The Ultimate: Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Styling by Maria  del Mar  sacasa/ennis

Styling by Maria del Mar sacasa/ennis

With comfort food taking over menus at every tavern in town, it’s not surprising that so many restaurants are paying homage to a humble classic: a grilled cheese sandwich served with creamy tomato soup. But while the joy of the dish is in the soup-sammie combination, too many kitchens concentrate on one element or the other. Not so at Cambridge favorite UpStairs on the Square, which delivers a pair in perfect harmony. The velvety soup, though thick with heavy cream, lets fresh tomato flavor shine through and finishes on a sweet note. The crispy sandwich of pungent farmhouse cheddar on buttery brioche is gooey without being greasy, and is perfect for dipping. It’s a childhood favorite, all grown up. UpStairs on the Square, 91 Winthrop St., Cambridge, 617-864-1933, upstairsonthesquare.com.

 

Sportello ***1/2
Barbara Lynch’s casual Italian spot in Fort Point serves up a spicy tomato soup with a caraway grilled cheese. Be warned: The grilled cheese is not a traditional sandwich, but a thin, crostini-like toast layered with cheese and caraway seeds, which lend an earthy and floral flavor. Dipping the toast into the fiery soup keeps the heat in check, but the dish loses points for its nontraditional twist. 348 Congress St., Boston, 617-737-1234, sportelloboston.com.

Garden at the Cellar ***
This classic-style tomato soup is light on the cream, allowing the tomato flavor to dominate. Topped with a drizzle of olive oil, it’s rich in texture and a great counterpoint to the sandwich of Vermont cheddar on Iggy’s sourdough bread.  A tad too much butter on the bread, however, pushed the sandwich closer to the oily side. 991 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-230-5880, gardenatthecellar.com.

Flash’s Cocktails **1/2
Smoky tomato soup paired with a buttery cheddar grilled cheese with sliced tomato makes for a good late night snack—or a great hangover cure.  While the soup has a well-developed flavor, the sandwich is greasy and too heavy on the bread, overpowering the cheese and tomato flavor. 310 Stuart St., Boston, 617-574-8888, flashscocktails.com.

Crema Café **1/2
A very good sandwich of pungent Gruyère and mild Monterey Jack cheeses pressed on thin rye bread, it is oozy, flavorful, and aromatic. (There’s also an option to boost the indulgence factor by adding avocado, bacon, ham, or caramelized onions.)  The tomato bisque, however, is bland, on the thin side, and reminded us a bit too much of Campbell’s. 27 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-876-2700, cremacambridge.com.

Audubon Circle **
Sadly, this bar near Fenway turns out both a disappointing sandwich and unappetizing soup. The enormous portion of tomato bisque is vinegary, with a concentrated tomato flavor reminiscent of ketchup; the bland sandwich does nothing to elevate the soup’s flavor (though it does help combat the vinegar burn). 838 Beacon St., Boston, 617-421-1910, auduboncircle.us.

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    While I found the food and the service on the whole to be lacking at Cafeteria, I will give them credit for their grilled cheese and tomato soup offering. Reasonably priced and tasty, I would argue it is one of Cafeteria’s few redeeming qualities.