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America’s 10 Best Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

on April 9, 2013
Courtesy of The Foundry on Melrose

America's 10 Best Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

If America had a national sandwich, it would undoubtedly be the grilled cheese. Salty and sweet, crispy and gooey, what’s not to love about the melted goodness of your favorite fromage crammed between two (or more) slices of bread, then grilled into a puddle of pure culinary nostalgia?

From potato chips to piquillo peppers, everyone has his or her own favorite sandwich stuffer. To celebrate National Grilled Cheese Month (all of April) and National Grilled Cheese Day (April 12th), we’ve asked the creators of America’s 10 Best Grilled Cheese Sandwiches to share their secrets.

—By Jennifer M. Wood

Courtesy of Melt Shop

Melt Shop

Located: New York, NY
Website: Melt Shop
Though cheese is the thing at New York City’s Melt Shop (between their two locations they offer two dozen gourmet takes on the grilled cheese—for both breakfast and lunch), “We created ‘The Dirty’ with the potato chip in mind,” says founder/managing partner Spencer Rubin of the pepper jack and muenster sandwich, which is stuffed with caramelized onions, pickled jalapeños, sliced tomatoes and—yep—potato chips. “I have always been a huge fan of putting potato chips in sandwiches; I think the salty crunch just makes everything better. Coupling that with the spiciness of the pickled jalapeños and the sweetness of our caramelized onions really makes for a down and dirty sandwich with all sorts of flavors and textures.”

Courtesy of {Three} Sheets

{Three} Sheets

Located: Atlanta, GA
Website: Three Sheets Atlanta
Cheese may be the titular ingredient, but for Jonathan Akly, chef/owner of Atlanta’s {Three} Sheets, “The bread is one of the most important ingredients, as it provides the overall texture and taste. We combine that with artisan cheeses, due to their unique flavor profiles, but we believe you can make a great sandwich with just about any type of cheese.”
Akly’s current cheese of choice? An Applewood smoked cheddar, which he serves with a creamy tomato bisque. But you can’t accuse him of playing favorites: each month, the restaurant/lounge hosts a special Grilled Cheese Wine Dinner, in which five unique sandwiches are paired with a complementary wine. (Gruyere and pinot noir, anyone?)

Courtesy of The Grilled Cheese Truck

The Grilled Cheese Truck

Located: Los Angeles, CA & Phoenix, AZ
Website: The Grilled Cheese Truck
Grilled cheese gets a sweet makeover, courtesy of this mobile ode to childhood, with trucks operating in both Los Angeles and Phoenix. Among the dozen-plus menu options (plus 20 sweet and savory additions) are a Brie melt on cranberry walnut bread, a parmesan-crusted French onion soup melt and Mom’s Apple Pie Melt (pictured), a dessert sandwich of sharp cheddar, brown butter, caramelized apples and candied walnuts.
“A great grilled cheese is all about a quality cheese and quality bread (and whatever else you put in it… especially bacon!),” says CEO/founder/chef Dave Danhi (a.k.a. The Big Cheese). “Grill them at 350 degrees and don’t rush the sandwich. But by far the most important ingredient in a perfect grilled cheese is love! That’s why mom's (and ours) always taste great!”

Courtesy of Grahamwich

Grahamwich

Located: Chicago, IL
Website: Grahamwich
"Everyone speaks sandwich,” says Graham Elliot, chef/owner of Chicago’s Grahamwich (as well as the Michelin-starred restaurant that bears his name). “I'm a big believer in the idea of ‘less is more.’ Nothing is more simple and more delicious than melty, gooey cheese between buttery, toasted bread.” Though we wouldn’t exactly call Elliot’s signature grilled cheese—Wisconsin cheddar, tomato marmalade and cheese curds served on a Pullman loaf—“simple,” we won’t argue with delicious.
In honor of National Grilled Cheese Day, the restaurant will be handing out small bags of its signature popcorn (topped with grated parmesan, chopped chives, sea salt, cracked pepper and truffle oil) to every customer who buys a grilled cheese sandwich on April 12th.

