Apparently next Wednesday is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day. I know, we don’t care either: It’s always grilled cheese day in our hearts.
Beecher’s nutty Flagship Cheddar makes one legendary sandwich, in variants with smoked turkey, Dungeness crab, or a simple cheese duet with Beecher’s Just Jack. But our favorite in this flagship Pike Place Market location is the Flagship Cheddar with basil and tomato: An iconic classic in an iconic space (with a few stools for eating-in and watching the cheesemakers at work).
Something about the thinner bread and the golden product makes “toasted cheese” a more apt descriptor for the stunners at these fantasy-themed haunts, filled with cheese blends like Emmentaler with Jack, or dill havarti with mozzarella—and some lovely meaty elements. (Like the Voldemortadella, the demonic lovechild of a grilled cheese and a muffaletta.) The original truck, often around South Lake Union, now has a tiny bricks-and-mortar sibling in Interbay. The sauce bar and the fact that you can add bacon to anything tops up the charms.
The latest darling of Southern food aficionados is Cycene in Pike Place Market, whose Double Grilled Cheese mingles pimento cheese with American cheese to most winningly gooey affect, with a nice pimento spank. Another variant subs out the American for Swiss, then adds pickles and thick sheets of ham. We say go for what you feel like; this lunch counter is rocking everything.
Okay so now we’re just brazenly cheating: This slathered biscuit at Tom Douglas’s biscuit emporium in South Lake Union isn’t a grilled cheese in the slightest, and really isn’t a sandwich either. But can we help it if the ham, egg, Beecher’s cheddar, and apple mustard biscuit fires on all the same cylinders? The cheese comes melted all over the ruffles of ham, the apple mustard grabs you by the lapels, and the biscuit makes such a tenderly satisfying base you may question all other sandwiches, forever.
We adore this careful cocktail bar on Phinney Ridge for its tidy cozy senses of place and, frankly, for their exquisite New York white cheddar on Columbia City Bakery potato bread. The grilled cheese sandwich comes with a frothy serving of tomato soup, a brilliant light compliment.
Another grilled cheese truck—this one you see in front of the library downtown—has two claims to fame: a long list of sandwiches (a half-dozen of which are offered daily), and parmesan bread. (Three claims to fame if you count the grilled mac and cheese.) The bigger combos can be pretty sloppy so grab lots of napkins or order something on the plain side, like the Classic (made of three local cheddars). The very popular Bluesy Chick marries blue cheese with Mt. Townsend smoky jack, over house-smoked chicken.
Serving after 6pm inside Pike/Pine’s affably dingy Bar Sue, Melt is the province of seasoned restaurateurs, and can taste like it. Most people know the mac and cheese, which comes in six varieties of Bechamel-smooth goodness. But the grilled sandwiches, most made with Havarti and many with meats like Hawaiian-style pulled pork or roasted turkey, can rock just as hard. We particularly like the purist’s favorite: havarti with Tillamook cheddar, red pepper aioli, and greens.
Where else can you get such a socioeconomically confused beast as the Ultimate Grilled Cheese, where brie and American cheese bond with a little cheddar in a brioche with bacon jam and, if you wish, a fried chicken thigh? It’s precisely this out-of-the-box mingling of fine cuisine with American grub that gives Skillet its patented disarming appeal. Because we have to admit it: Nothing goes gooey like American cheese.
The daytime headliner at this airy, down-to-earth Ballard haunt is a whole porkchop shoved between slices of bread—but diners’ preference runs to the Apple Melt, in which gruyere and Beecher’s Flagship cheddar mingle inside craggy slices of grilled sourdough. As if that weren’t already delectable enough, carmelized onions and pickled apple slices show up with unexpected, very welcome notes of sweet and sour—glorious against the sturdy savories of the cheese.
So a croque-monsieur isn’t technically a grilled cheese, topped with Bechamel and finished in the oven, but the meltiness of this French classic is a goo-lover’s wildest dream. Nobody in town makes it better than the little spot of Paris on 12th, Café Presse, where both the croque monsieur and the croque madame (the latter with an egg) kill it every time, with (among other things) gruyere that cauterizes into sweet little blisters across the top.
Updated 4/12/2018: Oliver's Twist now only has one location after its Magnolia bar shuttered this year.