Our mission: To track down some of the most creative and delicious grilled cheese creations in the country. Did your favorite make our list? Check out our superior sandwich picks—and then tell us where to find your go-to melts.
It’s all about radical purity at Two Sparrows in Chicago, where their toasty sandwiches are piled high with cheese, cheese and more cheese! Chef Greg Ellis fills a fresh baguette with thick slabs of goat cheese, Gruyere and cheddar, and then griddles it until each layer bubbles and melts together. Not decadent enough? Diners can order their sandwich topped with a fried egg and strips of crispy bacon.
At first glance, this may look more like a fancy appetizer than an old-school comfort food, but look—and taste—again. At Beauty & Essex in N.Y.C., classic grilled cheese and tomato soup inspired chef Chris Santos to create a dish that has “those two great tastes that go great together in one bite,” he says of his Grilled Cheese, Smoked Bacon & Tomato Soup Dumplings. The secret to its flavor? It’s packed with a secret blend of five different cheeses “for maximum melty cheese goodness.”
Need a grilled cheese fix on the go? If you’re in Washington, D.C. track down Pepe, the Spanish sandwich food truck from legendary chef José Andrés. There’s a reason lines form early in front of his meals on wheels: The grilled cheese comes on fresh ficelle bread (a thin baguette) with a blend of aged manchego, Murcia goat cheese, chèvre, blue cheese and a smear of membrillo (a quince marmalade) for a touch of sweetness. A quick stop in the panini press gives each sandwich a golden brown crust and ooey-gooey center.
You’ll love eating the Shoo Grill Cheese, Have Mercy at Tupelo Honey Café in Asheville, N.C. as much as you’ll love ordering it. (The owners say this sandwich is so delicious and filling that it makes diners exclaim, “shoo mercy!”) We’re inclined to believe them: Havarti and pimento cheeses, caramelized onions, maple-peppered bacon, ham, fried green tomatoes and fresh basil are packed between housemade sourdough slices, and heated to melty perfection.
The grilled cheese takes a trip to south Asia at Brick Lane Curry House, a popular Indian restaurant chain in New York and New Jersey. On the menu: paneer-stuffed paratha, a whole-wheat Indian flatbread filled with spiced paneer (and fresh curd cheese), cooked on a hot griddle until it’s brown and bubbly, and served piping hot.
The childhood favorite is all grown up at Proof on Main in Louisville, K.Y., where you can order the Bourbon Bacon Grilled Cheese stuffed with sliced heirloom tomato, arugula, melted cheddar and a thick smear of housemade bourbon-bacon marmalade. But why stop there? Executive chef Levon Wallace coats the exterior of the bread with butter and grated parmesan cheese to give the sandwich an extra-cheesy crust.
With a name like Melt Shop, the grilled cheese expectations are high—and the Buttermilk Fried Chicken sandwich at this N.Y.C. spot does not disappoint. Country white bread is filled with spicy pepper jack cheese, creamy red cabbage slaw and their signature “melt sauce” (a chile pepper mayo). Oh, and then there are the strips of buttermilk-marinated, freshly fried chicken layered in between to give each bite a salty, juicy crunch.
Stop by Chicago’s Tavernita for lunch because that’s the only time you’ll find chef Ryan Poli’s grilled cheese sandwich on the menu. Poli starts with thick slabs of Texas Toast and piles on sharp cheddar, provolone and strips of crispy bacon, before slathering it in a sweet-and-savory tomato jam. A quick sear gives each sandwich a golden, crispy crunch and a soft, melty middle.
Move over, ants on a log—there’s a new after-school snack we’re after. At LAVO at The Palazzo in Las Vegas, chef Marc Marrone serves a souped up ‘After School Special’: a truffled grilled cheese sandwich made with crucolo (a buttery, cow’s milk cheese) and American cheese, strips of cherrywood bacon and herb-roasted tomatoes, and served alongside a bowl of chili tomato soup. Ah, just like Mom used to make (in our dreams).
For most grilled cheeses, it’s all about what’s inside the bread that counts. At Bell Book & Candle in N.Y.C., the exterior is just as intriguing. Each tangy sourdough sandwich is filled with thick slices of melty raclette cheese (a raw cow’s milk cheese), and topped with a slow-poached egg, chopped chives and truffle shavings. When broken, the runny yolk will slowly spread over the sandwich, giving it a creamy, buttery finish.
Save room for dessert because the grilled sandwich at Little Dom’s in L.A. is meant to be eaten at the end of your meal. Chef Brandon Boudet’s Nutella Mascarpone panino is made with two slices of country white bread filled with smears of hazelnut Nutella and tangy mascarpone cheese. After a stop in the hot panini press, the sandwich is melty, gooey and ready to be devoured. —Sonal Dutt