How Sizzler's "Cheese Toast" Became a Culinary Icon

The West Coast chain has served this legendary dish since 1968.

<p>Allrecipes/Jiaqi Wang</p>

Allrecipes/Jiaqi Wang

It’s a rare find to have a restaurant that serves surf and turf and features a buffet with chickpeas, tacos, and red Jell-O. Sizzler is one of those rare gems. Originally called The Sizzler Family Steak House, this mainly West Coast chain has offered affordable steak dinners–and clearly more–since 1958.

Since The Sizzler Family Steak House first opened its doors in Culver City, California, they’ve focused on accessibility and promoted the egalitarian dream that “everyone [can] enjoy a great steak dinner at an affordable price.” In the early years, kids’ meals were half off.

Sizzler also stood out from other steak chains for their novel ordering system. Customers walk in, place their order with a cashier, then wait for hot entrees to be brought out. While waiting, diners help themselves to a salad bar featuring fresh cut produce, hot soups, and chilled items like pasta salad and coleslaw.

What Sizzler may be best known for, however, has nothing to do with steak or its bountiful salad bar or its affordable prices. It's known for its cheese toast. Fans call the dish “iconic” and “the star menu attraction.” For many, it’s the main reason to go to Sizzler.

Maygen Sandrini, who grew up in southern California where Sizzler was founded, vividly remembers the cheese toast as her favorite childhood food.

“It’s this amazing melty goodness,” Sandrini says.

It was the only way her parents could coax her, at age eight, to endure the hour-long drive to the nearest location.

“As a low income family, a buffet is not often within reach, so it was a super big treat,” Sandrini shares.

Originally the cheese toast was served as a side dish for 99 cents a slice. So while her family members could go to the buffet bar for seconds, Sandrini remembers being limited to one slice, which she carefully savored.

“My parents said they never saw me eat anything else so slowly,” Sandrini laughs.

Presumably due to its ubiquitous popularity it’s now served free to all eat-in diners. (“Holy crap, I need to go back!” Sandrini said, when she learned this fact.) In fact, the cheese toast is so beloved it’s even garnered its own holiday. Better yet? The beloved flavor has also been celebrated as a limited edition lip balm.

Truly, what better culinary combination has humankind invented than the sublime mixture of butter, bread and cheese?

Sizzler is credited with inventing cheese toast in 1968 at its Los Angeles Hollywood Boulevard location. This may be the reason for its enduring popularity–few other restaurants (if any) offer cheese toast. Grilled cheese is widely available at fast food spots and dine-in chains. But cheese toast? It’s an uncommon offering that makes Sizzler stand out.

Due to her early love for the item, Sandrini has sought out other iterations and even made her own.  “Sizzler is still the Michelangelo of cheese toast,” she concluded.

Several Sizzler chefs have claimed to reveal the secret recipe in video tutorials. They say the recipe calls for thick cut bread spread with a dense layer of Pecorino cheese and margarine.

Other sources claim the proper ingredients are Parmesan cheese and butter, and that the bread has to be French. Still others assert the spread is composed of a proprietary mix of cheeses and spices, still kept under lock and key in a Sizzler vault somewhere.

Despite debate over the spread recipe, the cooking process is uncontested: slather one side of the bread with the mix, and grill until crispy. Allrecipes pro tip—place bread slices in the freezer for thirty minutes before applying paste. A firm slice of bread won’t get wonky when applying the spread.

If the mixture is applied generously and has the right consistency it will float beyond the crust, creating a halo of golden latticework–arguably the most delicious part of the dish.

Want to try your hand at creating this fan-favorite dish? Try following Allrecipes community member TheDailyGourmet's Copycat Sizzler Cheese Toast recipe.

Read the original article on All Recipes.