West Palm Eats: Howley’s
I didn't know what a grilled cheese sandwich was until I was well into my teens.
I moved to the States when I was 11 and in England, we don't have grilled cheese sandwiches. We have cheese on toast (sidebar: we have everything on toast - cheese, baked beans, canned spaghetti - it's how we ran an empire) and we have toasties which are less impressive panini.
I don't remember the first time I had a grilled cheese sandwich but I imagine it wasn't anything spectacular - squished bread with some plastic cheese in the middle, unevenly cooked and smashed down even further by an overzealous spatula-wielding cook.
Things have improved vastly since then - I've discovered grilled cheeses slathered with mayo instead of butter (I know, I know but trust me) and grilled cheese sandwiches with brie, apples, cinnamon and honey.
But my favorite grilled cheese sandwich can be found at Howley's Diner in West Palm Beach.
A city staple since the 1950s, Howley's is our go-to because they're open late, they serve booze, the service rocks and the food is consistently good.
And one of the best things on the menu is the grilled cheese sandwich.
The grilled cheese is simple - yellow American cheese, bacon and tomatoes sandwiched between two thick slices of Texas Toast - but I choose my own adventure by nixing the bacon and tomatoes and adding caramelized onions and avocado.
And then, I firebomb the thing with hot sauce.
The avocados and cheese are creamy and mild, the grilled onions provide some sweetness and as always, hot sauce lights it up like a carnival. Add a crunchy pickle (the half-sours actually taste like they were once cucumbers) and some steak fries and it's about as close to perfect as one can get.
Wait. You know what? I take that back.
I ate dinner at the bar, my knees pressed up against John's. We played along with Jeopardy and we discovered that the, "warm smell of colitas rising up through the air," is actually a reference to weed...or, maybe a sandwich. The internet was kind of ambiguous on that point.
Either way, this wasn't as close to perfect as it gets.
This is perfect and I am so lucky to call this perfection a Thursday night in my life.