Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.
Let’s hope you don’t miss that key April deadline. No, not Tax Day. I’m talking about April 12, National Grilled Cheese Day. If that illustrious date does pass you by, not to worry: Unlike failure to file your taxes, there are no financial penalties. Plus April is National Grilled Cheese Month, so there’s still plenty of time to celebrate.
I’m pretty much of a grilled cheese purist: I just need some bread, good melting cheese and plenty of butter. But there are lots of professionals out there who think much bigger than me. Here are some of the country’s more remarkable grilled cheese sandwiches.
Melt Bar & Grilled - Cleveland, Ohio area locations
You’ve got to love a place that knows and respects its local specialties. Exhibit A: Melt’s Parmageddon, a sandwich stuffed with two potato and cheese pierogi, Napa vodka kraut, grilled onions and sharp cheddar. Fans of The Big Lebowski will recognize The Dude Abides: homemade meatballs, fried mozzarella cheese sticks, rich marinara and provolone. Devotees of another classic movie might order The Godfather, which includes three-cheese lasagna made with fresh fennel-oregano pasta sheets, spicy red sauce and provolone, plus garlic-spiked bread.
April’s sandwich special is the Corny Beast. Here’s how they describe it: "Our wicked version of the almighty corndog! An ultra jumbo all beef dog char-grilled then stuffed inside the sandwich with double American cheese. Slathered with our special cornbread batter then deep fried. The result is pure carnival goodness!"
As an added bonus, if you get a tattoo of one of Melt’s three logos, you get 25 percent off for life.
Outerlands - San Francisco, California
This is not one of those 101-ways-with-grilled-cheese spots. You won’t find grilled cheeses on their dessert menu, or even at dinner. But at lunch they do offer a glorious grilled cheese made on superthick house-made bread, brushed with garlic oil (smart!) and crisped up in a hot cast-iron skillet. Plus it’s only $5. It’s so good, it has a spot on SF Weekly’s list of San Francisco's 10 Best Sandwiches.
Beecher's Handmade Cheese - Seattle, Washington and New York City
How smart is it to specialize in grilled cheeses at an artisanal cheese shop? At the cafés at both their original store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market and their newer Manhattan outpost, Beecher’s serves a selection of grilled cheeses that vary according to the location.
In Seattle, you’ll find the Dungeness Crab & Flagship sandwich ("flagship" references their signature cheese, a nutty gruyère-cheddar hybrid). New York City has a daily changing Big Deal sandwich - for instance, a Cuban-esque grilled cheese. Soon you’ll be able to take Beecher’s grilled cheeses to other states; they opened a kiosk at Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle in 2012.
Pinewood Café - Houston, Texas
The grilled cheese possibilities are practically limitless at Pinewood Café, right near the Houston Zoo in Hermann Park. The build-your-own grilled cheese bar has 12 kinds of cheese (from fontina to Velveeta), eight breads (including jalapeno cheddar if you want to up the cheese quotient in your sandwich), plus six proteins (bacon!) and 13 veggies, a category that ranges from cool items like pico de gallo and pickles to carrots, which I don’t plan on putting on a grilled cheese any time soon.
Butcher & Bee - Charleston, South Carolina
Their menu changes daily: They post photos of their chalkboard on their Facebook page for fans to preview. Since their October 2011 opening, one of B&B’s periodic specials is the regionally appropriate grilled cheese with pickled okra, candied pecans and pimento cheese. They also spread pimento cheese and honey on their regularly appearing ham and cheese.
Rye - Louisville, Kentucky
Rye owner Michael Trager-Kusman and chef William Tyler Morris met while working at The Breslin in New York City (where they happen to serve one of my all-time favorite melted cheese sammies, the Oven-Baked Three Cheese sandwich). At Rye, look for another monumental grilled cheese, served with a sweet, tangy chile onion marmalade that takes it over the top.
More from Food & Wine:
Best Grilled Cheese in the U.S.
Best Burgers in the U.S.
Best Steak in the U.S.
Best Bars in America
More grilled cheese goodness:
Best wines for grilled cheese
A cheesy summer meltdown
Five tips for a not-so traditional grilled cheese
Grilled cheese, please!
Grilled cheese and...grape jelly?
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Grilled cheese sandwiches are great. Add salami and it's party time.
White cheddar and bacon slices on thick San Francisco sourdough grilled panini-style with garlic-olive oil. YUM!
Easy, tasty, grilled cheese recipe – http://journeytoeve.blogspot.com/2012/04/not-your-kids-grilled-cheese.html
How could they possibly leave out the DGGC (Damn Good Grilled Cheese) at the Friendly Toast Diner in Portsmouth, NH. Cayenne cheddar bread, American and cheddar cheese and olive garlic spread. the BEST.
