By Emily Shesh
The perfect grilled cheese sandwich may be the Holy Grail for sandwich makers (and lovers). It doesn’t get any simpler—and yet somehow any harder—than combining toasted bread, butter, and cheese in just the right way.
Luckily for local grilled cheese devotees, Milk Truck owner Keith Klein brings his passion for grilled cheese perfection to the masses at Brooklyn Flea each weekend.
15 years ago, Keith was a West coast ad man with a love for food. Today, after a move across the country and some time spent at the French Culinary Institute, he’s the founder and owner of Milk Truck Grilled Cheese right here in Brooklyn. Although he still works in advertising, Keith has put his all into the new business, which launched in September 2009 and has gained a dedicated following.
While grilled cheese sandwiches may evoke memories of childhood and innocence, Keith isn’t playing around:
“If you look at our logo, everything draws back to milk and grilled cheese…you think of school days. Our approach to the sandwiches is to try and find balance in the flavors between the fat and the acid, the bread and cheese. The hardest part of each recipe is trying to find the right bread to go with the right ingredients…it takes months,” explained Keith.
Milk Truck’s ingredients are meticulously sourced. The produce and eggs are bought at the Union Square market each Friday. The bread comes from a few local bakers including Blue Ribbon Bakery, Balthazar and Amy’s Bread. The cheeses include a mozzarella from New Jersey, a Gruyere from Wisconsin and, of course, cheddars from Vermont.
The devil is truly in the details. When developing the Classic with a Twist—aged Wisconsin Gruyere, champagne-pickled onions, and whole grain mustard on Jewish Rye (commence drooling)—Keith concluded that he needed to have a custom bread miter made in order to get the perfect 5/8” cut for the Blue Ribbon rye.
I tried The Milk Truck Classic at Flea (currently their only location) a few weekends ago, and although the blazing sun was beating down, the combination of flavors and textures was simply outstanding. The Pullman bread was toasted to perfection without the unappealing overload of butter or grease that’s common in the grilled cheese world.
Keith says that his personal favorite is probably the Classic with a Twist because of its bold flavor. “It’s happy food. And we just try to elevate it – to make it delicious,” he says. The approach applies to his milkshakes as well, ranging in flavors from the refined, classic French Vanilla to the Market Shake M.P, a drink based on what’s best at the market that week.
Although Milk Truck is barely one year old and sets up shop just twice a week at the Flea, they’ve garnered some impressive recognition. New York Magazine voted them number 46 out of 101 best sandwiches in the city, and the Greenmarket sandwich is set to be featured in a handful of cookbooks next year.
The concept is one that is strong enough to be carried by word-of-mouth and has made his first year a success, notwithstanding the fact that they don’t actually have a truck…yet. They’ve been a favorite at Brooklyn Flea every weekend since January, and the truck should be ready to hit the streets by late fall. Keith says the Flea has been good testing ground, but they have much more aggressive plans for the coming year.
Keith’s passion for creating the perfect grilled cheese sandwich comes through in his careful selection of ingredients, his ever-evolving menu, and his highly refined technique. Some might be inclined to say that grilled cheese is grilled cheese, but I’m guessing those people haven’t tried a Milk Truck grilled cheese.