Turning glazed donuts into grilled cheese

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New Lansing restaurant specializing in grilled cheese and soups brings in thousands of customers

Tom+Chee is a new restaurant in downtown Lansing known for its hallmark grilled cheese and tomato soup.

The new 1,580-square-foot restaurant located on 123 S. Washington Square is the ninth restaurant in the chain to open in the nation. It opened Dec. 16 and held its grand opening Jan. 8.

General manager Chris KTomandCheeluck said the name Tom+Chee comes from the words Tomato and Cheese.

“Everybody sells a soup and a sandwich, but this is more of a niche market,” Kluck said. “We find a way to raise it three levels higher.”

Kluck said the restaurant allows customers to build their own grilled cheese or choose from a variety of unique entrées, including the Grilled Cheese Salad or the Grilled Cheese Donut, which uses glazed donuts.

Kluck said the original owners, Trew Quackenbush and Corey Ward, got their start selling food from a tent in Ohio four years ago. They also did not  pay any money to develop a menu. The television shows, “Shark Tank” and “Man v. Food Nation,” have also featured Tom+Chee restaurants.

“The owners got a lot of their ideas from the Food Network or friends and family,” Kluck said.

Since the grand opening in Lansing, Kluck said service has been steady but about 37,000 of their customers so far have been people walking by on the street.

Kluck said Saturday is the business’ busiest day from open to close, however it relies on downtown workers during the lunchtime throughout the week.

Kluck said Tom+Chee uses fresh produce and makes everything, including soups, cheeses and bread, from scratch. He also said they don’t use freezers and try their best to donate unused food to charity.

“Everything we make is homemade,” he said. “Freshness is our biggest thing, and we don’t like to waste any product at all.”

Kluck also said the restaurant rotates all of their product every three days.

Of the sandwiches, Kluck said the Hippy+Chee and the Tom+Chee are the most popular.

Lansing residents Karen Rabineau and Andrea Rabineau, who are sisters who were visiting Tom+Chee for the first time, said they enjoyed their meals.

Andrea said her brother-in-law recommended the Grilled Cheese Donut, which was the first Tom+Chee sandwich she tried.

“I actually liked it,” she said. “It’s like sweet and sour in a sandwich.”

Karen said people have recommended the restaurant to her several times and said she has also seen other Tom+Chee restaurants featured on the television shows, “Shark Tank” and “Man v. Food Nation.”

Kluck said they offer challenges to guests, such as the Baker’s Dozen Challenge, in which a guest must eat 13 Grilled Cheese Donuts in one sitting, with one beverage and no bathroom break.

“I want to try the different challenges,” said Lansing resident David Taylor,as he ate  a Beef+Cheddar. “And I plan to try it soon.”

Kluck said Tom+Chee is looking to expand throughout Michigan, the nation and eventually internationally. One hundred forty-seven more stores are slated to open within the next year.

“Making the food is very labor intensive,” said Kluck, “But once you taste the product,” Kluck said, “you’ll know why.”

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