The night I went to Say Cheez was the night of winter’s return. The temperature had dipped to an unthinkable 44 degrees, and wind and rain challenged my mettle as I hiked up from Whitman to Nassau Street. My glasses had fogged up, blurred by raindrops and my frantic breath, when I saw the sign — the only sign that could brighten my mood — SAY CHEEZ. I entered the fine eatery, admiring the lunch counter for its sparse authenticity, a clear commitment to its mecca as a fast food hot spot.
The checker handed me a menu, and I observed the enticing option to make your fown selection, as flexible as Brown’s graduation requirements. Since we Princetonians like a bit more order in this chaotic world, I opted for a special. Feeling a burst of school spirit, I ordered “The Princeton,” a grilled cheese sandwich with grilled chicken, Monterey jack cheese, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and bacon on sourdough bread. I also ordered unsweetened iced tea and “Cheez” fries.
While the food sizzled, the checker and I chatted about the weather, climate change, Princeton architecture and the design merits of the new World Trade Center. I discovered Say Cheez isn't just a great take-out restaurant; it’s quite the intellectual forum.
After my food arrived, I bid the checker farewell and hiked up to Panera — mainly because Say Cheez only has outdoor seating, and given the weather, that was not an option.
I would say “The Princeton” lives up to the glory of its namesake. The cheese’s fusion with the chicken makes the sandwich melt in your mouth; the pairing goes together as well as the architecture of Rocky blends into the buildings of Mathey. The caramelized onions give the sandwich a zest reminiscent of the dry humor of President Eisgruber ’83. The sourdough sets the mood for the sandwich by providing a tart foundation to celebrate the bitter struggle against grade deflation, and the bacon gives it the extra oomph the sandwich needs to push you over the edge into gooey tears of cheesy joy. The bacon is kind of like Forbes brunch — it’s always been around, but once you finally taste it, you realize what you’ve been missing this whole time.
The Cheez Fries are slightly undercooked — in a good way — like chocolate chip cookies that are just under golden brown, and the addition of a sensible amount of cheese sauce makes for a wonderfully messy experience dripping with flavor. They aren’t too salty, but just salty enough to remind you why you started upon a lifetime of French fry consumption in the first place.
The iced tea is solid too. Tiny ice cubes chill a well-brewed tea, which was fresh and of a moderate strength.
Say Cheez is definitely worth your money — and the trek. Service is great, and the food is even better. I will return, but probably not when it’s raining.