When you made the decision to go gluten free, did you think about the different meals you would be giving up? You knew pasta was out, as well as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, not to mention chicken parm and anything else that is breaded. But I bet you never thought about the timeless American classic meal of grilled cheese with tomato soup?
Well, here’s a surprise for you! I found a place where, not only do they offer 20 different types of grilled cheese and soups, but they have gluten free AND vegan options! And they are oh so delicious! Tom+Chee, a franchised-based establishment that got it’s true start on Shark Tank, offer options to people with many different dietary lifestyles. First started in Cincinnati, Tom+Chee now has many locations throughout the country, and they are still expanding (I was given the inside scoop from the owner that they are coming to my town).
As I always do before I go to a new restaurant, I did my research and made sure that they had something I could eat. Normally I would go for a salad, or something basic like that. I was surprised to see, on their website, that they had gluten free bread, vegan cheese, and other specialty cheeses like goat cheese, smoked gouda, fresh mozzarella, and others. I had an idea of what to order (and it had to be crunchy with the added potato chips to the sandwiches) and I was well prepared when I got there.
I have to tell you that the experience was amazing from the moment we stepped out of the car. We were greeted by the head chef, Shane, who was outside loading supplies into the restaurant. I shook his hand, and we somehow got onto the topic that I am on a gluten free, dairy free diet. His response was, “I got it. Let me take care of you.” An instant feeling of relief came over me. When I was at the register ordering, Shane came over and helped me decide on my grilled cheese experience. I ended up ordering the “Hippy-Chee”, which was loaded with hummus, cucumber, diced tomatoes, mixed greens, and vegan cheese (Teese cheese) all on Udi’s Soft and Hearty Whole Grain gluten free bread. When the sandwich was brought out to me, it was heaven on a plate! Super fresh, moist and crisp at the same time, and so tasty. I immediately called the owner, Matt, over. After going on and on about how amazing the sandwich was and how helpful Shane was, I asked him if, at all possible, I could have a tour of the kitchen to see the area where they prepare the gluten free food. I was floored when he agreed to it.
When I went back, the staff was uber friendly, welcoming and even joked around with me. I was brought right over to the gluten free work station, and I have to admit, it was cleaner than any kitchen I have ever seen. Matt assured me that there has been no cases of cross contamination at all and that every staff member, whether in the kitchen or on the floor, is fully trained in gluten free food care and what it means. The spatulas and brushes used are colored coded, so the kitchen staff knows which ones to use for regular grilled cheese and which to use for gluten free orders. The chef even wore gloves when preparing the food.
As I was taking my “tour” a gluten free order came in and I was able to watch, first hand, how they handle it. It’s simple, yet impressive, that they are so careful and clean. The bread is kept in the packaging or in the chef’s hand before it goes onto the grill. The cheese is placed on a clean cutting board on top of the plastic wrap it has been stored in. And then everything is cooked on a designated gluten free grill.
Being that this was my first visit to Tom+Chee, I did not try their soups, however I understand that they are amazing! That will have to be something for my next visit…which will be soon (how will I keep my girlish figure after discovering this place?).
I highly recommend Tom+Chee to any gluten free thriver looking for a fun place to enjoy some comfort food as you used to know it…except with a little switch up. This place is definitely one to keep in your books.