In February 2012, Leor Barak invested in a quaint yogurt shop in Wilton Manors called Nuts About Yogurt. But with a flood of similar soft serve shops in the area, his business soon suffered. To boost sinking sales, Barak dreamed up a cheesy plan to lure in more customers: He would make grilled cheese sandwiches using a waffle iron. 

“It’s something we all grew up with, and grilled cheese is such an amazing canvas that you can do so much with,” says Barak. “I wanted what we do to be memorable. The intent was to be different.” Instead of the traditional cheese sandwich with tomato or bacon, Barak added unique ingredients and even created a made-from-scratch tomato bisque that acts as a creamy dip for the grilled cheese. 

The melts, which were named after Manhattan neighborhoods such as the Meatpacking District or SoHo, became so popular that the yogurt shop soon morphed into the New York Grilled Cheese Co. 

“It all just fell into place,” says Barak. “Social media was huge. People started checking in and posting pictures. Next thing you know, their friends from South Beach to Delray to Weston were coming in.” Barak ended up selling all of his yogurt machines to make room for a second dining room. 

With business booming in Broward, Barak recently decided it was time to move north. In December, he’ll open a second location in Boca Raton across from Mizner Park and the iPic Theater. All of the Wilton Manors favorites will be there, like the Manhattan, which is creamy mac and cheese stuffed inside a grilled cheese sandwich, and Barak’s personal favorite, the SoHo Sweet Cheeses, which is a sweet and salty mix of Brie and bacon. But the Boca location will also have items not offered in Wilton Manors, including new breakfast dishes, as well as vegan and vegetarian options. “The kitchen in Wilton Manors is the little engine that could,” Barak says. “But the Boca location will have a bigger space for us to create new things we never had the space for.” 

Barak is in the process of writing manuals to begin franchising in 2016. He plans to start out with only three to four franchises “so it’s done right.” Once the new Boca location is up and running, he will also begin looking for his next locations. “I have my eyes on Miami. That’s where we get the biggest requests from fans to go.”

 

New York Grilled Cheese Co.
493 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton
www.newyorkgrilledcheese.com