KC food truck plans to brings its grilled cheese menu to downtown restaurant; new plans for old ice cream shop

photo by: Photo Courtesy: Cheesy Street KC

Kansas City's Cheesy Street food truck is bringing its menu to downtown Lawrence's Lucia Beer Garden & Grill.

I find a good grilled cheese sandwich exhilarating. (My heart gets a jolt every time I stick a knife into the toaster to pry free my culinary creation.) OK, maybe my technique is off, but an area chef is betting that my enthusiasm for grilled cheese is widespread. An existing downtown restaurant soon will turn its menu over to grilled cheese and, just for good measure, mac and cheese too.

Lucia Beer Garden & Grill, the downtown restaurant and bar at 1016 Massachusetts St., has struck a deal with the Kansas City-based food truck Cheesy Street to take over Lucia’s kitchen. Look for the changeover to happen in the next week or so.

Lucia owner Mike Logan said he had been looking for an opportunity to change up the menu at the restaurant, which originally started with a Caribbean theme but became a bit more focused on pub food.

He first became familiar with Cheesy Street when the food truck showed up at a recent Kansas Food Truck Festival in East Lawrence.

“There was a line wrapped around it three times,” Logan said. “I decided I needed to figure out what was going on there.”

What’s going on is pretty simple, said Caitlin Franz-Quinn, owner of Cheesy Street. Get two slices of good bread — she uses a sourdough artisan from Kansas City’s Crossroads district — and then start piling the ingredients.

“And then it is four minutes on the press,” she said. “The secret is to pile the ingredients high.”

photo by: Photo courtesy Cheesy Street KC

Caitlin Franz-Quinn has owned Kansas City’s Cheesy Street food truck for about a year after having worked for the previous owner for several years. She said the chance to be part of downtown Lawrence and its live music scene caused her to jump at the opportunity to open inside Lucia.

Having plenty of ingredients to choose from is also a plus. Cheesy Street’s menu features about 10 varieties of grilled cheese sandwiches. There is a classic version and a slightly modified classic called the “Grown-up Grilled Cheese” that features both cheddar and provolone. There is a lighter version that uses provolone and fresh sliced tomatoes. Hearty versions include one with bacon; another with braised beef, sautéed onions and au jus glaze; another with cajun chicken and pickled jalapeños; and a creation called the Big Pig, which has ham, hickory smoked bacon and something called pork belly jam, consisting of pork belly, brown sugar, coffee and other ingredients.

Franz-Quinn said she also makes a tomato bisque that can come as side to a sandwich. She expects diners to also get excited about the mac and cheese offerings at the restaurant. That is something the food truck doesn’t currently offer, but it will be a Lucia special. She’s currently developing that menu but expects to have about eight varieties available.

She began adding the mac and cheese offerings after deciding that she wanted to have a broader menu for the sit-down restaurant. And, she thought, why not double down on cheese? After all, the other big offering at Lucia is beer. As the state of Wisconsin can attest — when it is not taking a nap — cheese and beer are a good combination.

Logan said he also thought the menu would create some nostalgia that could help broaden Lucia’s customer base.

“Grilled cheese and mac and cheese are kind of timeless foods,” Logan said. “Your 6-year old will love it, or you could bring your grandparents in and they would love it too.”

But, certainly, the venture is betting that college kids will eat it up also. Lucia will continue to host live music, and Logan owns The Granada music venue next door. Cheesy Street will serve food there through a pass-through window, Franz-Quinn said. She’s confident there will be many concert-goers snapping selfies with one hand and holding a grilled cheese sandwich with the other.

“It is great food because it is handheld; you don’t need any silverware, and you can be drunk when you eat it,” she said.

In other news and notes from around town:

• While we are in the area, let me update you on plans for the building next door to Lucia. As we reported in July, Sylas & Maddy’s ice cream shop is on the move. It has opened recently in space across from the Douglas County Courthouse. I’ll check in with them soon and report back.

But Logan and investors have purchased the shop’s former space at 1014 Massachusetts St. It is right next door to Lucia, but he isn’t planning on using the space to expand the bar and restaurant. Rather, he wants to expand the type of offerings in downtown, perhaps on a week-to-week basis.

Logan said he planned to use the storefront as a unique events space that also will host everything from pop-up retail shops to maybe even a pop-up bar.

“We want to interact with artists and makers,” Logan said. “There are so many talented people in this town, and we just want to work with them.”

Certainly, part of the time, the space will host relatively ordinary events, such as wedding rehearsal dinners, graduation parties, corporate meetings and other functions that need space for about 40 to 60 people.

Logan, though, said he was particularly excited about the ability to host a number of pop-up events, which could be for a day, a week or a month or more. He expects the ideas to start coming from folks in the community, but some that already have crossed his mind are a space for a pop-up comedy club, pop-up restaurants, themed art galleries and even a pop-up bar.

Logan said he’s seen a trend of “holiday bars” popping up in some larger markets.

“They are tacky Christmas times one thousand,” he said. “Everything is glitter and sensory overload. It is like a tacky Griswold Christmas. You go take some selfies, have an experience and order off a hot toddy menu or something like that.”

Whether that comes to pass is uncertain, but Logan, who also owns Abe & Jake’s and The Bottleneck, said he’s a believer that downtown has to offer a lot of experiences to its visitors.

“When folks come to town, the experiential spaces are on everybody’s list of things to do,” Logan said.

Logan said he planned to do some minor remodeling work to the building and hoped to open the space this spring.


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