Insanely Good Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Midwest restaurants turn grilled cheese sandwiches into a gourmet entrée your grade school self would never recognize.
Grilled cheese in a doughnut? Or with pulled pork? Maybe drizzled with just a touch of honey? Count us in. And if you're looking for an excuse to indulge, April 12 is National Grilled Cheese Day.
You'll find many surprising twists on this comfort food classic at food trucks, farmers markets and upscale restaurants throughout the Midwest. Here are a few of our favorites:
Gayle's Best Ever Grilled Cheese, Chicago (gaylesbestever.com) The name says it all. Gayle Voss recently expanded her farmers market stands to a downtown Chicago restaurant. Lines snake around the building during lunch hour for sandwiches made with Pure Prairie Cheese from Belvidere, Illinois, and fresh butter from Nordic Creamery in Westby, Wisconsin. A solid choice is the basic, panini-pressed Butterkase cheese on fresh sourdough bread, but we also love the combo of Gouda, ham and apple butter. Want to make one at home? Gayle's sells "to-go bags" of fresh ingredients.
Tom + Chee, multiple locations across the Midwest (tomandchee.com) An appearance on ABC's "Shark Tank" helped catapult this Cincinnati startup known for its tomato soup ("Tom") and grilled cheese ("Chee") into a national chain. Its most famous sandwich is grilled cheese on a doughnut. What??? Yep, a grilled yeast doughnut replaces the bread. For extra crunch, order potato chips inside. If you're in the mood for something sweet, other grilled doughnut variations include Choco Bacon Bliss, S'More and Bananarama.
Melt Bar and Grilled, Cleveland (meltbarandgrilled.com) Gourmet grilled cheese like the Chorizo & Potato (spicy sausage, potato hash and sharp cheddar) pairs nicely with any of the 100 beer varieties. Do you really love grilled cheese? Take the Melt Challenge. Devour a 5-pound grilled cheese sandwich-made with 13 kinds of cheeses, three slices of grilled bread and a pile of hand-cut fries and slaw-and you'll be awarded a Melt T-shirt or pint glass, a $10 gift card, and your name in the Melt Challenge Hall of Fame.
The Cheese Shop, Des Moines (thecheeseshopdsm.com) This cafe stocks more than 100 specialty cheeses which can be melted into gourmet sandwiches called "toasties." Try a variety like the La Quercia-made with pepper jam and La Quercia prosciutto crumbles-or build your own with ingredients like Frisian Farms Gouda, olive tapenade, arugula pesto and a fried egg.
Melted, Madison, Wisconsin (meltedmadison.com) Wisconsin knows cheese. And the "Cadillac of grilled cheese" sandwiches is made in a lunchtime food truck in downtown Madison's Capitol Square. Even though you're in Wisconsin, we suggest the Chicago Dog Grilled Cheese: a sliced grilled hot dog, onion, spicy pickle relish, tomato, sharp cheddar and Muenster cheese.
Big Cheeze, Bloomington, Indiana (thebigcheeze.com) The Mac Daddy-grilled cheese with macaroni and cheese, with or without bacon-is a favorite among the late-night college crowd along Kirkwood Avenue. But customers also love this food truck for sandwiches like the Mamma Smacker: smoked Gouda melted over sweet BBQ pulled pork and caramelized onions. Check the truck's Facebook or Twitter pages to find out where it'll be.
Cafe Muse, Royal Oak, Michigan (cafemuseroyaloak.com) The grilled cheese here has received all sorts of "best grilled cheese" accolades. It's a combo of Havarti, fontina and fresh mozzarella cheeses, flavored with basil, tomatoes and just a touch of honey. Grilled cheese perfection? You be the judge.