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Big Cheese Truck Makes Crystal City Debut

by ARLnow.com December 15, 2010 at 1:35 pm 3,798 18 Comments

(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) The Big Cheese truck made its first publicly-announced appearance in Arlington today.

Hawking $6.50 gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, the truck parked in Crystal City around noon today and attracted a few dedicated food truck aficionados willing to brave the blustery weather.

“Craft cheese with a ‘C'” is how owner Patrick Rathbone describes the difference between his grilled cheese and the pedestrian grilled cheese your mother used to make. (Sorry, mom.)

Ingredients include artisan Cowgirl Creamery cheeses, caramelized onions, grilled mushrooms and hardy bread. The end result is certainly the fanciest mobile grilled cheese this side of the west coast, where there are at least two other grilled cheese trucks in operation. You’ll want to take the sandwich out of the aluminum wrapping quickly, however, so the bread doesn’t get soggy.

The Big Cheese, operating out of what was once the Rebel Heroes truck, is licensed to operate in the District and apparently attracted a crowd near L’Enfant Plaza earlier this week.

Owner Patrick Rathbone, a Rosslyn resident, said he was undeterred by the comparatively slow business on Crystal Drive and is still planning on splitting his time between the District and various Arlington locations. Also in his plan: serving french toast at the Courthouse farmers market.

Big Cheese will be making its first hire in the next week, which should allow the truck to serve customers more efficiently. (Each made-to-order grilled cheese takes two minutes per side to grill.)

A marathon runner and triathlete, Rathbone says pulling off the launch by himself required physical and mental stamina.

“There are definitely some marathon days,” he said. “I’m doing everything.”

Rathbone says his long-term goal is to open a brick and mortar restaurant, something the owners of the District Taco and Pupatella Pizza carts were successful in doing this year. He says the food truck allowed him to start a business for a tenth of the cost of opening a restaurant.

The truck could return to Arlington as soon as Friday. Follow Big Cheese on Twitter to find out where it’s going to be next.

  • James

    Apparently, spelling is not their strong suit. But I like the idea, anyway…

    • Appalachin

      Perhaps they are just spelling it that way as a play on the phonetics of how some people pronounce Appalachian.

  • AZZI9

    Where do these guys go to the bathroom?

    • Rover

      How do you think the cheese gets so big?

    • MeatEatinMachine

      Why you tink cheese so stinky, mon.

  • Jason S

    Catering to peoples need to act in an infantile manner yet still congratulate themselves on their misplaced sense of sophistication. Perfect for Arlington.

  • Lou

    Are there any BLT trucks out there? I’d like to find a good BLT while walking down the street.

  • CrystalMikey

    Now if I could only get to Twitter while @ work

  • Rover

    I thought this guy was the “Big Cheese”….


    • CrystalMikey


      I believe his formal title is Mayor McCheese.

  • TGEoA

    7 bucks for a sandwich with no meat?

    • Rover

      Mayor McCheese used to advertise the ability to feed a family of four for under $5. Now, he advertised $1 McDoubles….with meat! (and I use that term loosely).

    • JD32

      Welcome to Washington, DC

  • Michael

    Same truck “debuted” in L’Enfant Plaza on Monday. Freezing tempatures and we estimated it was taking 8 minutes per sandwich and only helping one customer at a time (with one person staffing it). We waited 15 minutes in a line of 5 and left to grab a grilled cheese at a cafe inside for less money ($5) and no line. Give me a break!

    • TGEoA

      Yeah, this thing is out of buisness by spring. To run a good food truck you need good ingredients, and FAST service. You don’t make people wait to hand over their money!

  • MC

    I’m sorry to see Rebel Heros gone, but this sounds like a promising option. Sadly, judging from the comments, doesn’t seem most realize how un-Kraft this is: cheese from Cowgirl creamery – yum. Hope these folks succeed and make it to north Arlington at some point.

  • MeatEatinMachine

    You won’t see me paying $6 for a grilled cheese sandwich. You can pick the fanciest cheese you want, all natural dairy served on an organic cracker but in the end, it’s just a polished turd.

  • JTC

    @michael – If I made anyone wait 15 minutes for a grilled cheese in one of my restaurants I would be out of business — AND they get to wait with HVAC!!!

    @MeatEatinMachine – you’re right – doesn’t matter what you’re selling, if price elasticity is exceeded, the market will tell you… quickly and concisely.


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