in how much flavor and texture you can pack inside a grilled cheese. In the Jalapeño Popper ($7), cream cheese soothes the heat of the roasted jalapeños, and the classic combination of bacon and cheddar provides some backbone.
Even something as imposing as the Frito pie grilled cheese ($8), my personal favorite, works because the ingredients are well-balanced. There’s enough ground beef chili to register on your palate without overwhelming it. You get heat from the sliced jalapeño and tang from the lime sour cream, and the Fritos provide a crunchy, salty layer to it all.
The preparation showed remarkable consistency. The cheese was uniformly gooey, and all four sandwiches had the same golden-brown finish to the bread.
And what would grilled cheese be without tomato soup? Cheesy Street serves a solid tomato and basil version ($3) whose acidity makes it the ideal partner to the sandwiches. A churro bread pudding ($3) dusted with coarse sugar and cinnamon is the rare bread pudding that is so moist and flavorful it doesn’t need whipped cream or sauce.
If you’re inclined to match a beer with your sandwich, Marble’s Heller Bock, a recently unveiled seasonal offering, is a great choice. A Bavarian inspired blonde lager, it has a dry, hoppy profile that pairs well with the milder cheeses in the sandwiches.
Cheesy Street serves something at once comforting and adventurous. West Siders are lucky to have it in their neighborhood.
ON THE SIDE
SOO BAK SEOUL BOWL
LOCATION: 111 Hermosa SE, 268-0017, soobakfoods.com
Chef John Katrinak’s Soo Bak Seoul Bowl stands out as one of the more conspicuous successes in the Albuquerque food truck scene.
Katrinak’s fusion of Korean and Mexican cuisine made Soo Bak Seoul Bowl one of the city’s most popular trucks, and that success drove the opening of a brick-and-mortar restaurant last year in Nob Hill.
On Katrinak’s menu, you’ll find Korean standbys such as bibimbap and side dishes called banchan alongside tacos and burritos.
Bibimbap, the Korean rice bowl, is available in two sizes: classic ($9.95), with three toppings of your choice, or the deluxe ($11.95), with five toppings. Protein selections include beef, chicken and pork. Tempura avocado and sautéed mushrooms make up the vegetarian options. Mine came with bulgogi, or Korean barbecued beef, along with broccoli, carrots and cucumber kimchi.
Korean tacos have swept the country since Los Angeles chef Roy Choi began serving them out of his Kogi BBQ truck in 2008. Soo Bak offers seven varieties with the same protein choices as in the bibimbap. You get two for $7.95 or three for $9.95.
Kimchi fireballs ($2), one of four small plates on the menu, also delivered on the promise of heat. They’re made from golf ball-sized portions of rice infused with kimchi that are coated with breadcrumbs and fried. The result is very spicy, almost tear-inducing. An accompanying cup of aioli helped cool things down.
Chile cheese fries ($8.95) and sesame noodles ($9.95) are the two Soo Bak Classics on the menu.
With its big flavors and lots of heat, Soo Bak Seoul Bowl stands as another example of how food trucks have invigorated the local dining scene.
— Richard S. Dargan