One of the standouts of the initial Portland food cart boom has closed for good.
Grilled Cheese Grill, the cart specializing in creative, cheffed-up versions of the children's lunch classic, will not be reopening, owner Matt Breslow announced on social media yesterday.
The restaurant—which operated out of a converted school bus on Northeast Alberta Street—initially shut down in March at the onset of the pandemic, but as Breslow explained in a lengthy Facebook post, his responsibilities to his 3-year-old son kept him from opening back up. Then he learned the lot the bus has been parked on for 12 years had been sold to a developer.
"I realized that no matter how much love I had for this business," Breslow wrote, "it just wasn't enough to have to reopen after a year-plus pandemic closure just to have to relocate and start from scratch some place else a year or so later."
Grilled Cheese Grill opened its original location at the corner of Northeast Alberta Street and 11th Avenue in 2009, with a kitchen built in an Airstream trailer and the dining area placed in a reclaimed bus. Menu items included the Jalapeño Popper, which came stuffed with chiles and corn chips, and the signature Cheesus—basically a massive cheeseburger in the form of a sandwich.
The cart was an instant hit, winning the People's Choice Award at Willamette Week's Eat Mobile event the year it opened and earning praise from Rachael Ray and Reader's Digest. Breslow expanded to locations in Southeast Portland and downtown, though both had closed prior to the pandemic.
In his Facebook post, Breslow said he planned to reopen the flagship cart in 2021 before learning the lot had been sold. The cart would've been allowed to continue operating for up to two years, but Breslow ultimately decided relocating would not be worth the effort.
"I loved this business, but the truth is I love my family more," he wrote. "I don't want to have to keep telling my wife that we can't go visit her family for Christmas week because I have to work. It's become a trade-off I'm not willing to make anymore."