1441 L Street, East Village
Fact is, I’m in a bit of a hurry. Bus to catch in 20 minutes. Just time to down a couple of those $2 quickie beer tasters they have here at Mission Brewery on 13th. They give you shot glasses of the most glorious black beer west of the Spanish Main: “Dark Seas.” My current fave.
I was heading through the Petco Park lot and across 13th to the old Wonderbread factory that is now Mission’s HQ, when I spotted a gastro truck parked outside. It’s painted gold and sky-blue with pictures of palms along the sides. Classy.
Oh, Lord. Want my Dark Seas, but hungry, too. This guy Brandon is right here on the street, ready to take orders. Menu’s beside him. From the name, I’m guessing cheese is a big deal here. And cheese makes me weak at the knees.
“Can you make something quick?” I ask.
“You bet,” Brandon says.
“What’re your most popular items?”`
“Cheese steak, always,” he says. “Then, second, the chicken cheese sammie. Then the mac and cheese.”
He points to the menu. Everything’s about $10. Under “Sheese Steaks,” the first is called “It’s Always Cheesy in Philly,” with thin-sliced beef, sautéed onions, and mushrooms plus melted provolone. The “She Said Pastrami” cheese steak has “flavor-drowned” pastrami, sautéed onions, pepperoncini, and “Jimmy’s cheezepotle sauce.” Burgers include “The Nonnie,” with sharp white cheddar, onion, bacon, arugula, and roasted garlic aioli. Man. That sounds tasty. Another, called “The Burger Said ‘Cheese’” comes with melted havarti and gorgonzola plus arugula and Russian dressing.
So far everything’s right on $10. Not the cheapest deal in town, but you get fries and pots of cheese sauce to dip them in as well. And the price includes tax.
And they have some items a little cheaper, like “Chicken Said ‘Hello Hot Sauce.’” It’s $9. For that you get “hand-breaded chicken, buffalo sauce, gorgonzola, and havarti cheese.” Plus tomato and peppered bacon, and chips or fries.
“So, which is the most interesting?”
“This,” Brandon says. He’s pointing to “Soup Said, ‘I’m a Sammie.’” “It’s basically a French onion soup in a sandwich,” he says. Menu says it has “sherry, reduced onion, and added gruyere cheese, with chips or fries.” Costs $9. Including au jus on the side for dipping.
The mac ’n’ cheese is $8. You get a bunch of cheeses: parmesan and panko top coat, cheese sauce, havarti, colby jack, Swiss, American, and parmesan. Wow. Guess that covers your cheese craving. Straight cheese sandwich with chips or fries goes for $7.
Still gotta hit my prime target, those Dark Seas inside, and get back for the bus. So, decision time. Almost go for the soup in a sandwich, just to find out what the heck that can be. But I end up choosing the first, the Nonnie (“grandma,” right?), just because of the bacon and the roasted garlic aioli. And it’s a burger.
“Can you bring it into the bar?” I ask.
“Not a problem.”
I head into the barnlike space of Mission Brewery. Has to be the longest bar in town. Every stool’s taken. Other guys and gals play sack toss and shuffleboard. Then someone leaves. I grab his stool and get two samplers of Dark Seas. It’s fairly potent stuff, so this’ll probably do me okay with the burger.
Brandon arrives with it real quick. It has the arugula, not the usual iceberg lettuce, a cap of white sauce — the garlic aioli? — and the raft of wicked blackened sautéed onions surrounding the patty. Good bunch of fries and a pot of cheese sauce for them make this look like a pretty good ten dollars’ worth.
I chomp into the burger and get a rush from the sweet sautéed onions. They temper the peppered bacon and the bitterness of the arugula and the oozy tang of the melted cheddar. What a combo.
“It’s a balsamic reduction that we sauté the onions in,” says Brandon. “And we add sugar, so there’s a sweetness to counter the arugula. Plus, we add our own whole garlic aioli.”
I swear. And in a food truck. This combo is awesome. And, more I think about it, it’s because it pairs perfectly with the Dark Seas, which is a sweetish black Russian Imperial Stout. This is a match made in gastro-heaven.
Turns out Brandon, brother Bryant, and chef Jeremy have been up and running the truck for just under a year. “But we’ve had the dream ever since Jeremy and I were at culinary school in Portland, Oregon,” Brandon says. “After, I went corporate, and then did three years out of Hawaii with Norwegian Cruise Lines. Then, ten months ago we were finally able to make this happen. My Mom helped us out, too.”
So I have to know: What’s with the name, “That’s What Cheese Said”?
“You didn’t watch The Office?” says Brandon.
Okay, I was probably the only guy on the planet who never did.
“So, the line ‘That’s what she said’ was, like, famous. Any innocent line like, ‘You were quick’ or ‘What took you so long?’ they’d turn it sexual just by saying, ‘That’s what she said.’ It was pretty funny. Then my sister Bethany one day just was riffing on that and said, ‘That’s what cheese said,’ and I knew we had a name for the food truck.”
I glug the second $2 glass of Dark Seas and head out. Next time, I’m having that French onion soup that’s actually a sandwich. How do I know it’s for real? Because that’s what he said.
The Place: That’s What Cheese Said truck, c/o Moody’s, 4637 Market Street; 760-815-8790; http://thatswhatc...">thatswhatcheesesa...
Prices: “It’s Always Cheesy in Philly” cheese steak (beef, sautéed onions, mushrooms, melted provolone), $10; “The Nonnie” burger (cheddar, onion, bacon, arugula, and roasted garlic aioli), $10; “Burger Said Cheese” (havarti, gorgonzola, arugula, Russian dressing), $10; “Chicken Said ‘Hello Hot Sauce’” sandwich (chicken, with buffalo sauce, gorgonzola, havarti), $9; “Soup Said, ‘I’m a Sammie,’” French onion soup in a sandwich (with sherry, reduced onion and added gruyere cheese, with chips or fries), $9; mac ’n’ cheese, $8; cheese sandwich, chips or fries, $7