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Goodwill and Grilled Cheese for All

The Donate a Grilled Cheese Program at Ruthie’s Boardwalk Social Spreads the Love

Article by Allyson Reedy

Photography by Poppy & Co. by Kelsey Huffer

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

Every summer, Ruthie opened her Jersey Shore home to family near and far—we’re talking 25 people squeezed into five bedrooms; sleeping on couches and floors. She was generous with her home, forging fun memories of the boardwalk and seashore for all who battled for a bed each summer. And so it makes sense that her grandson, Peter Waters, would continue her spirit of generosity and pay it forward with Ruthie’s Boardwalk Social, the tiny Pearl Street grilled cheese hut inspired by those summers at the Jersey Shore.

When Covid first hit, Ruthie’s Boardwalk Social, like all restaurants, shut down. But the staff still wanted to work, and Peter wanted to provide them with opportunities to do so. “It was really important that the staff who had broken their backs getting us up and running, that we didn’t just shut down shop for them,” Peter says. “Then friends, family and customers started reaching out saying, ‘What can we do to help your restaurant out?’”

Peter came up with a plan: those who wanted to help could buy grilled cheese sandwiches to donate to local police departments, hospitals and nonprofits. Staff could keep their jobs firing the ‘cheeses and delivering them to the grateful recipients. “We turned into a distribution center for receiving donations and delivering food—all as a result of friends, family and customers reaching out,” Peter says. “We hit 1,000 sandwiches in just a few weeks. It was a really amazing gesture on the part of the community to reach out and do that kind of thing.”

Realizing that many restaurant industry workers had lost their incomes, Peter added a line item to Ruthie’s online menu where people could buy a sandwich and fries for out-of-work restaurant employees. And they’d regularly donate sandwiches to TGTHR (formerly Attention Homes), a local nonprofit dedicated to ending youth homelessness.

Even today, Peter says that every couple of months someone will buy sandwiches for a local charity, and the option is still up on Ruthie’s website. But before you hit checkout, you might want to grab something for yourself as well. Ruthie’s Boardwalk Social grills up eight cheesy sandwiches, plus a dairy-free avocado toast, twice-cooked fries, tomato soup and soft serve ice cream.

Besides the classic American cheese version, Peter says the most popular sandwiches are the Glass Onion, made with brie, apples, caramelized onions and whole grain mustard, and the Mac Daddy, which throws mac and cheese onto the bread with white cheddar. Each sandwich gets toasted for 90 seconds at 600 degrees, ensuring consistently ideal levels of melty-cheesy goodness.

Last summer, Peter got the opportunity to bring this Ruthie’s a little closer to his original Ruthie’s inspiration when they took over a sublease of a restaurant at the Boulder reservoir. “This whole thing is based off the Jersey Shore boardwalk experience,” Peter says. “And now Ruthie’s finally got its own boardwalk in Boulder out at the reservoir.”

Ruthie’s Boardwalk Social: 1397 Pearl St., 303-444-4728;