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Food and Drink

NYC’s underground grilled cheese

Brendan Francis Newnam Sep 21, 2010
Food and Drink

NYC’s underground grilled cheese

Brendan Francis Newnam Sep 21, 2010


BILL RADKE: For years, if you wanted illegal drugs in New York City, you’d get the number of an anonymous dealer who would show up at your location with the goods. Now an entrepreneur who goes by the name of “Ronnie” is trying this technique with… grilled cheese sandwiches. Hungry customers get Ronnie’s number from a friend, or a friend-of-a-friend, and they text their order, and in 15 minutes or less they get a hot, grilled cheese anywhere in the Lower East Side.

Our friend Brendan Francis Newnam, co-host of “The Dinner Party Download,” gave it a try.

BRENDAN FRANCIS NEWNAM: OK. I’m here on location in the Lower East Side. I just texted this number and I just told him where I was. So it’s been about 10 minutes and every time I look around I think I see Ronnie. Is Ronnie a kid with alabaster legs that look like lollipop sticks riding a skateboard? Is Ronnie riding a bike with a cast on one leg?

RONNIE: Hey, how’s it going?

NEWNAM: You’re Ronnie? Do you have the stuff?

RONNIE: I do. I have the stuff right here for you.

NEWNAM: We didn’t even talk about price?

RONNIE: Price? This is a $5 sandwich.

NEWNAM: Do you have change for a $10?

RONNIE: What kind of dealer would I be without change?

NEWNAM: Look at all that cash. How many grilled cheese have you moved today?

RONNIE: Today, I’ve done like 50.

NEWNAM: You mind sitting while I snack on this? So how did this get started?

RONNIE: Basically, I was making a grilled cheese for all my buddies after we’d come back from a night out and they loved it and told their friends. And their friends just kind of spread the word, and it grew bigger just by word-of-mouth.

NEWNAM: And so then, how did that turn into like people texting you randomly and press about this?

RONNIE: So the press happened because my brother’s girlfriend used to be in PR and she contacted UrbanDaddy, and they ate it up.

NEWNAM: Literally.


NEWNAM: All right. I’m going to check this out. It’s really nice bread. What kind of bread is this?

RONNIE: This is, what do I have? Rye there from Blue Ribbon Bakery.

NEWNAM: And we have Granny Smith apples and gooey cheddar cheese.

RONNIE: And a whole lot of cheddar cheese.

NEWNAM: Excellent. And it’s still hot. I know you’re not going to tell me, but your kitchen must be pretty close?

RONNIE: It’s pretty close. And I did a couple laps around the block trying to find you.

NEWNAM: So what’s next?

RONNIE: Next I’m looking to get into a legal kitchen. For example, a restaurant that isn’t open for lunch. I would rent it out from them and just work the lunch shift delivering sandwiches everywhere.

NEWNAM: You know how people are really picky in restaurants. Has anyone like sent you back?

RONNIE: I’ve gotten nothing, but good feedback.

NEWNAM: Isn’t that part of it, though, cause you get away with a lot cause it’s such a clever setup that this sandwich could suck and I would still be tickled.

RONNIE: Definitely. The product still has to be good, but even if it’s not excellent people are still probably going to like.

NEWNAM: So when are you going to be able to reveal your identity.

RONNIE: Once I get into a legal kitchen.

NEWNAM: So why Ronnie?

RONNIE: Well, it’s the perfect pseudonym because it’s my name also.

RADKE: Brendan is co-host of our sister show “The Dinner Party Download.”

And read our story to find out why Ronnie better watch out, or he could end up like Dr. Claw…

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