Call me crazy, but a 45-minute line for a grilled cheese is totally worth it. Let me explain why.
Imagine one of those "perfect" spring or summer evenings; you know the ones I am talking about. The air is warm, but not heavy and sticky with humidity. The sun starts to set, casting a warm glow as it bids adieu. There's a buzz of excitement in the air; a din of friends' conversations, children running around and laughing, and a dog bark every so often. These kinds of perfect evenings were made for a cold beer and some al fresco dining.
There's really no better place for the beer and outdoor dining combination than one of Charlotte's Food Truck Friday events, in South End and Plaza Midwood. While hundreds flock to the food truck rodeos to kick off their weekends, navigating the crowds seems worth it after you sink your teeth into the melted, creamy, cheesy goodness of a Papi Queso grilled cheese.
Yes, that's right. Throngs of followers flock to the black and orange truck to get a taste of Papi Queso's spins on this simple, childhood classic. But Papi Queso's creations are nothing like the piece of cheese melted between two slices of bread of your youth. The grilled cheese sandwich is a starting point; a blank canvas for elevated ingredients and creative flavor combinations. Indulge in a Pig Mac, Papi Queso's most popular sandwich, melted with pulled pork, mac 'n cheese, bourbon onions and espresso barbecue sauce. Savor a Johnny Pastrami (smoked brisket, apple butter, slaw, white cheddar), a Mushroom Fondue (pan roasted mushrooms, arugala, fontina, gruyere, parmesean white truffle fondue), a Little Green Munster (munster, spinach, roasted red peppers, avocado relish, wasabi horseradish sauce), or a Leek and Mushroom or French Onion. Or stick with a classic, the Big Cheesy, made with three different cheeses (American, provolone and cheddar) herbs, and sea salt. You probably should add bacon or smoked tomatoes (or both!) to your sandwiches for only a few dollars more. Round out your meal with a cup of smoky tomato bisque, truffle chips, or some coriander pickles.
I highly advise partnering up with a dining companion so you can get two different sandwiches and go "halfsies" — meaning, trade half of your sandwich for half of theirs. Everyone wins with this approach because, with all of the combos to choose from, you're going to have a hard time picking just one sandwich.
Though the line may seem daunting (do yourself a favor and grab a beer to sip on while you wait), the end result won't leave you feeling like you've wasted any time. Once you flip open that mustache stamped box, you're greeted with warm, golden, crunchy bread; the perfect vehicle for gooey, melted cheese, and a ton of goodies tucked inside. Papi Queso doesn't skimp on the fillings either.
If you can't make it to Food Truck Friday, you'll find Papi Queso melting at other popular Food Truck events like SouthPark Eats Alternative on Wednesdays during lunch hours, the NoDa Food Truck Rally on Thursday nights, Triple C Brewing Company on most Wednesday nights. The rest of the week, the truck cruises around the Q.C. to other locations and events. Check the truck's schedule on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated on its whereabouts, so that you can indulge in some cheesy goodness.
Chrissie Nelson is a public defender by day and a food blogger by night. Read about her foodventures, restaurant reviews and other Charlotte musings at offtheeatenpathblog.com.