Courtesy of The Foundry on Melrose

The Foundry on Melrose

Located: Los Angeles, CA
Website: The Foundry on Melrose
For 11 years, Los Angeles has been ground zero for a highly anticipated sandwich smackdown known as The Grilled Cheese Invitational. In 2008, The Foundry’s executive chef/owner Eric Greenspan took home the gold with what is now simply known as The Champ, a grilled taleggio cheese and short rib sandwich, served on raisin-walnut bread with an apricot caper puree. “A great grilled cheese is crunchy, golden and gooey,” says Greenspan of his sandwich-making philosophy. “A little greasy always helps.”

Courtesy of The Melt

The Melt

Located: Multiple locations throughout California
Website: The Melt
Can’t decide between a plate of gooey mac and cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich? Have ‘em both! Order up The Mac Daddy combo at any one of The Melt’s 14 locations throughout California and you’ll get a macaroni and cheddar cheese sandwich on sourdough plus a bowl of sausage and pepper soup (mmmm, just like mom never made it)! “Great grilled cheese is simple but not easy,” says chief marketing officer Paul Coletta. “It starts with the best aged cheese and artisan bread, melted and toasted to perfection.”

Courtesy of 24 Diner

24 Diner

Located: Austin, TX
Website: 24 Diner
When it comes to breaded perfection, chef Andrew Curren of Austin’s 24 Diner has got the formula figured out: “The perfect grilled cheese, like all fabulous dishes, relies on simple, clean ingredients: artisan bread (I like a crusty sourdough or levain), cultured high-fat butter, a duo of quality cheeses that melt well and one additional element (such as bacon, avocado, dill pickles or roasted tomatoes) to make it your own,” he says. “One of the cheese selections should have a nice acid (such as an aged cheddar); the other should be buttery with a touch of ‘stink’ or ‘funk’ (such as a Fontina or Emmentaler).” Devotees of Curren’s sourdough version swear by its grilled cheddar, Fontina and roasted tomato insides.

Courtesy of Melt Bar and Grilled

Melt Bar and Grilled

Located: Multiple locations in Cleveland, OH
Website: Melt Bar and Grilled
Bigger is better at Ohio’s Melt Bar and Grilled. Just ask Man vs. Food host Adam Richman, who traveled to Cleveland to take on The Melt Challenge—five pounds of fries, coleslaw and a 13-variety grilled cheese sandwich (spoiler alert: Man won).
“Boring thin sliced white bread and American [cheese] are things of the past,” says Melt Bar and Grilled owner Matt Fish of his forwarding-thinking sandwich philosophy. “The more attitude and adventurous you can make the grilled cheese the better.” Fish is putting his menu where his mouth is, offering 30 unique grilled cheese variations, including the Parmageddon (pictured), featuring potato and cheese pierogies, fresh Napa vodka sauerkraut, sautéed onions and sharp cheddar.

Courtesy of C'est Cheese

C'est Cheese

Located: Santa Barbara, CA
Website: C'est Cheese
In picturesque Santa Barbara, this 10-year-old, family-run cheese shop sells an ever-evolving list of more than 200 types of cheese by the pound plus a wonderful lineup of gourmet grilled sandwiches at their in-house café, including a signature three-cheese sammy (aged cheddar, Scharfe Maxx and mozzarella) and a Goat Grilled Cheese (pictured), a blend of raw goat cheddar and goat gouda mixed with Spanish chorizo, roasted piquillo peppers and arugula.
“What we were looking for with our grilled cheese was to find the intersection of highlighting delicious, artisan cheeses and the nostalgia for the grilled cheeses that we all grew up on,” says proprietor/cheesemonger Kathryn Graham. “This meant the cheese absolutely has to be gooey and stretchy when you eat it while the exterior has to be well-browned and crusty. And it has to be moan-inducing delicious!”

Courtesy of Daily Melt

Daily Melt

Located: Miami, FL
Website: The Daily Melt
Miami is channeling Brooklyn by way of The Daily Melt’s Coney Island Melt, a classic chili dog-meets-grilled American cheese sandwich combo (complete with onions and yellow mustard). “A great grilled cheese sandwich starts with the right ingredients—fresh bread; quality, well-melting cheese; good, unsalted butter; and delicious add-ins,” says chef/owner Allen Susser. “But it is completed with the love you put into making it.”

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