To celebrate the cheesiest day of the year, we’re sitting down with Leor Barak, the creator and owner of the New York Grilled Cheese empire. Today, he’s celebrating the 5th anniversary of his Boca Raton location by launching a limited time melt, the Park Avenue, which he describes as “a high-end cheeseboard in a melt”.
Originally from Israel, Leor spent hours with his grandmother in her kitchen, watching, learning and helping. Then when his family immigrated to Canada, he remembers regularly traveling to New York City to visit relatives and explore the dining scene. Both experiences spurred a passion for food in him, and although he did attend culinary school, his calling was put on the back burner until one fateful day ten years ago.
It was time to make a big move, so Leor decided to move to sunny South Florida and open up a frozen yogurt shop in Wilton Manors. Unfortunately, the froyo craze was starting to thaw, and after investing all he had in Nuts About Yogurt, it was on the fast track to becoming a flop. With rent due and no customers coming in the door, he decided to quickly revamp and use his culinary chops to serve up some extra-cheesy sandwiches alongside the ice cream. How hard could it be?
Not only he did underestimate the amount of work that went into making grilled cheese sandwiches, he was overwhelmed by how the community embraced it. In its first day the sandwich sales surpassed the highest weekly froyo sales. With that trajectory, Leor was not only able to make good on his rent but expand to his second location here in Boca in 2016 and create a franchise system. Today, he’s completing the renovation of his original space in Fort Lauderdale. We chatted with Barak to discuss some of NY Grilled Cheese’s gooiest offerings.
What makes your sandwiches so unique?
First and foremost, it’s the quality of our ingredients. Equally as unique is our waffle-baking process of the melts. It creates these perfect little toasted square-like cups that act as spoons when dipping them in our creamy tomato-basil bisque. It’s definitely a story-telling experience.
What are the most popular items on the menu?
The Broadway Classic, the Fifth Avenue Melt, Manhattan Mac N Cheese, and the Meat Packing District. As far as sides, our current most popular ones are the creamy garlic cheese fries, right behind our regular waffle fries.
Now it’s your turn to make one of Leor’s famous grilled cheese sandwiches at home.
The SoHo Sweet Cheese was inspired by his first time trying a creamy cheese alongside a sweet berry preserve at a French restaurant in New York. That luxurious, velvety taste stuck with him and moved him to create this.
Pro tip: Invest in quality bread that had a good crust, yet soft on the inside–like a French baguette.
- 1/2 baguette
- 2-3 tablespoons of quality fruit preserve (orange also works very well)
- 4 ounces brie cheese
- Bacon (crispy cooked)
- Caramelized onions
- 2-3 tablespoons melted butter (to brush the baguette with)
1) Pre-heat panini press to medium-high heat.
2) Cut baguette in half to create a cavity for the ingredients, spread preserve on both sides of the bread.
3) Layer the cheese, onions, and bacon inside the bread, and brush the outside of the bread with a generous drizzle of melted butter.
4) Toast for about 3-5 min per side. It’s always recommended to flip over, so that the toasting is more even throughout. Brie cheese tends to melt fast, so toast it until the center of the melt is just warmed through.
493 N Federal Hwy, Boca Raton; 561/277-0777; newyorkgrilledcheese.com