I went to melt in Cleveland. I was disgusted by the huge portion sizes and unbelievably unhealthy sandwiches. It is no wonder 75 % of Ohio is obese. Yikes.
Part of the appeal of Melt's sandwiches IS the over-the-top stuff that they put on them. It's a fun atmosphere with a great selection of food and drinks. Should you eat a deep fried grilled cheese sandwich every day? No. But it's a fun place to go and treat yourself every once in a while. They also offer a delicious array of salads and vegetarian options there. They even have a vegetable of the day there.
All hail Tillamook Cheese! Yum yum yum!
Try this grilled cheese http://www.acouplecooks.com/2012/04/spinach-artichoke-grilled-cheese/#comment-9838
As a retired chef, technically a grilled cheese sandwich is actually pan fried or griddled on a flatop not grilled. You need a real charcoal or gas grill to grill, period. I like simplicity. Texas Toast, Wisconsin Cheddar cheese, sweet cream butter and a hot grill. Yummy.
Too many of the creations mentioned aren't grilled cheese at all. Lasagna sandwich? Deep fried junk? The beauty of grilled cheese is simplicity. My current face is thin slices of tart apple on whole grain bread with very sharp, aged cheddar ( or gruyere, or mixed), with a modest smear of sweet-hot mustard, and then grilled in butter. Delicious.
According to my niece and nephew who I babysit for every once in a while, I really do make the best grilled cheese sanwiches
For the best grilled cheese, you gotta go with firm homemade bread, sliced just a little thicker than store-bought. Margarine the hell out of it, which will give it just a little kick of salt on the outer crust, and use freshly grated block cheese of whatever kind. Cook it slow so it doesnt get too dark before the cheese melts all the way. Turkey, ham, or tuna grilled with your favorite applicable cheese – no need for the restaurant.
Ma 'n Pa's in Castlewood, VA. Best grilled cheese ever. American cheese, mayo, tomato and sliced onion grilled in plenty of butter. Old fashioned comfort food. Whenever I drive to visit my grandparents' graves, I stop there for a nostalgic visit. My grandparents would sometimes take me there as a treat and it will always have a special place in my heart.
Rye bread, a piece or two of turkey or ham, several slices of tomato, white cheddar, dash of black pepper, dash of garlic powder, and a hot bowl of tomato soup. YUMMMMMMMM!
The best in the world is New York State white cheddar – sharp!
B makes the best grilled cheese. Two slices of wheat, swiss, and butter on the griddle. Is it 9:30 yet?
Must have tomato soup or ketchup to dip.
Tomato soup – and a glass of Ovaltine on the side. The perfect lunch.
Ovaltine has been bought out and it's flavor has changed, not for the better :(
What DOES an oval taste like?
I must admit that my parents DID NOT serve tomato soup when they made grilled cheeses for my brother and I. While I understand that many people do this, I can honestly say that I never missed a thing.
I just throw a sack of flour at a cow, then I'm done.
My favorite lately is hearty wheat bread, tarragon whole grain mustard, sliced apple and ridiculously sharp cheddar! YUM!
Grilled Cheese Grill-Portland, Oregon.
Cheese Frenchee – the deep-fried grilled cheese sandwich. Tasty, cholesteral filled, fattening and generally bad for you in every way except flavor.
I found myself reading comments just to see if I was the only one that remember the King's Food Host Cheese Frenchie. I could go for one now!
The best grilled cheese in the world is the one that I eat when I'm horribly hung over.
Same goes for cheesesteak sandwiches.
Hear, hear! I second that.
Bread, butter, cheese, hot skillet. End of story.
Add a slice of tomato and some crumbled bacon pieces.
Mustard. There must be mustard.
You idiots, he said back to basics. So NO EXTRA TOPPINGS
Olives. Definitely gotta have olives.
Hmm, no – I don't think so. Olives (green) are mandatory in egg salad, but grilled cheese? Not so much.
Olives are good with pita and hummus or in a pizza or a salad, but DEFINITELY NOT in a grill cheese! EVER! ICK...
I just wonder why anyone would pay more than $1 for a regular grilled cheese sandwich. You don't exactly have to be a graduate of a culinary institution to know how to prepare it. It's a notch above throwing a Chef Boy-R-Dee meal in the microwave.
Highland grill in St. Paul, Minnesota makes a great grilled cheese. They use Parmesan crusted bread, two types of cheddar, and a tomato chutney in the middle.
Not one mention of a Wisconsin local... Sad.
How about the Mars Cheese Castle? they make a great grilled cheese,
whoever "invented" the mighty grilled cheese sandwich must have been divinely inspired! So many ways, so many options, such a delicately simple and delicious outcome!...yum yum...let me go prepare one...
Way back I read something about early "foodies" holding cut loaves near the hearth fire will cutting pieces of cheese (straight off the wheels) onto the loaves. That could qualify as the first grilled cheese sandwiches.
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