The good Lord may truly move in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform, but one might be hard-pressed to imagine that work would include starting a sandwich shop.
Josh Caffey understands this very well. “I know this is going to sound strange,” he said, “but everything you see here is a gift from God.”
Caffey is the owner of the Eiffel Tower Grilled Cheese Co., which started out as a food truck at the Tulsa State Fair last year, and just recently opened its brick-and-mortar location on the corner of 21st Street and Memorial Drive, in a building that in previous incarnations had been a Subway franchise and a Dunkin’ Donuts.
Caffey has worked in software development for most of his working life, but last year found himself in a perilous financial situation.
“I was close to losing everything,” Caffey said. “And I just started praying. I said, ‘God, if you’re real, I need you to show up now.’”
Caffey said he began to see images of a food truck, a restaurant and other food-related things. “I just knew I was being led by someone to this,” he said.
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Caffey worked with a young friend, Caitlin Warner, who was preparing to attend culinary school, to develop the menu. His sister, Stephanie, who had worked in the restaurant industry in the past, oversees the day-to-day operations.
Choosing the Eiffel Tower as the restaurant’s symbol was done partly because it was one of the images Caffey said came to him at the start, and because it symbolized the desire to bring a touch of elegance to the relatively simple concept of a grilled cheese sandwich.
“The starting point for our menu was fair food, where you want to have something that appeals to almost everyone,” Caffey said. “At the same time, we wanted to be able to offer something different, to put our own twist on things.
“I also wanted this place itself to look as if it was part of a chain, with that kind of attention to detail,” he said. “But this is very much a local, family-owned restaurant.”
The location has certainly been spruced up since Caffey took it over. The restaurant operated out of the food truck from October until March, as the interior was “ripped down to the studs” and rebuilt.
“It was six months of literal blood, sweat and tears to get this place open,” Caffey said.
The menu for Eiffel Tower Grilled Cheese features a dozen signature sandwiches, available in combos with a choice of side and drink. All feature cheese of one variety or another, and spend at least some time on the kitchen’s flat-top grill prior to service, thus qualifying as being a “grilled cheese” sandwich.
Choices range from the expected, such as the American, with three types of cheese (cheddar, Swiss and Monterey Jack) with garlic butter on sourdough ($8), and the ham and Swiss, dressed with lettuce, tomato, onion and bacon on French bread ($10), to such creations as the Dorito & Jalapeño ($8).
“It sounds weird, but the combination of all the flavors really works well,” Caffey said.
Over the course of a few visits, we sampled the American, which is griddled with garlic butter that adds a nice edge to a straightforward sandwich, along with the French Dip ($10) and what Caffey said is the most popular choice, the Chicken, Bacon & Ranch ($10).
The French Dip had slices of Swiss and Monterey Jack cheese around a good serving of roast beef dressed with a bit of honey (this combination of beef and honey also shows up in the Hawaiian Roast Beef sandwich) on a French roll, accompanied by a cup of deep brown au jus.
Too often the au jus that accompanies a French dip is close to being a salt lick, but here, the natural gravy was savory, even beefy, without being overly salty. The in-house roasted beef was tender, with the delicate application of honey bringing a surprising sweetness.
The white meat chicken in the Chicken, Bacon & Ranch was a bit overdone and dry, but the additions of tomato, Swiss cheese and a judicious use of ranch dressing more than compensated for that. The bacon, also, was perfectly cooked — crisp, and with just a touch of chew so that it didn’t disintegrate into smoky dust.
Desserts include a sandwich of Nutella hazelnut spread with blue cheese ($8) and fried pies ($6). Peach is on the menu, but as Caffey said they prefer using fresh peaches, apple is what’s available right now. The crust resembles puff pastry, filled with apples in a cinnamon sauce that is close to a caramel by the time it’s served.
Sides include waffle fries and tater tots ($2-$3), as well as two types of tomato soup — what the restaurant bills as “classic” as well as a “homemade” version ($3-$5).
We went with the homemade variation, which was loaded with bits of fresh tomato and onion, and just the right amount of black pepper.
The classic is Campbell’s tomato, which for many grilled cheese aficionados is the only thing to accompany a grilled cheese sandwich.
“I had no idea how passionate people are about their tomato soup,” Caffey said. “Some people really like the Campbell’s because it reminds them of childhood, and it’s better for dipping, because it clings a little better to the bread. Other people really love the homemade soup we do, so we keep both of them. It’s all about giving our customers what they want.”
EIFFEL TOWER GRILLED CHEESE CO.
Service: Order at counter
(we scale from 0 to 5 stars)
Vegetarian/Vegan options: Yes
11am-8pm Monday-Saturday. All major credit cards accepted.