If a grilled-cheese cart were any simpler, it would be a lemonade stand. Cheeseboy, centrally located in the South Station train terminal, is one of a few new entries serving only the nostalgic sandwich. Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese, whose cartoon mascot wears Bettie Page bangs, will open soon in Cleveland Circle, and the Grilled Cheese Nation truck cruised the SoWa Open Market this year. Cheeseboy avoids upscaling — any fancier, after all, and the fare might no longer be grilled cheese. Indeed, depending on how you set to work with Cheeseboy's extra toppings, you almost risk assembling a makeshift Cuban: there are yellow mustard packets by the napkins.
Cheeseboy offers three "signature" sandwiches, served in a cardboard box. Choose between the Classic ($2.99), Italian bread and white American cheese; the Cheddar Delight ($3.79), mild white cheddar on rye; and the Healthy Melt ($3.79), light Swiss on multigrain. Multiple visits produced the same crusty, buttered golden triangles, sliced on the diagonal, cheese melted through yet nicely contained. I reveled in my juvenile ritual of biting off the pointy corners first, leveraging a mound in the middle as an extra gooey prize bite. However, never mind "light" dairy products and skip the Swiss: it's consolation food for miserable dieters, stretching pleasantly for miles, but tasting waxy and dull.
To each sandwich, one may add extras: bacon, ham, turkey, or pepperoni ($.99); sliced tomato, basil chiffonade, jalapeños, spinach, onion, or red peppers ($.49); or swap in Muenster and provolone. By adding bacon, you will have ordered what Cheeseboy slyly calls a breakfast sandwich ($2.99/with regular coffee or fountain beverage, and an apple), but no egg is involved. Cheeseboy's kitchen is barely more sophisticated than a contraband hotplate in a Warren Towers dorm room, just one efficient assembly line. Loaves of sliced bread are piled at the ready below the counter, to marry stacks of pre-sliced cheese in a lineup of sandwich presses.
Standard-issue bagged chips and big-brand sodas strike me as lunch-counter static, but there are also fresh apples and carrots ($2/side combo). That silky tomato bisque is just snow-day canned variety ($3/regular soup and fountain-soda combo). But for grilled cheese, this iconic soup cannot be understated as a dipping medium. Picture this: a commuter-rail ride and a grocery stop away from dinner, it's a fine interstitial snack, a rush-hour regression. Amid streams of departures and arrivals, there is a childhood meal, same as it ever was.
Cheeseboy, located at the South Station Train Concourse, 720 Atlantic Avenue in Boston, is open daily, 9 am–10 pm. Call 617.737.4600 or visit cheeseboy.com.