Sign In

X
GO TO TOP

The Grilled Cheese Guy, Greg Jurksztowicz

Jul 6, 2018

Call me Greg. I make grilled cheese sandwiches for a living at a little melt bar called Co. Cheese. I’m from "the six" (Toronto, Canada), but I’ve been living in Shanghai for 15 years and opened the Cheese three years ago.

Nowadays I live in Xuhui, by the Library, but I’m a Jing'an boy through and through, and that’s where my bar is too. My new neighborhood is quite chilled out. Probably the quietest of downtown addresses filled with embassies and heritage architecture and mysterious government buildings. But when you spend most of your day working in a bar, a bit of peace and quiet is golden. In contrast, Jing'an is the most vibrant area in the city. Spoilt for choice.

Shanghai"

Like many of us, I have quite an ambivalent relationship with the 'hai. Every time I visit home, I relish what I used to take for granted. Like ah… breathing. Breathing clean air is cool. So are parks and nature paths and supermarkets not named City Shop. But then when I come back two weeks later and see three new businesses open on my block, well, I remember that Shanghai is way too stimulating to hold a grudge against. I guess you could say I’m both stressed out by and in awe of the pace of this city. Go figure.

I cook western food at my bar, and am an avid home cook as well, so I tend to lean towards Chinese food when I want to eat out. I love me some Hunanese food, and my favorite little joint is a place in North Jing'an called Shangrila. No no. Not the perfumey hotel, a little ma 'n pop shop on Xikang Lu. Great value, authentic but dingy vibe, and way better than every other Hunan place on the laowai circuit. I’m a big fan of FOMO too… a late night crayfish and crab joint. Yummy. There’s a hidden little café called 1984, where, in fair weather, you can sit reading for hours in their very relaxing garden. I used to go to bars, but having spent the last few years working in one, that’s the last place you’ll find me, unless there is a match on, in which case its Cages or Camel. Oh, and the Commune Social never ever disappoints.

Commune

The Commune Social on Jiangning Lu


My favorite thing to do in the city that doesn't involve eating or drinking? I’m a bit of a wanderer when I have the time. As long as I’ve been living here, I like to explore new areas off the beaten path. You might find a cool restaurant or park or something you wouldn’t expect. It’s a huge place, Shanghai is, so sometimes I take the subway and just get off wherever. I did that once years ago and found Korea town. Yessss!

Favorite physical part of the city... As opposed to metaphysical? Wow. Your shit runs deep, SmartShanghai. I’m not into art that much but when I feel like chilling out I roll up to M50, Moganshan Lu art district. Great place to wander about. I also like Lujiazui a lot. The modern architecture is as impressive as they get in this world.

Shanghai"

I hope I can call Shanghai home or a second home at least for a lot longer. I’d like to expand to a few more locations. Plan is for Co. Cheese to open two more locations before the end of the year. We're looking at a nearby location now, and on the strength of that shop, we'll see what's next. We're also bringing Hotbox back, but as a place that makes hotsauce, instead of just selling it. So no reason to pump the breaks yet.

I think Co. Cheese popular because it's a niche. Kind of a trendy hipster thing, but, you know, not hipster. Like, prehipster postmodern contemporary, but with a twist, you know. Errm. The sandwich is an institution wherever you are, but out here for we expats, if you can come into a cozy bar and munch on a thanksgiving dinner grilled cheese sandwich with a bowl of spiked coco pebbles while listening to Johnny Cash … well… we need that sometimes. That’s what I bet on anyway. The locals dig it too because for them it’s a different vibe, I like to think that’s what makes it special.

Shanghai"

As for why sandwiches... Hell, man. I just have a thing for sandwiches. They make me happy. It’s comfort food. And its not just a sandwich, it’s a GRILLED CHEESE, dammit. Who doesn’t love that?! I fell in love with sandwiches well before I even thought of opening up a sandwich shop. Leftovers were the key to my sandwich inventions. I would order takeout: Indian, Thai, Chinese, whatever, or just cook meals at home for myself and consciously save some choice leftovers for the next morning, when I would chop them up and put them in between some bread and cheese. After about 20 years of trial and error, I decided to open up shop.

