Upstairs: litigation. Downstairs: culinary innovation. Such has been the scene for the past few weeks at the Dupont law firm of Bruce Klores as the attorney transitions into a new career: co-owner of GCDC, a grilled cheese restaurant coming to Pennsylvania Avenue NW by early March.
"Law lends itself to a certain kind of creativity," Klores said, "but this is a whole different thing."
Klores dreamed up the idea for a grilled cheese restaurant six years ago and brought his son Steven into the business once he graduated from college. The father-son duo drafted Sophie Slesinger, a New York cheesemonger, to curate the cheese selection and wine pairings for the sandwiches-by-day, wine-bar-by-night hangout.
But the sandwiches are Steven's creation. The younger Klores builds them through trial and error with a high-speed convection grill that can toast each one to perfection in under two minutes. A few of the concepts that have stuck so far: A sandwich version of French onion soup, with caramelized onions mixed in with the cheese; a carbonara grilled cheese, with goat cheese, leeks, pancetta and black pepper; a steak and kimchi grilled cheese with a cheddar blend; and a "White House Kitchen Sink" sandwich, which has bacon, two fried eggs, pepper jelly and cheddar.
Everything is perfectly calibrated to go with the restaurant's vegan tomato soup, and vegan and gluten-free sandwiches are in the works. They'll also have a build-your-own sandwich option. Sandwiches will range from $8-12, and each will come with a small side of greens.
Given the restaurant's proximity to the White House, Bruce says they plan to come up with politically themed grilled cheeses, too.
"We're trying to come up with the ingredients to the Boehner," Klores said, jokingly. "Maybe it will have orange bread, like pumpkin bread. Or maybe if someone orders it, we'll just say no."
As for Steven and Slesinger, they've been engaged in deep philosophical conversations about the nature of the grilled cheese sandwich. To wit: When does a cheese sandwich with taste-grabbing ingredients such as steak and kimchi become something more than a humble grilled cheese sandwich? Perhaps it's sort of like the famous Supreme Court ruling on obscenity: you know it when you see it.
"The cheese has to be the star of the show," said Steven, who puts three and a half ounces of it on every sandwich. He thinks a 3:2 cheese-to-other-ingredients ratio is key. And as Slesinger points out, the ingredients are all finely chopped, never layered (with the exception of the egg sandwich which, respectfully, verges away from grilled cheese and into egg sandwich territory).
"It's like a good burrito," Slesinger said. "Every bite should have a little bit of everything."
GCDC, 1730 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Opening late February/early March.