Thu Jan 18 2007
Ah, grilled cheese! Is there a more comforting comfort food for we latchkey kids of the 1980s? Melty cheddar or American between two warm and crunchy slices of bread—sometimes love does come easy.
A few years ago, a number of geniuses around the city recognized the value of playing off grilled-cheese nostalgia and opened restaurants devoted to the sandwich. There was a pretty good place down on Ludlow Street, and in midtown on Ninth Avenue, there's Say Cheese. Close to the TONY offices (reasonably—we're on desolate Tenth Avenue), Say Cheese had a special place in my drawer of battered lunch-order menus. The service was spotty (it sometimes took a couple dozen rings for them to pick up the phone, and my order invariably needed 45 seconds of microwave treatment to restore it to a palatable temperature), but damn, were those sandwiches tasty. My favorite: the Tuna Schmuna—albacore, tomatoes and melted cheddar between slices of soft flatbread.
Yesterday was a Tuna Schmuna day. A particularly good one. So today, I decided to go for a twofer, and I roped in various fellow TONY edit staffers to join me. The friendly Say Cheese man on the phone took my order (six sandwiches), and we waited for that cheesy goodness to arrive...
One hour later, no dice. I called to check in, and Mr. Cheese hustled me off the phone. "No, no, no—it's on its way, he left 20 minutes ago."
"Does he have my name and number?" I asked.
"Yes, yes, we know everyone there. Time Out, right?" He then rattled off the names of various people who work at the front desk, as if that proved that my order would be there directly.
Twenty minutes later, the antsiness was palpable. Associate music editor Steve Smith suggested canceling our order. Music writer Cristina Black eyed a menu from Sandwich Planet longingly. Theater writer Adam Feldman wandered over and cracked his trademark joke about the food being late because the restaurant is anti-Semitic. Music writer Jay Ruttenberg sat quietly, eating his PB&J with the crusts cut off. I decided to make one last call.
"Hi, where's my order?"
"Yes, Time Out—it'll be there any minute."
I mildly kicked back: "Is there any chance it won't be ice cold?"
That's when Mr. Cheese lost it on me. He began shouting: "It'll be there, okay? If you don't want it, cancel the order!"
"All right, then," I responded. "Let's can--"
Cut off. Say Cheese hung up on me. Bastard!
The food arrived minutes later, an hour and a half overdue, but before we could place an order with Sandwich Planet. I wanted to send the delivery guy away, but more rumbling stomachs prevailed, and we ended up paying for it (I refused to tip, though). I am now finishing my last ever Tuna Schmuna, a little dilapidated but tasty enough once I nuked it for a minute.
I don't have a lot of patience with businesses that don't have their shit together, especially when the nontogether shit results in me being treated with disrespect. And it especially seems stupid to me that a restaurant like Say Cheese—which is looking for a little street cred and gets a considerable amount of business from us—would piss off TONY for no apparent reason. So I'm done with them, and will encourage the rest of our staff, and all of you, to do likewise.
I couldn't cook my way out of a wet paper bag, but even I can throw together a decent grilled cheese. Do the same and help put these morons out of business.