Café Lola, the charming French bistro that recently closed its doors after 5 years, has been reinvented with a classic American spin by owners Ivanina and Henri Donneaux. What is more comforting than the quintessential grilled cheese sandwich and a cup of homemade tomato soup? These are just a couple of the delicious items being served fresh daily at the Grilled Cheese Eatery, which is nestled among the shops on Fairfield's Unquowa Road near the Old Community Theater. “Eating habits have changed,” says Ivanina. “There is less formality when you go out to eat and we wanted to create a place that was more than a special occasion place,” thus the creation of The Grilled Cheese Eatery.
Drawing from their own experience as parents, Ivanina and Henri felt that Fairfield could use a fun and modern place where parents could go with their children that would satisfy the tastes of everyone at the table. The newly reinvented restaurant is decorated with bright reds and yellows, cow print banquets and catchy phrases painted on the walls, including “to Brie or not to Brie.” I think we all know the answer to that question. The concept for the restaurant came together organically. “We did all the design ourselves,” says Ivanina. “We wanted a casual and easy environment that is still a little quirky, where people can come after a game, from the beach, or after work.”
The Grilled Cheese Eatery offers both an in-dining experience as well as take out. Henri, who received his culinary education at l'école Hôtelière in Namur, Belgium, conceived the menu. “Everything is made from scratch daily,” says Henri. “We wanted to make a menu that caters to everyone. It is important to us to offer something to every group.”
The menu has a wide array of offerings, with twelve variations of the classic grilled cheese, at least five different daily soups, a burger, build your own salad, and some incredible appetizers and small plates. “We had so much energy and support from the customers of Café Lola that we wanted to carry over some of the favorites.” Two of these favorites made it to the appetizer menu: Henri’s famous mussels and the Belgian Ale mini meatballs. The meatballs that melt in your mouth have great depth of flavor, offering both a sweet and tart combination through the sauce. These are a must try on the appetizer menu. Other favorites include the perfectly crispy zucchini chips with a garlicky dill-yogurt sauce and the clam fritters that have just the right amount of kick.
The grilled cheese menu begins with the American classic grilled cheese with white cheddar and creamy havarti on perfectly toasted country white bread. Henri adds a special touch to this sandwich with slices of oven-roasted tomatoes. For those looking for a more exotic take on the classic sandwich, try the Smoky, which features smoked gouda, muenster, braised baby back ribs, pickles, and caramelized onions, or the Dirty, for a fun take on the Rueben with muenster, pepper jack, pastrami, pickles, and pepperoncini. A favorite among the long list is the Grilled Cheese Mac & Cheese, which is sure to satisfy those with a hankering for extra cheese. All sandwiches can be paired with house-made dipping sauces. Looking to tie everything all together? Be sure to try one of their specialty fries – a wonderful combination of golden crunchy French fries, cheese and herbs. What’s not to love? Pick from Rosemary-Parmesan, Feta-Oregano or Gruyere-Truffle Oil. The Rosemary-Parmesan Specialty Fries were among my favorite. The menu also includes gluten and dairy free options.
“We look forward to building this business,” says the couple, whose passion and dedication is evident in the food they present and the environment they have created. This place will not be easily overlooked, it simply has something for everyone, including a full bar to compliment any meal. The Grilled Cheese Eatery is a perfect reinvention of a restaurant and a perfect reinvention of the grilled cheese.
The Grilled Cheese Eatery is open Tuesday through Sunday serving lunch from 11 am to 2:30 pm, and dinner from 5pm to close. Brunch is also served on Saturdays and Sundays. 57 Unquowa Road,
Fairfield, CT. grilledcheeseeatery.com