The good Lord can truly move in mysterious ways, his wonders to be accomplished, but it might be hard to imagine the job 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 as a food truck at the Tulsa State Fair last year, and recently opened its physical location at the corner of 21st Street and Memorial Drive, 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 professional life, but in the last year has found himself in dire financial straits.
“I was about to lose 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 started seeing images of a food truck, a restaurant, and other food-related things. “I just knew I was driven by someone into this,” he said.
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Caffey worked with a young friend, Caitlin Warner, who was preparing to attend cooking school, to develop the menu. Her sister, Stephanie, who had worked in the restaurant industry in the past, oversees day-to-day operations.
The choice of the Eiffel Tower as the symbol of the restaurant was made in part because it was one of the images that Caffey had initially told him, 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 spin on things.
“I also wanted this place itself to feel like it was part of a chain, with that kind of attention to detail,” he said. “But it really is a local family restaurant.”
The location has certainly had a makeover since Caffey took it over. The restaurant operated from the food truck from October to March, with the interior having been “destroyed to the poles” and rebuilt.
“It took six months of blood, sweat and tears to open this place,” Caffey said.
The Tour Eiffel Grilled Cheese menu offers a dozen signature sandwiches, available in combos with a side and drink of your choice. All feature cheese of one variety or another and spend at least some time on the kitchen flat grill before serving, thus qualifying as a “grilled cheese” sandwich.
Choices range from the expected, such as American, with three types of cheese (Cheddar, Swiss, and Monterey Jack) with garlic butter on sourdough ($8), and ham and Swiss, dressed with lettuce , tomato, onion and bacon on French bread ($10), to overseas creations like the Dorito & Jalapeño ($8).
“It sounds weird, but the combination of all the flavors works really well,” Caffey said.
On a few visits we sampled the American, which is toasted with garlic butter which adds a nice touch to a simple sandwich, as well as the French Dip ($10) and what Caffey said was the the most popular choice, the Chicken, Bacon and Ranch ($10).
The French Dip had slices of Swiss cheese and Monterey Jack around a healthy portion of roast beef seasoned with a bit of honey (this combination of beef and honey is also found in the Hawaiian roast beef sandwich) on a French roll , accompanied by a cup of dark brown au jus.
Too often the jus au jus that accompanies a French dip comes close to being a lick of salt, but here the natural sauce was flavorful, even beefy, without being overly salty. The house roast beef was tender, the delicate application of honey providing a surprising sweetness.
The chicken, bacon and ranch white meat chicken was a little overdone and dry, but the additions of tomato, Swiss cheese and a judicious use of ranch dressing more than made up for that. The bacon, too, was perfectly cooked – crispy and with just a touch of chewiness so it didn’t disintegrate into smokey dust.
Desserts include a Nutella hazelnut sandwich with blue cheese ($8) and fried pies ($6). Peach is on the menu, but since Caffey said they prefer to use fresh peaches, apple is what’s available right now. The crust resembles puff pastry, topped with apples in a cinnamon sauce that approaches caramel when served.
Sides include waffle fries and tater tots ($2 to $3), plus two types of tomato soup — what the restaurant calls “classic” as well as a “homemade” version ($3 to $5).
We opted for the house variation, which was loaded with chunks of fresh tomatoes and onions, and just the right amount of black pepper.
The classic is the Campbell’s Tomato, which for many grilled cheese lovers is the only thing that goes with a grilled cheese sandwich.
“I had no idea people’s passion for their tomato soup,” Caffey said. “Some people really like Campbell’s because it reminds them of childhood, and it’s better for dipping, because it sticks a little better to bread. Other people really like the homemade soup we make, so we keep both. It’s about giving our customers what they want.
EIFFEL TOWER GRILLED CHEESE CO.
Service: Order at the counter
(on a scale of 0 to 5 stars)
Vegetarian/vegan options: yes
11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday. All major credit cards accepted.