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AJ's Grilled Cheese closes in Bay Shore; will be replaced by The Hero Joint

The Southern grilled cheese at AJ's Gourmet Grilled

The Southern grilled cheese at AJ's Gourmet Grilled Cheese in Bay Shore. Credit: Daniel Brennan

The pandemic has closed many doors. When one shuts, though, another one opens — at least some of the time.

In this case, the first door belongs to AJ's Grilled Cheese Shop, which has permanently closed. The Bay Shore restaurant was started by Anthony Leis, Jr. five years ago. It was staffed by his family and devoted to grilled cheese sandwiches (and mac-and-cheese) in myriad forms, such as a Southern-style grilled cheese with pulled pork, barbecue sauce and melted cheddar.

"We are sad to go but unfortunately, as a young business, we were unable to recover from the financial burden placed on us from the pandemic that stretched over a two-year-span," wrote Leis in an email. "We loved being a part of the Bay Shore community and...we hope to bring that same vibe and delicious menu back to Long Island someday."

Though many on social media are mourning the closure, 182 W. Main St. will not be empty for long: The space will soon hold the second location of The Hero Joint, a business started by John Murray III in Patchogue in 2018 and one he's long wanted to expand.

Murray said he plans to be open by the end of September, and the menu will be identical to the one in Patchogue — with cheesesteaks, pastrami sandwiches and the seasonal take on a turducken sandwich (called "The Bird") — but backed by "a much larger kitchen" than he has in Patchogue.

What is different is the new space's visibility: While the Patchogue Hero Joint is quasi-hidden behind Kilwins chocolate shop (which Murray also owns), its Bay Shore sister will be highly visible. "My backdoor sandwich shop has finally found Main Street," he said.

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