Young and Hungry

Curdling News: The Overuse of Cheese in Bar Food

My weekly trips to Tyson’s Corner have me eating more than my fair share of Chef Geoff’s burgers lately. The namesake sandwich costs only $5 during happy hour and is competently prepared; requesting medium results in a faintly pink and juicy patty nearly every time. My only beef? A second slice of cheese.

On a burger already topped with bacon and served with a hopped-up mayo, two thick slices of cheddar seems redundant and heavy. I realize I can request that the kitchen tone down the dairy overload, or even have the cooks remove the slices, but a Sunday article in the New York Times has me half wondering if the USDA isn't targeting independent restaurants, too.

Just look at The Diner in Adams Morgan, where an otherwise delightful Reuben sandwich is inundated with so much Swiss, it spills out onto my plate.  I’m also tempted to believe that cheese overload is the main reason I tend to hate nachos.  It seems many bar food menus are addicted to dairy.

My best theory is that when melted and oozing, cheese makes one hell of a crutch.  Domino’s proves that the simplest solution to a crappy tasting pie is to blanket it with so much fat it hammers you with flavor.  But the technique isn't just reserved for low-brow chow.  Any chef worth his ample weight knows all too well the results of whisking a pat of butter into an almost finished sauce.  Thin and wimpy quickly becomes viscous and silky, proving the adage that fat is flavor (and texture).

Still, those same chefs know that quality ingredients have as much of an impact in the outcome of a dish. What if Domino's spent a little more time looking at the structure and quality of its crust, or perhaps reworked a tomato sauce that currently resembles ketchup?  What if The Diner and Chef Geoff’s toned down their dairy infusion just a touch?  Would many of us notice?  Our hearts might.

I’m the first one to cheer on an extra melty dish of warm mac and cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich, but I think I’m ready to ask when dairy’s incorporation passes from a worthy addition to possible abuse.

What about Y&H readers?  Where have you seen cheese pushed too far? Or should we continue to march forth bathed in a blanket of melted goodness, with a bottle of Lipitor preemptively placed in our back pockets?

Photo by Scott Reitz

  • b

    The cheese is totally over the top, but is it really any more over the top than the oversized patty on which it's served? Or the bacon, mayo, or additional condiments that comprise a typical comfort food sandwich.

    You're also letting some of these providers the hook on sodium, which is high for many of these offerings, and even higher when paired with a side of usually very well seasoned fries.

    ... then again, if most people wanted or cared to know what was in this stuff, they'd make it themselves or abstain altogether. Anyone who eats this more often than as an occasional indulgence is taking on unnecessary health risk. That's the consumer's prerogative, but it's one that I reject.

  • EorrFU

    This may be sacrilegious (or as Homer puts it Sacralicious) but I wish there was only 1 slice of processed cheese on the Five-Guys bacon cheese burger. It is the only 'topping' to burgers that is impossible to regulate oneself. So I now get strange looks at the red/white tiled saturated fat merchant when I say "uno queso".

  • Scott Reitz

    Maybe 'uno queso' should be the tag-line for those of use who need to indulge, but know we shouldn't. I'll make up some shirts.

  • sigmagrrl

    I cannot believe I just saw in print that someone thinks we're overwhelmed by cheese. THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH CHEESE!!! Well, actually, there is if, for example, with nachos they use a bad chip to cheese ratio. Nothing worse than glop left on the plate and no chips to scoop it up with! But, really, I love cheese and cannot find a problem with lots of it!

  • dinnertime

    I want one just like the picture. Do you deliver?

  • Grumpy

    Well that burger pictured is just fine by me...

    I think that cheese, like most things, just doesn't taste as good as it used to.

    I bet if you took 2 bags of McDonald's fries, cooked one in Lard and one in that crappy veggie oil or whatever they use now, the first batch tastes like we remember.

    As for the cheese, at least its not Cheez Whiz like they use up in Philly...bleh

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  • Langdon, in arlington, on Glebe Road, it was below my place of work, the tuna melt... it was a swiss cheese explosion with a hint of fish, and not seeing the fish, and TASTING the fish, not the best combo.

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