Artistic Northwood eatery pays homage to comfort food

Blame it on the Bloody Mary.

When local restaurant owner Jeffrey Thompson began serving over-loaded versions of the brunch classic cocktail at his O-BO eatery in Northwood, his customers clamored for one version in particular: the one balancing an oozy grilled cheese sandwich upon an onion ring perched just above the glass rim.

Something about grilled cheese and tomato spells comfort, even if that tomato is served in Bloody Mary form, he noted.

“Tomato soup. Tomato Bloody Mary. Same difference,” says Thompson, who also owns an antique shop and an art gallery in the historic West Palm Beach district.

Fast forward to two years and you’ll find Thompson darting between O-BO and his newly opened eatery, a fast-casual spot he named Grilled Cheese Gallery, or GCG.

»You may like: Dear Lobster Grilled Cheese... I love you. Sincerely, Always Hungry.

On the menu: grilled cheese and more grilled cheese.

On the wall: art that’s for sale – and if it doesn’t, it rotates. (What else would you expect from an art dealer who loves comfort food?)

The small, new spot has been a hit in a neighborhood that loves its artisans – and food.

“We’re extremely busy. We wanted to quietly open, but people started showing up, and now we have regulars,” Thompson says.

Downtown lunch crowds have followed the buttery scents to the space that formerly housed Jamaican and Haitian eateries, a spot in a small strip of store fronts along Northwood Road.

With just two sandwich presses and a convection oven, Thompson’s staff scrambles daily to fill take-out and lunch orders. The eatery also is open for dinner.

“Originally, I was thinking tacos, something easy for the space,” says Thompson, who scouted for months to find a location in the district. “But after thinking more and more, I settled on grilled cheese. It’s my favorite comfort food.”

The menu lists more than a dozen grilled cheese sandwiches, including a quite sinful “classic” built on hearty white bread and layered with melted cheddar ($7), a pork-cheddar melt with caramelized onions and house-made hickory barbecue sauce called The Chesterfield ($9), a truffle-scented mushroom-cheese-onion melt called The Artist ($10), a hefty steak-cheese-kimchi stack called The Gallery Steak Melt, and a comfort-squared sandwich called The Mac Daddy – that would be grilled hearty white bread filled with a swoon of cayenne-dusted, nutmeg-laced mac-and-cheese.

Thompson stirred up local grilled cheese cravings when he began posting photos of oozy sandwiches on GCG’s Facebook page a couple of months before opening. By the time the place opened in November, thousands of followers had “liked” the page and hundreds of them had commented on his photos.

“Then we opened and they already had identified with the sandwich they wanted to try. They knew the name. They’ve come in and say, I’ll have The Chesterfield or The Queen Brie,” says Thompson.

In addition to the grilled cheese varieties, the new spot offers four types of Canadian-style poutine, soups like tomato basil, a trio of salads, fries, desserts and soft drinks.

For Thompson, the lunch crowds have reinforced his belief that there’s a growing market for this kind of food.

“In the culinary world and the business of food, there’s been a wave of food that is complicated and all over the place. Now I think people are going back to comfort food,” he says, “food that is really enjoyable without the smoke and mirrors.”

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