Culture Wars: Hardee’s vs. the grilled cheese sandwich

Actual conversation between the assistant editor and myself, 'CSI: Miami' style.

Culture wars can get ugly. I try, for the most part, to stay out of them. But I don’t always succeed. Sometimes, one of these hot-button issues will irritate me so much that I just have to speak out and stand up for the underdog.

Just what does Hardee’s have against guys who like grilled cheese sandwiches anyway?

Perhaps you have seen the fast food chain’s recent attack ads against ordinary guys who just want to eat a simple grilled cheese sandwich. In it, four friends sit around a table in a restaurant. Three of them order what I assume to be “manly” meals of giant burgers and fries while their friend has to order off the kids’ menu in order to satisfy his craving for gooey cheese on toasted bread. The waitress in the commercial doesn’t help this poor guy’s reputation when she offers him crayons and a coloring book to go with his sandwich. He gets heckled by his friends and given looks of contempt from the hot girls in the booth next to them.

Hardee’s solution for “guys who like grilled cheese but hate ordering off the kids’ menu” is the Grilled Cheese Bacon Thickburger.

Now, stop me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t adding bacon and huge slab of grilled beef to a grilled cheese sandwich make it no longer a grilled cheese sandwich? Doesn’t it then make the grilled cheese sandwich a bacon cheeseburger? If I wanted a bacon cheeseburger, I’d order a bacon cheeseburger. But when I want grilled cheese, there had better be nothing to that sandwich besides two pieces of bread and hot, gooey, melted cheese.

But, to be fair, I’m not a guy. Ordering a grilled cheese sandwich — or anything off the kids’ menu for that matter — does not make me feel less of a woman than ordering a big honkin’ thickburger. Perhaps guys do need that extra ego boost. Perhaps they do suffer from a secret, forbidden longing for grilled cheese, but because they don’t want to be mocked like the poor fellow from the Hardee’s commercial, they’ll order any kind of meat on their cheesy sandwich. I cannot know from experience. So I asked my co-worker, Gary Nelson, if he felt at all emasculated by the grilled cheese sandwich.

“No. Absolutely not,” was his emphatic reply. Sometimes, a grilled cheese sandwich is just what he wants — one without a big, fat burger and bacon on it. And ordering from the kids’ menu? It’s something he does all the time at Cracker Barrel, a restaurant that boasts a kids’ menu for “kids of all ages.”

Of course, asking one guy his opinion on the grilled cheese doesn’t make for a scientific poll, but I do know for a fact that my brother and my nephew love grilled cheese sandwiches. Granted, my nephew is only 2 years old, and grilled sandwiches are practically the only thing he eats, but even at 2, he knows the difference between “grilled cheese” and “burger cheese,” as he calls them.

Still, if there are any guys out there who love grilled cheese sandwiches, but don’t feel they are a masculine enough food choice (and for some reason can’t be bothered to order a bacon cheeseburger), I recommend a restaurant in Atlanta called Vortex. Order the “Double Bypass Burger.” You’ll get a half-pound sirloin patty topped with two fried eggs, six slices of cheese and eight slices of bacon, all sandwiched between two grilled cheese sandwiches in place of a bun. You’ll be able to have your grilled cheese and feel like a manly man — right before you keel over from a heart attack.

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