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August 30, 2009

The grilled cheese and tomato sandwich



At the end of last week I had a stomach bug (or that occupational hazard, mild food poisoning). I felt better after not eating anything much for a couple of days, so Friday I went over to Nina's Espresso Bar, which is catty-corner to the Sun.

I hadn't been for awhile because I don't go out for lunch much anymore. To my surprise it's turned into much more of a restaurant. The hours have also expanded.

The owner, Jeanhee, is a native of Korea, and there have always been a few Asian dishes on the menu. In fact, she has the best spicy egg ramen in town. It's my go-to food when I have a bad cold. ...

But now she's got a sushi chef working for her. She says right now she's sticking to mostly cooked and vegetable sushi to see how it goes.

I wasn't up to sushi, but I overheard someone ordering a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich. I immediately craved one. Washed down with a fresh-squeezed lemonade, it tasted better than anything I had eaten in months.

Yesterday I decided to duplicate it at home. Of course, I couldn't bring myself to buy Wonder Bread, "processed cheese food" singles, or margarine, which is what I'm guessing the ingredients were.

I went to the store and got the Pepperidge Farm version of Wonder Bread and a block of cheddar. I placed a large slice of a Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato on it and grilled the sandwich in butter.

You know what? It was good, very good. But not as good as that sandwich at Nina's.

(Photo of Jeanhee by Gene Sweeney Jr./Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 7:36 AM | | Comments (40)


I love the grilled cheese and tomato soup combo. That was dinner for a while while attending college classes in the evening.

We use yellow Land O Lakes American Deli cheese. Creamy and yummy. Campbell's tomato soup is also our staple - with water or milk added depending on one's preference.

Aah, grilled cheese sandwich and cream of tomato soup! My mother's answer to Chicken soup as a cure all! Brings back memories of childhood when we had to walk to school in the snow, up hill both ways, without boots, because we were too poor! There was always grilled cheese and piping hot cream of tomato waiting on the table when we got home!

When I was a high school senior some sixty years ago, we lunched at a tiny diner on Manhattan's Second Avenue where I'd alternate between a grilled cheese sandwich one day and a tuna salad sandwich the next (washed down with buttermilk or iced coffee depending on the time of year.)To this day, those are still my favorite sandwiches. Although you can't get 'em for 25 cents apiece anymore.

I'm a grilled cheese and heirloom tomato aficionado. I use a buttered panini press to make mine. Could that have been the difference, Elizabeth? I also like to use a mix of a bit of swiss and some american cheese sometimes with a slice of muenster too if I have any on hand.

The best recipe I ever found for grilled cheese and tomato sandwich included fresh basil and a little garlic. A heavier bread like sourdough sliced thick works well.

Is there anything better than a Cherokee Purple tomato? I need to find one TODAY! My mouth is watering.

i find a smirking hilarity at the idea of being a grilled cheese with tomato aficionado

If you're posting so you can link to your blog, you have to be civil to other commenters. Otherwise you're just being doubly annoying. EL

Michael A. Gray--I was with you until I got to the buttermilk. Gack!

I work at a local independent school that would often serve "Italian Grilled Cheese" in the cafeteria. The sandwich was made with tomato and provolone cheese on toasted/grilled garlic bread. It quickly became my favorite sandwich!

My sister LOVES grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches. And she uses the ingredients that Nina does.

I like those sandwiches too, I put a lil oregano on the tomato, use whole wheat bread and usually the processed cheese food slices from Kraft if I don't have any deli cheese on hand. Haven't had one in awhile though.
Instead of using butter and "grilling" it in a pan, try toasting the bread in a toaster, then assembling the sandwich leaving the top slice off. Pop it into a toaster oven until the cheese melts then put the top slice on. Optional, put a lil mayo on the top slice.

Bacon makes grilled cheese and tomato even better.

BTW, I'm drinking my morning coffee and flipping channels and ended up on food network, where Brian Boitano, of all people, is serving up a baconpalooza for roller derby girls. Bacon corn muffins; bacon cups with sweet potato hash; and bourbon-bacon apple tarts.

It was all inspired by a bacon martini he had the night before drinking with the girls after the roller derby.

oh yeah, Evan? It looks like you find smirking hilarity in lots of things, don't ya kid?

Bacon Girl, doesn't bacon get all soggy and yucky in a martini?

Elizabeth , nobody mentioned mayonnaise. Mother always put some in the sandwhich.

mmmmm, comfort food, grilled cheese and tomato soup, although we should do a top 10 midnight snacks, my favorite is a home grown tomato sandwich on wonder bread with miracle whip on a how summers night, which for some reason this reminded me of. winter would be a midnight grilled cheese and tomato soup.

