Note: First Looks give previews of new dishes, drinks, and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
The great thing about a grilled cheese? It's really hard to screw up. Anyone can make it and, generally, it'll be pretty good. Another great thing about grilled cheese is that, while it's hard to screw up, if you've got the resources to make a really good grilled cheese, it's really, really good.
That's where Ripple comes in. With the launch of its Grilled Cheese Bar in early June, the D.C. wine bar has been leveraging its housemade charcuterie and artisanal cheese program to craft sandwiches.
The Grilled Cheese Bar operates on a small counter separate from the main bar, complete with a meat slicer, panini press, an array of cheeses and other toppings. You have the option of choosing from a number of original creations including the Stinky Pete ($9) made with "hideously smelly" Torta la Serena cheese, asparagus, and anchovies; and Krusty Krab ($11), made with jumbo lump crab and béchamel. Of course there are also classics like the BLT ($9) with Benton's bacon, organic greens, sun dried tomatoes, and a Dancing Fern cheese (a washed rind).
The other option, which is arguably more fun, is to make your own. You get to choose from 15 artisanal cheeses from around the world and local producers, a variety of meats and spreads, and ciabatta, brioche, or multigrain bread. There is a full page of descriptions of the various cheese on the menu and it can be a little daunting to try and match complementary flavors, but ask and the staff are more than willing to point you in the right direction. "If you dream it, [they] can build it," says the menu.
Owner Roger Marmet has really been delivering on his commitment to fun, artisanal interpretations of classic, comfort foods. (Nextdoor you'll find an ice cream sandwich purveying annex, Sugar Magnolia.) The Grilled Cheese Bar is available Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. to midnight. To sweeten the deal, Ripple is offering a happy hour of sorts for the first time with all beer on tap and wine by the glass at half price during the early session. The menu, like everything else at Ripple, will rotate with what is seasonally available.