The king west crowd melts for cheesewerks’ menu of carby, cheesy, customizable eats
There’s already plenty of cheese on King West, depending on who you ask – but an extra sprinkling of the melty, soul-warming kind couldn’t hurt.
Fast-casual takeout spot Cheesewerks, now in its fifth year, blends catering to the local condo and office crowd (check the clean-lined furnishings and speedy order turnaround) while warming them up with some hot, bubbling nostalgia.
When the restaurant opened in 2010, it began with an all-grilled-cheese lineup.
“That was part of the trend that was happening in the city at that time,” says chef and co-owner Kevin Durkee. “But we had always wanted a full restaurant dedicated to cheese. Six months after we opened we added mac, and instantly it became a hit.”
Now, in addition to getting city-themed sets of toppings – say, the Italian-influenced Brooklyn, or BBQ-styled Houston – on two slices of bread, those toppings can be mixed into a mac, packed into a quesadilla or sprinkled on nachos.
Durkee says nearly half of their business revolves around mac. They begin with cavatappi noodles, which Durkee says pick up sauce and hold their texture better than elbow mac, and add all-Ontario cheese to their basic béchamel.
“We don’t use any orange product – because I’ve never seen a cow produce orange milk,” Durkee says.
Topping things off are sourdough bread crumbs.
“I like a baked-ish mac where you’ve sort of got that ooey-gooey spoonful, but you get a bit of the crunch.” Instead of broiling the top so it solidifies, he says, “we keep it really loose and moist and wet and delicious.”
The Beijing, topped with green onions, hoisin and BBQ pork imported directly from Chinatown, is their top seller – which might sound surprising, until you take a bite for yourself. Each Cheesewerks dish gets amped up with an additional cheese this one features sharp Asiago, which ingeniously cuts through the rich pork and sweet hoisin.
Sweeter flavours, in fact, add a smart twist to many of the recipes: apricot chutney in the brie-and-onion Charleston, or citrus compote swirled into the Cali-inspired Los Angeles for an appealing marmaladey tang. There’s even a breakfast mac and cheese, the brunch menu’s bestseller: the Good Morning mac, with bacon and a fried egg (oh, yeah – and a drizzle of syrup, too).
There are 100 cavatappi noodles in every bowl of mac and cheese.
Cheesewerks sells the most mac on Friday night via takeout (for a little end-of-week-feelings eating).
In 2015, Cheesewerks cooked more than 1 million cavatappi noodles.
Ask for it “crunchy” to get potato chips dropped on top.
If you’re name is Mac or Mackenzie, you get free bacon with your order.
56 Bathurst, at Wellington West, 416-243-3327, cheesewerks.com