Eat This

Halloumi Is the Mediterranean's Gift to the Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Food, they say, brings the world together. And in the case of grilled cheese, that’s pretty much true. At the eastern end of the Mediterranean, in Greece, Turkey and the Middle East, they even have a cheese meant for the grill. Halloumi has a firm texture and an extremely high melting point, which means you can fry a slice of it without cheese oozing all over your skillet. The result is a mild-tasting, slightly salty cheese, a little bit like mozzarella, except with a browned, fried exterior.

One of the few places to buy a halloumi sandwich in DFW is Jasmine Café in Richardson. Park at downtown Richardson’s Main Street lot and the café’s porch is right in front of you. The patio looks like it would be beautiful in good weather: big, comfy couches line the space. There’s also a little stand where you can pick up your copy of the “Muslim Yellow Pages.”

Jasmine Café offers a choice between Greek salad (with feta), “Arabic salad” (cucumber and tomato without lettuce) and “Turkish salad,” an almost stew-like blend of onion, tomato and spicy red pepper. The Turkish salad is serious and uncompromising about its spice, so scoop it up with some of the café’s pita bread and grab extra napkins.

The halloumi comes in a pita wrap, with some pickles and, sad to say, some of the most bizarrely pale green-white tomatoes of any DFW restaurant. Remove the tomatoes and focus instead on both the cheese, which squeaks as your teeth bite into it, and the french fries. Unexpectedly, Jasmine Café serves some of the best fries in Dallas. They're crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside and doused in salt.

Halloumi grilled cheeses are easy to make at home, too. Just look for "halloumi” or “grilling cheese” at an ethnic grocery. (Central Market and Whole Foods carry it too, but at a substantial markup. Think $10 instead of $4-7 for a block that will make three or four sandwiches.) Frying a thick slice of cheese is as easy as could be and doesn't require much or any oil. Get the cheese browned, slip it in some bread and you’re good to go. For a truly luxurious experience, drizzle some good olive oil and balsamic vinegar into the sandwich before devouring.
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Brian Reinhart has been the Dallas Observer's food critic since spring 2016. In addition, he writes baseball analysis for the Hardball Times and covers classical music for the Observer and MusicWeb International.
Contact: Brian Reinhart