If the art of making grilled cheese is governed by rules, Valley Shepherd Creamery believes rules are meant to be broken.
“‘Can I get an American grilled cheese on white?’” said Alexander Greene, 24, a cheesemonger at the Creamery’s Reading Terminal Market location. “Well, sort of. Technically, yes.”
The Creamery created Meltkraft, a menu dedicated to grilled cheese, at its Reading Terminal Market stand in 2012. Though a “classic” sandwich is available—incorporating three cheeses sourced directly from the Creamery’s farm in New Jersey—the stand doesn’t specialize in making a grilled cheese reminiscent of a high school cafeteria.
“Some of our craziest sandwiches come about during the various conventions,” Greene said. “Some of those have been pretty out there. The Walking Bread was our first special. Pickles, spam and cheese: three things that will survive the zombie apocalypse.”
Now, the business is expanding: a Meltkraft storefront at 46 S. 17th St. near Rittenhouse Square anticipates opening this week. The menu will feature rotating seasonal specials like the Tunado, a tuna melt with romesco sauce and arugula, and the Fahrenheit Four-Fifty-Yum, a sandwich with hot pepper jack cheese and pickled green beans, as well as the everyday menu.
The regular menu centers around innovative pairings that showcase the flavors of each featured cheese, including one with brisket and macaroni and cheese. Specials are a collaborative effort by the staff, which includes two Temple alumni.
“Part of the theme of the menu is nostalgia and being a little bit whimsical,” said Meltkraft’s executive chef Rebecca Foxman. “I tried to keep representing something that would make people smile and remind them of Americana. That’s why we have Bubbe’s brisket and macaroni and cheese on a sandwich.”
Both Greene and Foxman said customers are sometimes surprised to see more of an eclectic twist on their comfort sandwich.
“The funniest thing is that we get asked ‘Do you have American cheese?’ all the time,” Foxman said. “I always say back, ‘Well, it is all American!’”
“’Do you have normal cheese?’” Green recalled. “That one stuck with me for a couple of years.”
All of the cheeses come from the Creamery’s farm in Morris County, New Jersey, which produces more than 30 kinds of goat, cow or sheep milk cheeses. In addition to being sold at Reading Terminal, Valley Shepherd sells cheese to more than 30 restaurants in Philadelphia.
Developing a signature grilled cheese was inevitable. Foxman and owner Eran Wajswol collaborated to create a sandwich menu that showcases their cheeses and set them apart from other sandwich shops in the area.
The demand for Meltkraft’s sandwiches are high. On an average day, the creamery serves 200-300 grilled cheese sandwiches. If they have a large catering order, that number can jump to 1,000.
“We have a lot of customers at Reading Terminal who walk all the way from Rittenhouse to here because they like our food,” Foxman said. “We know there’s a lot of people there who enjoy our food and want us to be closer.”
The menu at the Rittenhouse location will also include features restricted by the Center City market.
“There are certain requirements when you have a business here in Reading Terminal where you can’t have certain products that other businesses carry,” Foxman said. “This is a great opportunity for us to showcase some of the businesses here and also have a more varied menu. So we’re hoping to carry some pastries from Flying Monkey Bakery, cookies from Famous 4th Street and milkshakes using Bassett’s ice cream, which are all businesses here at the market.”
The new location on 17th Street between Ludlow and Ranstead hopes to officially open its doors this week.
Madeline Presland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.