The qualities required to master the sandwich? What, is that a serious question? I don’t know. All I know is that if you are going to focus on doing one thing only you’d better do it damn well. I’m not a chef, but I like to make soups and pickles and sandwiches and play tunes. It may seem simple, but actually it can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be, and there is a lot of care put into it.

At the end of the day, I’m alright with just sharing the things I love.

Shanghai"

**

VENUES MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE:

  • The Hop Project

    • Nightlife
    • Dining
    • Bars
    • Address
      372 Dagu Lu, near Chengdu Bei Lu
      大沽路372号, 近成都北路
    • Phone
      138 1795 0274

    Basically The Hop Project on Yongkang Lu, copy-pasted where Pint House used to be on Dagu Lu. A collaboration between Jing A microbrewery and Jing’An-based sandwich-shack Co. Cheese, it’s good for a boozy lunch or a beer and munchies after work. Big porch, decent... Read more

  • Co. Cheese Melt Bar

    • Dining
    • American
    • Sandwiches
    • Address
      32 Yuyuan Dong Lu, near Changde Lu
      愚园东路32号, 近常德路
    • Phone
      130 3211 8036

    This is small eatery devoted to one sandwich and one sandwich only, the grilled cheese. Co. Cheese has developed several variations on a surprisingly versatile sandwich, adding ingredients like Hunan pork and chili peppers or roast duck, brie, and onion jam. There... Read more

  • Fomo

    • Dining
    • Hairy crabs
    • Xuhui
    • Address
      172 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Pu'an Lu
      淮海路172号,近普安路
    • Phone
      6385 5152

    Read more

  • 1984 Book Store

    • Dining
    • Cafes
    • Xuhui
    • Address
      11 Hunan Lu, near Wukang Lu
      湖南路11号, 近武康路
    • Phone
      3428 0911

    This is a book shop and cafe with a pleasant garden and some cats running around. It's hard to find and when you do, you have to buzz in through an unmarked metal gate. But if you find it, work out how to get in and it's open, it's a lovely hidden spot. Read more

  • Cages (Jiangning Lu)

    • Dining
    • American
    • Burger
    • Address
      3/F, 428 Jiangning Lu, near Wuding Lu
      江宁路428号3楼, 近武定路
    • Phone
      5299 5273

    The new Cages is absolutely massive. More than just batting cages, they also have squash courts, a full field for five-a-side soccer and dodgeball, an area for professional darts, a private space for events, more TV screens than a Best Buy, and just everything else... Read more

  • The Camel (Puxi)

    • Nightlife
    • Dining
    • Bars
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • Address
      1 Yueyang Lu, near Dongping Lu
      岳阳路1号, 近东平路
    • Phone
      6437 9446

    The Camel joins the bustling bar street at Yueyang Lu, as that areas most massive sports bar.Australian management makes sure there's an Australian bent to the sport shown on the various televisions therein (Australian Rules Football is shown on direct feed). After... Read more

  • The Commune Social

    • Nightlife
    • Dining
    • Fusion
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • Address
      511 Jiangning Lu, near Kangding Lu
      江宁路511号, 近康定路
    • Phone
      6047 7638

    The second restaurant in town to bear the Jason Atherton brand on its masthead. The Commune Social is a contemporary tapas, dessert and cocktail bar. The cuisine seems largely informed by former Gordon Ramsay Lieutenant Jason Atherton's frequent flier miles log.... Read more

  • M50 Art District

    • Arts
    • Compounds
    • Travel
    • Address
      50 Moganshan Lu, near Changhua Lu
      莫干山路50号, 近昌化路
    • Phone
      n/a

    50 Moganshan Lu, better known as M50, is Shanghai's most famous "gallery district," home to over 50 gallery spaces in Shanghai, and offers a cross-section of emerging Shanghainese and Chinese artists, working in a wide range of styles and mediums. Great for a day's... Read more

[Shanghai Famous]:

Shanghai Famous is a weekly SmartShanghai column focusing on people out there in the city makin' the scene. They're out there around town, shaping Shanghai into what it is, creating the art, culture, and life around us. We asked them what's good in Shanghai. We asked them what's bad in Shanghai. We asked them to tell us more, more, more about their wonderful selves.

Most recent: