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Instant Reaction: Cheese Louise


Cheese Louise, a gourmet grilled cheese restaurant which opened just yesterday, is the epitome of a small business owner trying to get the doors to a new business open. They had a cashier, a cook manning 3 panini machines and the server/manager. They don't have their alcohol license yet. They don't have permanent signage yet, and the answers to many of my questions such as whether they planned to be open during or after the weekly Friday Concert in the Park were "We're still working on that" or "I'm not sure."

But it was their first day. How could you fault them for not having all the answers yet?

I walked in for a late lunch just before 1 p.m. and the place already has the wonderful grilled cheese aroma - think the olfactory treat that is a Squeeze Inn. The modestly-sized restaurant has seating for 32 indoors and another 4 outside.

The menu features 6 of "Louise's Favorites," five of which are some combination of various breads and cheeses with no meat, and the sixth, their version of a Ruben.

I decided to order:

Spicy Mighty - pepper jack cheese, sourdough bread with oregano infused butter. ($4.75)

Righteous Ruben - Swiss cheese with pastrami, swirled rye bread and sauerkraut. ($6.75)

The service was very quick. I received my food just minutes after I placed the order. The sourdough on the Spicy Might was good, but despite the fact that I'm a wimp when it comes to spicy food, it was a little mild for my taste. The oregano, however, was a fantastic addition to the butter and really infused the sandwich with a lot of flavor. The sandwich was served with a handful of Lays potato chips.

I'd also rate the Ruben as good, but not yet great. It could have used a little more meat, but I found that the sauerkraut gave the sandwich a good tangy flavor in each bite.

For those who go to a grilled cheese restaurant and are looking for something else, they also have a good sized Caesar salad with chicken for $7, among other dishes.

Cheese Louise didn't blow my socks off in my first visit. But then again, it was their first day and you have to cut them some slack. The real question is whether the restaurant has shown enough potential in its concept and execution to go back.

I think the restaurant deserves another shot. It's easy to make good grilled cheese, and I think they're already doing that. If the restaurant were a child, they proved to me that on their first day, as a restaurant, they know how to walk. I'm very interested to see if they can figure out how to jog and then run. Drewski's and Republic have shown that grilled cheese can be more than just cheese between two slices of bread. I hope that after Cheese Louise gets their bearings on getting the basics right, they'll expand their menu to feature more innovative grilled cheese sandwiches.

On my next visit, I'll plan to order their lunch combo, which has a sandwich, side and drink for just under $8. I ran into some coworkers there and they raved about their grilled cheese sandwich with brie and fresh tomatoes, and the side of sweet potato fries.

Cheese Louise is located on 9th St, between J and K Streets. Initially, they will only be open Monday to Friday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. only. Find them on Facebook here.

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