Grilled Cheese Throw-Down

Grilled cheese is one of those things I don't think has collected a single hater over the years. I mean, probably there is someone in this world who doesn't like it, but it doesn't have a cult following of downers like, say, egg salad sandwiches or something. It's eternal appeal for me comes from the fact that for minimal effort, you can have endless varieties of sandwiches. Anyone who knows me knows I love variety. There are hundreds of kinds of cheeses and therefore hundreds of kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches. And that is if you don't add anything else to the cheese itself. For instance, take cheddar: with several varieties of cheddar itself (mild, sharp, extra sharp, flavored, extra-aged, etc.) you have several sandwich options, but add thin green-apple slices, crispy bacon, sauteed mushrooms and onions, or grilled pineapple and you've got four entirely different stories...for each variety of cheddar. I'm sorry. Cheese in general (and grilled cheese sandwiches in particular) gets me excited with its possibility. Thank goodness for The Grilled Cheese Bistro in Norfolk, a restaurant dedicated solely to the exploration of amazing grilled cheese combinations. The Grilled Cheese had been on my "to-do" list for years but I only recently was able to slip in and order the "Don Quixote." This sandwich, a delicious affair of gouda, caramelized onions and oyster mushrooms, roasted red peppers, and olive tapenade built larger than ever in my mind the idea that grilled cheese is an endlessly supple canvas. I mean, sitting right across from my at a picnic table in the rain was my long-suffering friend, Arielle, eating "The Violet": an understated blueberry & brie sandwich. If that doesn't show diversity, I don't know what does (Plus crazy-flavorful chimmichuri fries. I don't know. They needed a shout-out). So in the spirit of The Grilled Cheese Bistro (and all grilled cheese lovers e'erywhere), I've listed some of my favorite combinations below! Just one quick comment: don't believe people who say spreading the bread with mayonnaise instead of butter is better. Just don't.

Best Basic Grilled Cheese: sourdough + gouda

Grilled Cheese Strudel: brioche + mild white cheddar + jam of choice

Lox & Loaded: whole grain bread + gouda + thin-sliced lemons simmered in saltwater + smoked salmon slices

The Countryman: sourdough + gouda + smoked bacon + green apple slices

White Pizza: sourdough + olive oil + mozzerella + spinach + feta + capers + olives

Cinnamon Apple Toast: sourdough + mild white cheddar + thinly sliced green apples + cinnamon + honey

Caprese Grill: foccacia + mozzerella + fresh basil leaves + sliced roma tomatoes

Do you have any favorite grilled cheese options? (PC to the same long-suffering friend, Arielle)


  1. Ahhh...I am such a grilled cheese fan. I love to add apples, bacon, and caramelized onions to mine, sometimes all three of them together, sometimes not, depending upon the type of cheese we have in the house. I don't like mayonnaise on the outside of mine either (Butter is the only acceptable option, I agree!), but I do like it on the inside when I mix it with some Worcestershire sauce & mustard. SO GOOD.

  2. I'm pretty sure heaven is full of gourmet grilled cheeses. I love a basic caprese, but it's best drizzled with balsamic reduction. OH MAN. You have not lived until you have tried balsamic glaze/reduction. <3

    Also, for my standard grilled cheese I do both mayo and butter. Butter on the outside, mayo + cheese on the inside. Another favorite is provolone/spinach/tomato/bacon/spicy mustard/avocado. But that's hardly a grilled cheese anymore for all the additional ingredients. ;)

  3. Oh. My. Goodness. These grilled cheese options sound like heaven.