Fall River’s Hot Cheese Sandwich Never Caught On In New Bedford
I am married to someone who grew up in Fall River and very much eats and breathes all things Spindle City. It still blows my mind when we can talk about foods neither of us has ever heard of growing up just 10 minutes apart. This week was no exception as I fell into the depths of the internet and asked, “What the heck is a hot cheese sandwich?”
Liken the look I got to Jessica Simpon’s famous “Is Chicken of the Sea chicken or fish?” It was deja vu of our cheese rolls versus chourico rolls debate 15 years ago. Allegedly, everyone knows and loves hot cheese sandwiches and yet, no one else east of Westport had seemed to know what I was talking about when I asked about it.
A hot cheese sandwich is neither a grilled cheese nor a regular cheese sandwich fresh outta the microwave. A hot cheese sandwich is a hamburger bun stuffed with a secret gooey-melty hot cheese blend. As a cold leftover, it is still referred to as a hot cheese sandwich, even if the cheese has congealed.
I know, I know. Why is this so complicated?
The hot cheese sandwich does not look like what you may be imagining. It is not a pile of orange cheese slices lost between two slices of white bread. Hot cheese actually looks like runny scrambled eggs. It is a soupy consistency and literally ladled onto the bun like a Sloppy Joe or chow mein sandwich.
As legend has it, the hot cheese sandwich was invented by CC’s Nite Owl Diner many years ago, and then various Coney Island hot dog joints around town such as Graham's, JJ's and Nick's started offering their own versions. The hot cheese blend recipe is kept secret by its local purveyors with no two being quite the same.
I must have missed the 2017 issue of Saveur magazine that featured the hot cheese sandwich, calling Fall River a “culinary twilight zone,” but took their advice and hit up Graham's for a bite anyway. The sandwiches look small, so it's easy to be over-zealous in thinking you could eat two on a hungry day. The mother-son duo at the counter politely warned that I'd feel a bit sluggish after consuming one and to be prepared to want to sit around for a bit. Clearly, they've seen people over-order on their first visit, too.
I ordered a plain version, a "works" version, a Coney Island version and even a plate of hot cheese fries to share among coworkers who were also new to the ooey-gooey idea.
Graham's was right; I feel more than unable to move but I have no regrets about trying my first ever, Fall River-exclusive hot cheese sandwich.
10 out of 10. Would hot cheese sandwich again.