It may have taken 25 years, but a New York City bodega staple has finally made its way to the Twin Cities.

It's the chopped cheese, a name that merely scratches the surface of what this comforting sandwich is all about. Yes, it's chopped: crumbles of ground beef and onions are scraped together on a flat-top as the bits caramelize. And, of course, there's cheese: melted American, folded in so everything is gooey, juicy and steaming hot. You might find tomato and shredded lettuce mixed in at the end, as everything gets piled onto a hoagie roll that softens from the filling. Wrap the whole thing in paper, slice it in half and you're good to go.

"It's like a goopy mess of a burger," said Dan Manosack, chef and co-owner of Little Tijuana Neighborhood Lounge, where he's crafted a chopped cheese with the addition of ketchup, mayonnaise, pickles and CryBaby Craig's hot sauce. "It's just perfect drunk food."

You'll hear the chopped cheese (or the chop cheese) described as New York's take on a Philly cheesesteak, however reductive that is. But we like to think of it as the Big Apple's version of a Jucy Lucy by way of Philadelphia, with a quick stopover in Iowa. Fans of the Tendermaid (aka Maid Rite) sandwich will find something familiar here, as will those who know the Nebraska Runza. Or you might think of it as a sauceless Sloppy Joe.

And yet its origin is distinct, traced to a single Harlem bodega cook. Corner stores throughout neighborhoods in Upper Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens contributed to the evolution of chopped cheese, and many locals grew up on the convenient, filling and relatively inexpensive sandwich.

About five years ago, there was a shift. Like many New York neighborhoods, the sandwich was subsumed by gentrification. It landed on the menus of high-end bistros and artisanal butcher shops in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including one owned by a Michelin-starred chef — much to the consternation of many longtime fans.

All of that back story brings us to the chopped cheese's Minnesota moment.

"It's just a really good sandwich," said Daniel Petersen, co-owner of Garillers, a new food truck based in the south metro that bills itself as the "home of the chopped cheese."

Petersen, a former construction worker, was getting ready to launch his dream food truck, with a focus on smash burgers, when his brother sent him a link to a video on YouTube about the chopped cheese. And that led to another video and another one, until he was hooked. (Manosack, too, found it down a YouTube rabbit hole.)

Petersen googled the chopped cheese to find it locally, and the results were scant. "I couldn't believe it," he said. "This just doesn't seem right."

He's aware that making his own version of an intensely New York sandwich opens him up to some criticism. East Coasters can be touchy.

"We've had a couple native New Yorkers thank me. And then I've got a couple of native New Yorkers not too happy with me," Petersen said. "They're very territorial about their chopped cheese sandwich."

Say cheese

Here are five places to get the chopped cheese (or chop cheese) in the Twin Cities:

Garillers food truck, 612-910-6276,

The Birdhouse Eat & Drink, 4153 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale, 763-205-9668,

Little Tijuana Neighborhood Lounge, 17 E. 26th St., Mpls., 612-315-3245,

Brunson's Pub (Sundays only), 956 Payne Av., St. Paul, 651-447-2483,

Fulton Brewing Taproom, 414 6th Av. N., Mpls., 612-333-3208,

And for its Midwest counterpart, try a Maid Rite sandwich:

Dakota Junction, 2281 Commerce Blvd., Mound, 952-479-1519,