BY CHRISTINE BARBOUR
Try to get your head around a food establishment that caters simultaneously to the undergraduate trying to fend off a hangover and a more, shall we say, mature person, waxing nostalgically over a favorite childhood lunch. It’s not as much of a stretch as it might sound if you consider that carbs and fat are great for buffering the effects of overindulgence on the stomach, and carbs and fat are the sine qua non of comfort food. And nothing says carbs and fat like a grilled cheese sandwich. Especially one loaded up with mac ’n’ cheese. And bacon.
Of course, what might be a stretch is referring to The Big Cheeze as a “food establishment” since, by definition, anything on wheels that drives away at the end of the night (or in the wee joys of the morning) can’t be too “established.” Still, food-truck culture has long since pervaded the East and West coasts of the country, and if we are just now getting our share, it puts us in great company with cities like Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston, and New York.
The Big Cheeze has been around Bloomington since 2012, after having been a fixture in West Lafayette, Indiana, where one of its two owners, Chad Sutor, was going to school. (Relax, Purdue-phobes — his partner, Joe Morton, went to Indiana University, and both are Bloomington natives.) After Chad graduated, they transplanted the business to their hometown, where it can often be found parked on East Kirkwood in front of Peoples Park from 11 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. (The better to serve the après-bar scene.) They update their schedule and location on Twitter, Facebook, and their website.
Grilled cheese is obviously the star of the show at The Big Cheeze, but there are multiple ways to layer two pieces of buttered bread and some cheese on a grill. The most popular version is the Mac Daddy — the aforementioned carb delight that includes mac ’n’ cheese. It’s good and cheesy, but more notable is the Momma Smacker: Gouda cheese melted lusciously into a filling of pulled pork made for them by the Short Stop BBQ Train. The sweet-and-spicy barbecue sauce cuts just enough into the cheesiness and the texture of the pork gives the sandwich some body. It’s seriously good.
The Skinny Wich is a hand wave at the calorie conscious, but once you’ve seen them slather the bread with butter, you know that the presence of mozzarella with a couple of tomato slices and some basil isn’t enough to make this low-cal. Delicious, yes. Skinny, no.
Should the menu of preset grilled cheese creations not float your boat, there is a mix-and-match, design-your-own option that just might do it. Choice of bread, cheese, meat, and garnish can take you anywhere from a homey bacon, provolone, and tomato to a continental smoked Gouda and caramelized onion.
Grilled cheese is almost, but not quite, all that’s on offer at the truck. There is usually a basil-and-tomato soup that is light and perfect for those grade school lunch nostalgists, the fries are good, and the fried mozzarella sticks made for them by Macri’s at the Depot are brilliant. If I were young and foolish enough to be a drunk undergrad again, it’s those mozzarella sticks that would get me through the night.