In a city known mainly for small businesses, New York Grilled Cheese has taken the first step in becoming bigger.
The popular restaurant, which serves grilled cheese incarnations, waffle fries and a signature side of tomato soup, has over 41,000 likes on Facebook. It opened on Wilton Drive near the end of 2013 and a second location in Boca Raton on April 12 of this year.
“We realized that we really needed to open up another location to serve the overflow. We hoped to alleviate traffic in our Wilton Manors location, but what happened was they both got crazy. One kind of promoted the other,” said Leor Barack, founder and co-owner of New York Grilled Cheese. Barak said the line for the Boca location was so long on opening day that some people left and went to the Wilton Manors location. “We were stampeded the first day we opened.”
The Boca opening was on National Grilled Cheese Day, but it was frozen yogurt that led to New York Grilled Cheese’s founding.
That and desperation.
“The whole idea really came from desperation. I moved down from Canada with all my savings and thought this yogurt business would make enough money.” Barak had opened “Nuts About Yogurt” but business wasn’t as sweet as the product he was selling.
“Little did we realize, we opened up at the tail end of that [yogurt] fad, less than a mile radius of three competitors. We were struggling. I was living paycheck to paycheck. So I said why don’t we try this [grilled cheese]? We sink with the ship or we do nothing.”
So, down to a last few dollars from his father, Barak dedicated half his yogurt business to grilled cheese. The idea came from customers wanting to eat something with their yogurt. Many would go in search of a restaurant and plan to return after for dessert. “Of course, they would never come back.” Eventually, grilled cheese sales eclipsed yogurt sales and Barak removed and sold the machines to make more dining room space. “We got pennies on the dollar but it was worth it.”
Now, with Boca up and running, its grand opening planned for some time in July, Barak sees more expansion to come. Delray Beach and Pembroke Pines are two possible locations. But with the original Broward location and the new one in Palm Beach, Barak said Miami-Dade is the next obvious location.
But the company won’t forget its gay roots, he promised. There are gender neutral bathrooms, “there before it became popular,” said Barak, and female impersonator Daisy Deadpedals is the face of the company, appearing in its commercials – one will run exclusively in the Boca market through Comcast. “She’s the mom. This is not your mother’s grilled cheese.”
The Wilton Manors location is located at 2207 Wilton Drive. The Boca Raton location is 493 N. Federal Hwy. Visit NewYorkGrilledCheese.com for more information.