The Dish: Grilled cheese with a British twist from Kismet Bagels Luncheonette

Alicia Vitarelli Image
Thursday, March 21, 2024
The Dish: Grilled cheese with a British twist from Kismet Bagels Luncheonette
We're keeping it simple with one of the most iconic comfort food sandwiches around: grilled cheese.

PENN VALLEY, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- We're keeping it simple with one of the most iconic comfort food sandwiches around: grilled cheese.

Kismet Bagels Luncheonette in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania is the fourth location for the married couple behind some of Philly's most famous, award-winning bagels. Alexandra and Jacob Cohen just opened the luncheonette on Valentine's Day.

We popped in to learn to make their easy, warm and melty grilled cheese - with a British kick.

"We went to London a few years ago, to Borough Market," Jacob explains. "They have this unbelievable grilled cheese stand there. They call them 'toasties.' It's smothered in cheese, but it also has very finely chopped leeks and onions in it. We wanted to bring that here!"

The Cohens started the now fan favorite Kismet Bagels during the pandemic, with no real culinary experience

"It all started with her coming down the steps on the second Sunday of the quarantine and saying, 'I just really want a bagel,'" Jacob recalls. "We couldn't leave the house. So we said, 'Why don't we just make them?' It was that simple."

They now have two Kismet Bagel shops in the city, a bialy stand at Reading Terminal Market, and now, the luncheonette. It's a gathering spot blocks away from where they grew up, so they wanted it to feel like home.

"We wanted comfort food, and for it to feel nostalgic," Alexandra says.

They're serving their bagels, of course, and that comfort food, with a kick, like the grilled cheese.

"We start with local sourdough made from Baker Street Bread Co. in South Philly," Jacob says. "We love those guys."

They slather mayo on one side of each slice. That's the side that touches the griddle or hot pan.

"This is so you get a nice browning on the outside of it," Jacob explains. "Next, we're going to load it up with some cheese. We put cheddar cheese on one side and cooper sharp on the other. That's our Philly cheese."

Now, we add the twist.

"We've got diced red onion and shredded leeks and we are doing it exactly like the place we love in London," Jacob says.

Now, marry the two sides of bread together and let it sit on medium heat. Wait for the cheese to look melty and then flip to the other side.

Slice, serve and enjoy - while it's warm and melty!

Grilled cheese recipe from Kismet Bagels Luncheonette


  • Sliced sourdough bread
  • Mayonnaise
  • Sliced cheddar cheese and cooper sharp cheese
  • Red onion (diced)
  • Leeks (shredded)


1. Spread mayo on one side of each slice of sourdough bread

2. Place mayo side down on your hot pan or griddle

3. While still in the pan, add cheddar cheese to one slice of bread and cooper sharp to the other slice

4. Next, add sliced red onion and shredded leeks on top of cheese

5. Bring two slices of bread together and let sit on medium heat. When the cheese begins to look melty, flip to the other side

6. Slice, serve and enjoy!

Welcome to the new Kismet Bagels Luncheonette

Watching people eat their food inside the luncheonette feels good to the always bustling, always dreaming Cohens.

"If you ever watched the show 'Saved by the Bell,' that place The Max where they always hung out?" Jacob asks. "That's what I want. I just want everyone to be able to come and hang out. A place for people to bring their kids after school."

They're drawing locals, the city crowd who follows their bagels around, and some old friends and familiar faces from the neighborhood.

"The other day, I had five former teachers of mine here at the same time," Jacob says. "It was so wild. I cried. It blew me away."

Even the exact location of the luncheonette has meaning for Alexandra.

"This was a place called Ginza," she says. "I would come here at least once a week with my grandma who connected us."

Their grandmothers are the ones who set them up.

"They did a mitzvah," Jacob laughs.

"We met when we were kids," Alexandra explains. "Jake was nine. I was five."

Fast forward, and Jacob was a drummer on Broadway in New York City.

Alex was working in advertising sales in Los Angeles. Their grandmothers reconnected them.

"It's all kismet," they say, nodding to the name they chose for their business.

Since they started Kismet, they've become parents.

"It's non-stop," Jacob says. "We're constantly running around tending to each of them, and finding time for the baby boy. We wouldn't have it any other way."

Aside from the bagels and grilled cheese, at the luncheonette they're also serving things like patty melt, and homemade soft serve ice cream. They've also just entered the donut game!

"Jacob's always been obsessed with donuts," Alexandra says. "I said we can never do them because we will just eat them all, but here we are."

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