Bite into the ham-and-cheddar Piglet at the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in San Francisco.
Adding a slice of tomato is no longer enough. At restaurants and food trucks across the West, grilled-cheese sandwiches are now jazzed up with extras from sautéed mushrooms to spicy chorizo—flavors to savor on April 12, National Grilled Cheese Day.
- Crunchy meets creamy at San Francisco’s American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, where fans line up in every season for rib-sticking grilled mac-and-cheese sandwiches at the restaurant’s site near AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. (415) 243-0107, theamericansf.com.
- Seattle cheese maker Beecher’s pairs its nutty Flagship cheddar with sweet Dungeness crab. You can try this hyperlocal sandwich at the Beecher’s at Pike Place Market or the branch in Sea-Tac Airport. (206) 956-1964, beechershandmadecheese.com.
- Reno’s GourMelt truck offers 16 grilled cheeses, including a dessert sandwich with chèvre and cherries. But owner Jessie Watnes’s favorite is the Bumble Brie: sliced apple, Brie, ham, and honey between slices of apple-cinnamon bread. (775) 410-4124, gourmeltreno.com.
- Aboard its far-ranging truck, the San Francisco Bay Area’s Grilled Cheese Bandits tucks ham and cheddar between slices of bâtarde, grills the sandwiches, bastes them with truffle oil, then grills them again with a coat of cheddar on the outside. “It’s called the Jesse James, and it’s hands-down our most popular sandwich,” says owner Shayne Herrera. (408) 658-8422, grilledcheesebandits.com.
- For three meals in one, try the Cheesus at Portland’s Grilled Cheese Grill: a burger cradled between two grilled-cheese sandwiches. “One of those and I’m good for the rest of the day,” says Wendy Morey, manager of the Alberta Street location—housed in a converted school bus. (503) 206-8959, grilledcheesegrill.com.
- The best-loved sandwich at Grilled Chz in Fresno, Calif., is a molten extravaganza of double-cream French Brie, bacon, sliced almonds, and homemade fig paste. “People taste it and get addicted,” says Juan Ortega, who opened the café in 2012. (559) 432-9249, grilledchz.com.
- “Our signature is cheesing the outside of the bread,” says Jeremy Wolfe, owner of Mayhem Gourmet Grilled Cheese, a truck in Chico, Calif. “The sandwich has a nice, gooey inside but also gets a little bit of extra crunch.” twitter.com/mayhemnation.
- The bread at Utah’s Melty Way chain is all from Stone Ground Bakery in Salt Lake City, but diners get a choice of 12 cheeses and add-ons such as fresh jalapeños and strawberry jam. (801) 850-6643, meltyway.com.
- The piada—grilled mozzarella and salami on flatbread—is a top seller at the two-year-old Grilled Cheese Company in Medford, Ore. “It’s like an Italian taco,” says owner Ray Ferro, who makes his four-ingredient flatbread from scratch. (541) 292-1819.
- “Don’t most people think that cheese is the one thing missing from Asian food?” asks Joe McCarthy, owner of Meltz Extreme Grilled Cheese in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The judges at the 2013 Grilled Cheese Invitational apparently did. McCarthy’s pot-sticker sandwich—gingery ground pork, spicy sriracha aioli, pepper Jack, and provolone on sour dough bread—won a blue ribbon. (208) 664-1717.
- At Cheddar’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese, one of the first food trucks in Helena, Mont., people line up for the Main Street, a combo of turkey, bacon, avocado, Colby, and provolone with owner Kevin Devine’s mustardy sauce. (406) 475-5564, facebook.com/cheddarsgrilledcheese.
- In Jackson, Wyo., Dolce dedicates a large section of its menu to grilled-cheese creations including the Southwestern: Mexican chorizo, avocado, and pepper Jack on jalapeño corn bread. (307) 200-6071, dolcejh.com.
- The sandwiches at Fromaggio’s feature the Anchorage cheese shop’s imported specialties, such as sottocenere, a soft, truffled Italian cheese that owner Helen Howarth pairs with house-made focaccia and Moroccan mustard. (907) 277-3773.
Photography by Lori Eanes
This article was first published in March 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.