Complaint Desk

Is Dallas Grilled Cheese Co.'s $9 Grilled Cheese Proof That Hipsterism Is Dead?

Every cool kid movement sells out in the end. Hippie protest icon Jerry Rubin became a Wall Street stockbroker. Dave Mustaine of Megadeth and Metallica supported Rick Santorum for president. And at the Dallas Grilled Cheese Co., hipsters are slinging $9 grilled cheese sandwiches.

When I started the “How Hipster Is It?” column a few months ago, I thought it would be straight-forward. Grab lunch somewhere and rate its hipsterness on a scale of 1 to 5 Sad Bill Murray Faces. But even though it’s just a grill that slings childhood-style sandwiches, the Dallas Grilled Cheese Co. is not that simple. It might just be an autopsy for an entire social movement. Hipsterism is dead — and profitability killed it.

At Dallas Grilled Cheese Co., all the ingredients are there: Exposed industrial interior design, wood surfaces, tattooed waitstaff, eccentric craft beer taps, a simple children’s comfort food that’s been made “artisanal," complicated and expensive. This place should be hipster catnip.

But it’s not. The clientele is parents-aged and mostly sans facial hair. Everybody cruises around the lot looking for the closest parking space. And, on a deeper level, Dallas Grilled Cheese Co. monetizes our era’s snooty counterculture and turns it mainstream.

To be fair, this Bishop Arts spot does make damn good grilled cheese sandwiches. The fries aren't nearly as exciting, but my recent order (the Favorite) came crusted in crisp Parmesan, a luxurious stroke of umami genius. The Favorite is a three-cheese blend with bacon crumbles and nose-clearing heat from potent Dijon. I quickly snarfed down the whole sandwich, though my stomach regretted it an hour later. The Favorite is gooey, fatty, zesty and addictive.

It also costs $8.99. The fries were $2.99. My beer was $6.50. Total lunch expenditure, after tip: $24. For a grilled cheese — which is a problem.

The hipster movement’s main ideal, if it had one, was that products, commercial or artistic, are best when they’re created by small, underground groups with “stories” rather than big companies with “profits." A craft brewery founded in somebody’s garage, protesting the watery disgrace that is industrial beer. Indie bands that sing intentionally opaque lyrics. Artsy printing presses hand-crafting $6 thank you cards.

And it’s true that hipsters, with their focus on artisanal creations and compelling stories, have made some damn good stuff. 

But a central part of the philosophy was that earning cash is not a legitimate reason to pursue a passion. Hipsters are suspicious of the profit motive, even though a wise man once said that “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” The biggest danger to a hipster is selling out to The Man, buying into capitalism, becoming a “brand” and going mainstream corporate.

So how do you kill the hipster movement? Easy, you make money off it. You turn it from an epithet to a symbol of cool.

That’s why two Wes Anderson-themed restaurants have opened in the last six months. That’s why big multinational investors are lining up behind the craft brew market. That’s why the Warby Parker store feels like a house party.

And that’s why we have Dallas Grilled Cheese Co.

At Dallas Grilled Cheese, hipster is cool and trendy. Affluent yuppies, baby boomers and yoga-pant moms have co-opted the movement, shredding its snobbish pretensions but raising its prices.

I don’t know where you need to go these days to see guys with curly mustaches, skinny jeans and ironic '90s T-shirts talking about how much better vinyl sounds. Even Off the Record Beer & Vinyl in Deep Ellum has been overtaken by the mainstream crowd. Perhaps the hipster movement, as we knew and mocked it for nearly a decade, is finally dead.

Hipsterism died of mainstream commercialization. Its murderer: Yuppies, business owners and marketing agencies. Is it a good thing? Probably, except not for our wallets. Now a boring old square like me can eat his $9 grilled cheese in peace.
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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

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