San Antonio has its share of gooey, chomp-worthy grilled cheese sandwiches. Some are plain, some fancy, but most of them are served in restaurants.
On the Fourth of July, along with the crowds and fireworks at Woodlawn Lake will be the Texas premiere of the truck dedicated to grilled cheese sandwiches. The Grilled Cheese Truck, begun in Los Angeles and now making its way east (there is a truck in Phoenix), will be at the event all day, says CEO Dave Danhi.
The signature sandwich is the Cheesy Mac and Rib (see photo at bottom of page) with Southern-style macaroni-and-cheese topping slow-roasted barbecued pork rib meat, caramelized onions and an extra dash of sharp Cheddar cheese.
“It has a little bite, all natural cheese, mainly sharp Cheddar, and all fresh product. There’s a proprietary rub on the rib,” says Danhi. And, “it weighs 3/4 of a pound.”
The Grilled Cheese Truck will be a part of the July 4th Celebration at Woodlawn Park. General Clark, Dave Danhi, and Vernon Gibson, the first veteran franchisee candidate, will be on hand to greet active duty military personnel and veterans and serve grilled cheese sandwiches free of charge to them from noon – 2 pm.
Danhi’s realization of just how popular this American classic sandwich is came when he entered a grilled cheese sandwich competition in 2009, just for fun. The line of people to get stretched a mile long and five-people wide.
While he didn’t win that competition, the former award-winning chef, whose focus was fine dining during his 20-year career, launched some serious research into the possibility of having a food truck dedicated to the grilled cheese sandwich. He found first, there was a need. No dedicated grilled cheese trucks were out there.
Then, Danhi sent out some feelers on social media, the communication lifeline of food truckers everywhere, and the response to a grilled cheese truck “exploded.” Within the first week MSNBC caught wind of it and things went nowhere but up. At this point, with five trucks on the ground and another two coming soon, the company already has an impressive 63,000-plus followers on Twitter.
July 4th introduces the Grilled Cheese Truck to San Antonio, but there will be two trucks working out of Austin and San Antonio. The San Antonio truck will be on the roll July 5, the day after its introduction.
The food side of this story is about a chef who left the physically tough business of restaurant cooking following back surgery — only to jump back into an entirely different side of the business. That’s interesting enough — but there’s more to it.
Danhi will be here to introduce the truck at Woodlawn Lake Park next Thursday, but so will General Wesley K. Clark and Vernon Gibson, the first veteran franchisee candidate.
The highly decorated retired general, who was in 2004 a candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, plays a vital role in the rest of The Grilled Cheese Truck’s story. Clark is supervising the implementation of the veterans franchise program for the truck. The first 100 franchise owners will be veterans of the U.S. military — and to Danhi, that support to the nation’s oft-neglected vets is as important as serving over-the-top grilled cheese sandwiches.
“Vets come back home and we don’t have jobs for them. They have skills, they have a good work ethics and work hard. But, when Vernon Gibson got back to the U.S., the only job he could get … paid $12.50 an hour,” Danhi said. Vets can look forward to significantly better pay than that by being food truck franchise owners, says Danhi.
Vets who find themselves owners of one of these trucks will have a hefty menu to work with. The sandwiches mentioned here are just a few — there are seven or eight cheeses and you can have a “plain” grilled cheese on either wheat or white. Other sandwiches, such as the Buffalo Chicken Melt or the Double Cream Brie Melt with Bacon, Smoked Onion & Bourbon Marmalade, and Candied Pecans. A long list of add-ons include sliced apple, fresh basil, spinach, smoked onion marmalade and avocado.
“We have a dessert item that — well, I’d be in a lot of trouble if I ever took it off the menu,” said Danhi. You’ll have a chance to try the S’more Melt: Toasted Marshmallows, Nutella and Crumbled Graham Crackers next week.