Gourmet grilled cheese cures late-night craving

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, March 3, 2016

By Barrett Ervin


On the Square in Oxford  a black door down an alleyway leads to a place that is supposed to be kept a “secret.”

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Its frequent visitors refer to this hidden late-night craving spot as “the secret grilled cheese bar.”

The wait out the door might be long but when you walk to what is actually named, “The Downstairs Bar,” a strong aroma of cheese and delicious fried food hits your nose. The dim lighting sets a fancier restaurant mood while there are TVs that play old silent films and cartoons. The walls are covered with original paintings and photographs made by artists in Oxford as a tribute.

The snack bar is filled with an old school vibe with waiters that are dressed in suits and waitresses dressed in flapper dresses. The bar serves gourmet grilled cheeses with homemade steak-cut fried on each plate. But that’s not all, the late-night bar also offers specialty cocktails of your choosing.

Sarah Ellis, a student at the University of Mississippi, is a big fan of the late-night food.

“I go to the secret grilled cheese bar almost every week when I go out, and it is my favorite spot in Oxford,” Ellis said. “My favorite grilled cheese on the menu is the one called ‘more cheese please’ and the fries are the cherry on top of the best late-night food you will ever taste.”

“Everyone craves it every weekend, especially me,” Ellis added. “When Thursday night comes around I am looking for volunteers who will stay out with me long enough to make it to the grilled cheese bar.”

Although The Downstairs Bar is only open Thursday through Sunday from 10 p.m. to midnight, during those hours the snack bar stays packed with hungry late-nighters coming from the nearby bars.

Kristin Banks, a student at the University of Mississippi, is another frequent costumer.

“I really love the atmosphere every time I go in there; I think they do a good job of portraying the speak-easy atmosphere with the high-class attire and drinks,” Banks said.

First rule of Downstairs bar

The late-night spot also follows a strict dress attire and if someone does not meet the requirements they will not be allowed in. No T-shirts are allowed for girls or boys.

Student Thomas Withorn did not have the best first experience there.

“One time when I tried to get in there I was wearing a tacky Christmas sweater and they said that I was not allowed in because men are required to wear a collared or button-down shirt,” Withorn said.

Another code the secretive bar makes customers follow is no pictures. If  waiters see a flash go off, they will take that person’s phone until he or she finishes eating or sometimes even make him or her leave the restaurant.

“They really want to keep everything about the bar a secret,” said Lauren Holmes, an Ole Miss student. “When I took a photo once the waiter made me delete it right away and told me that they don’t want photos getting out and ruining what they try to keep a secret.”

On the front of the menu, in tiny print at the bottom it reads, “you were never here.” A small reminder to keep everything you saw a secret.

Variety of grilled cheese

The menu is filled with a variety of specialty grilled cheeses. One of the sandwiches on the menu is called “The NKemdicheese” which is named after famous football brother duo Robert and Denzel Nkemdiche from Ole Miss. This cheesy delight includes pepper jack cheese, a fried egg, ham, tiger sauce and three-fried mozzarella sticks.

Carmen Woods, another frequent visitor, keeps coming back because of her favorite grilled cheese called “The Magnificent.” She says the menu sometimes changes a few of the sandwiches around but this one has been on it for a while.

“I love spicy food and ‘The Magnificent’ has a honey-Sriracha sauce on it that adds an extra kick flavor,” Woods said. “It also has fried egg, smoked gouda, bacon, provolone and avocado which are all of my favorite foods mixed with cheese after trying this amazing sandwich.”

The variety of grilled cheese gives costumers many options so they can find a favorite that they like and keep coming back. Although not too many people know about this delicious late-night spot yet, word of mouth from visitors has caused it to become more and more popular just within the past year.

“By next year, I bet people will not be able to even get in the place because the lines are already starting to be out the door at just 10 o’clock.” Woods said. “This past weekend I waited outside for 30 minutes until I was able to get seated.”

Although some people say the lines are long and the service can be slow, they also say the food is definitely worth the wait.