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Blazing a trail with grilled cheese

Ask the mom behind the spatula at Mommy G’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese wagon about the inspiration for the new food trailer and Jessica Rapp deadpans: “Well, I have five boys.”

Which is true – but that’s only part of the story.

Mother-and-daughter team Christine Hense and Rapp say they dreamed of opening a restaurant but couldn’t afford a traditional brick-and-mortar joint. But when Hense’s parents passed away, they left enough money to get that dream rolling with a food trailer.

The women bought and spiffed up the former pizza concession three months ago. They parked the trailer in downtown Spokane near Sprague Avenue and Washington Street a little over a week ago, and have been slapping buttered Great Harvest bread, cheese and toppings on the grill as fast as they can ever since.

“You would think the people of Spokane had never seen a food truck that didn’t sell tacos,” Rapp says.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Rapp is quick to say she’s been known to nosh on offerings from the neighboring taco truck.

Grilled cheese wasn’t always a given. They toyed with ideas for meatball subs, barbecue sandwiches and panini.

As they experimented with grilled, pressed sandwiches, it hit them: Who doesn’t love grilled cheese? They were inspired by vendors they had seen in Los Angeles and Portland, the women say.

Hense works the cash register, while Rapp tends to the melting cheese and golden brown crust of each sandwich.

The menu includes a dozen sandwiches from Jessica’s Favorite, topped with sharp cheddar cheese, caramelized sweet onion and sliced tomato on sourdough for $6.50, to the Sweeters, with melted chocolate and sweetened mascarpone cheese on cinnamon chip bread for $4.

The BLT Melt is popular, featuring smoked gouda and cheddar, bacon, baby greens and tomato on honey wheat bread for $7. Or, try the French Onion Melt with gruyere cheese with caramelized onion and sautéed wild mushrooms on croissant bread for $7.

Of course, they also offer tomato soup by the cup for $2.50 or just enough for dipping your sandwich for 75 cents.

They offer 16 different kinds of cheese, but no American – for now.

“It’s not that I don’t love American cheese. It’s just that I think we deserve better,” Rapp says. (Actually, she’s still perfecting her American cheese sandwich.)

Mommy G’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday most weeks.

This week, they’ll have some extended hours to feed hungry Hoopfest crowds, opening the windows 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.