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Toasted serves up comforting fare in Vernon Hills

VernHills  - Toasted is new fast food restaurant threcently opened Hawthorn Mall VernHills. The owner Nate Titus is from

Vernon Hills - Toasted is a new fast food restaurant that recently opened at Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills. The owner, Nate Titus, is from Deerfield and this is first restaurant. Toasted specializes in different types of grilled cheese sandwiches on different kinds of specialty breads. Breakfast sandwich. | Joe Cyganowski ~ For Sun Times Media

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Updated: October 9, 2012 2:18PM

VERNON HILLS — Nate Titus was making grilled cheese sandwiches for his sister at her house one night last winter when she came up with an idea.

“She said, ‘You should do a grilled cheese place’,” he said. “After I thought about it, it sounded like a good idea.”

An entrepreneur from Deerfield, Titus decided to open a business selling grilled cheese sandwiches. After several months of research and experimentation with different types of cheeses and breads, Titus opened Toasted in the second-floor food court of the Westfield Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills. The business specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches made with different types of cheeses and specialty breads.

Toasted opened in February, and Titus is pleased by the response so far.

“It’s going great,” said Titus. “People have been asking me if we are a franchise. It’s much bigger than I thought it would be.”

Titus said Toasted is not your typical fast-food place.

“It’s not a hot dog or burger joint. It’s not a pizza place that you see on every corner. It’s different than anything else,” he said.

Titus has owned several businesses over the past 25 years, including a pizzeria in Mundelein many years ago, two gas stations in the Chicago suburbs and most recently a restaurant in north suburban Park City. In his new business venture, Titus has tried to combine the childhood love people have for grilled cheese sandwiches while adding some extra flair to make it appealing to adults as well.

For several months prior to opening, Titus and a good friend, Rachelle Runge, experimented with different varieties of cheeses, sauces and breads, trying to find the best combination for their sandwiches.

“We would go to different grocery stores and pick out different cheeses and put different sauces on them,” said Runge, who now works as a manager for Toasted. “We just kind of did it by trial and error. I’d ask my kids what they liked on their grilled cheese sandwiches and we tried that. It all just came together.”

Popular signature sandwiches include the three cheese sandwich made with cheddar, havarti and monterey jack on sourdough bread; a smokey herb sandwich on white bread with three cheeses and garlic herb spread; and Nate’s Pizza, made on focaccia bread with mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, black olives, green peppers, pizza sauce and spices.

Customers can also create their own sandwich with four slices of 14 different types of cheese. They can add meats, such as corned beef, ham, pepperoni, roast, salami, bacon, turkey or tuna to their sandwiches, as well as a variety of toppings and sauces. Each meal comes with a small brownie, a bag of chips and a pickle, and signature sandwiches also come with a small drink. Toasted also sells soups and salads.

Runge said all of their sandwiches are made fresh and are healthier than many other types of fast food.

“It’s almost like a spin-off on something healthier,” she said. “We don’t cook with oil, we don’t cook with butter.”

Ellice Cortez of Wauconda took her two 10-month-old twins, Jonathan and Sophie, to the mall and stopped for lunch at Toasted. It was the second time she has eaten at Toasted and is impressed by the food.

“I like the specials,” she said. “They’re very creative sandwiches. I like the garlic herb spread on the grilled cheese. Yummy.”

Caitlin Janschutz, an employee of Toasted, handed out samples of grilled cheese sandwiches to prospective customers in the food court, wearing a Cheesehead hat with the words “Da Bears” on the side (showing her true team allegiance). “We try to get our name out there since we’re pretty new and some people don’t really know we’re here,” she said.

Janschutz said once people try one of their sandwiches they get a lot of repeat customers.

“I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say it’s the best sandwich they’ve had around here,” she said. “They really seem to like it.”

Toasted is located in the food court at Westfield Hawthorn Mall, Milwaukee and Townline roads, Vernon Hills. Call (847) 549-6666 or e-mail

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