Pete's Grille on Greenmount Avenue makes the 2nd best grilled cheese & tomato sandwich ever.

The absolute best ever was made by the Weaselgran, but she kicked off 2 weeks ago (RIP) so I guess Pete's is the best now.

It's especially good with bacon on it.

Since I'm now craving a good grilled cheese sandwich I propose a grilled cheese top 10 Tuesday.

Grilled cheese always tastes better when it is made by somebody else!!

Campbell's tomato soup made with Half & Half instead of water or milk and grilled cheese made with pepper jack cheese is a delicious combination.

Kraft's deli-deluxe cheese is a close second.

I love grilled cheese sandwiches, esp with bacon, esp at Pete's Grill.

But I was served so much tomato soup (with grilled cheese sandwiches) as a child that I have developed a "gack" response as an adult (same with raisins - loved as a kid, but fed so many I don't want even one more).

The tomato soup aversion goes so far that, as a bartender, I couldn't make anything with tomato juice, I would start gagging at the smell. All bloody marys always had to be made by the lower bar.

I don't understand how these things happen - that foods you like in childhood become aversions, but I hope I'm not the only one.

too true joyce, too true.

Plain ol' grilled cheese, grilled cheese & ham and grilled cheese & tomato -- both served with a piping hot bowl of Campbell's cream of tomato soup -- are staples in cool weather. Now, however, with tomatoes at their peak (and mine are coming in like gangbusters) a tomato sandwich on decent white bread with a shmear of (gasp!) Miracle Whip is heaven! Second favorite is a BLT with mater juice running down to my elbows. Yum!!

JoAnn, if you can't find Cherokee Purple, try Prudens Purple or Brandywine. They're both totally delicious and juicy enough that it'll be drippin' off your chin!

I've been eating tomato sandwiches for a few weeks, but with a twist, with most ingredients from the 32nd st. market. I use the wonderful ciabatta(both regular and rosemary) from the baker in the parking lot, good cheese, sometimes the fresh mozarella from the organic dairy, various and sundry heirloom tomatoes, the hydroponic boston lettuce, and I made pesto from basil from one of the herb vendors. Mix some pesto with mayonnaise and assemble your sandwich. Turns lunch at work into a small vacation. Yum.

We picked up some of the italian herb cheese and whole grain bread from the farmers' market and made some grilled cheese sandwiches at home. That raw milk cheddar is so so good. Used a little bit of mayo with garlic powder on the outside, delicious.

Grilled cheese with black forest ham and tomato and either chicken or tomato soup. Sometimes, I'll make french fries and gravy instead of soup.

From the beginning of tomato season until the end, our every Friday night meal (on the Friday nights we are home...which is most now that we are old) is a grilled cheese with bacon and tomato on rye bread served with UTZ chips. One of my favorite things about summer!

I'm a huge fan of GC w/T. try a light spread of brown or dijon mustard. YUM! perfect on a fall/winter afternoon.

And then, about an hour later, the Mister Softee truck arrives. Chocolate ice cream with sprinkles. (Gotta have sprinkles).

That sandwich you describe on rye bread sounds delicious! Gonna have to make one soon.

ummm, Utz chips, Mr. Softee (oh yeah, RayRay with sprinkles) and french fries with gravy...a few of my Balmer favorite things!

I have not seen a Mr. Softee truck in years! I was just talking about it the other day. What parts of Baltimore can you find one?

Maxg - Mr. Softee frequents the Medfield neighborhood around 6:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. on most evenings. How I miss that delicious treat!! Definately with sprinkles;)

I haven't had a Mr Softee in years! (That sounded a lot more sexual than I intended.) Definitely with the sprinkles! I did have a Rita's custard cone recently, and as a matter of fact, it was as a Friday grilled cheese night dessert.

My other favorite grilled cheese is a weird one, but you are going to have to trust me on this....grilled gouda with raspberry jam on good bread (preferably sourdough). Harkens a little to Brie en Croute, and it is delicious!

My summertime take on this combo: good gazpacho (takeout from Atwater's) and an open-faced grilled cheese on Atwater's good bread made with a sharp cheddar. Yum!

Dawn - You almost made me spit out my drink! Oh, and your grilled cheese sounds delicious

I'm really pleased to see you featured Nina's - I love all of her food. I live right around the corner and have been going there for years.

This post inspired the delicious heirloom tomato and cheese sandwich (with pesto and mayo) I had for lunch today. Thanks.

GC+T (Swiss, rye) is my favorite comfort lunch. Pete's Grill has a good one. David & Dad's on Charles Street has an even better one.

The panini press and grilled cheese sandwich go together perfect, I never get tired of enjoying these.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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