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Sunday, February 18 News

Hot stuff: Grilled Cheese Eatery is comfort food success

The just-opened Grilled Cheese Eatery quickly became a "victim" of its own success.

"We're begging to be allowed just a little bit of a learning curve," said Ivanina Donneaux, who officially opened the Westport takeout branch of the Fairfield restaurant at 772 Post Road East with her husband, Henri, last week.

She said, however, that crowds of grilled-cheese lovers weren't expected to show up quite so soon. Consequently, the new restaurant ran short of supplies, plus was hobbled a bit by a staff shortage in its first few days.

That's been addressed, however, Donneaux said, and the couple is determined to make this 10-seat takeout spot a place that will keep people coming back.

"It's a unique concept," said Donneaux, a native of Bulgaria, whose husband was born -- and directed a culinary school -- in his native Belgium. They wanted to take one very simple, food -- the grilled cheese sandwich -- and enhance it.

"My husband's been in the culinary business his whole career," she said, with the two most recently having owned and operated Cafe Lola in downtown Fairfield four years. That downtown spot is now home to the full-service Grilled Cheese Eatery.

"We're foodies," she said. "We like to sit and we like to take our kids to places that aren't necessarily kid-friendly."

Donneaux, however, said food trends are drawing people away from fancy three-course meals to more casual dining that still maintains high-quality ingredients and presentation. "We try to make everything as high-end as possible," she said, noting that the Grilled Cheese Eatery's breads are baked exclusively for the business by a local baker, and most of the meats are cooked in-house.

One challenge, she said, is to offer options for those who perceive the idea of grilled cheese as somewhat unhealthy because of the calories and fat content. "As much as you try, you can't make it very suitable to the diet-conscious," she said.

Extensive build-your-own salad options, however, along with gluten- and dairy-free soup choices will likely give every customer various options.

"We have very high standards," she said for all of the menu offerings. "We just didn't expect to have such a great response right away."

The Grilled Cheese Eatery, 772 Post Road East, is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. Call 203-349-5014. For more information, check http://bit.ly/1nDPs70