The Best Grilled Cheese In The US, According To Tasting Table Staff

Bread. American cheese. Butter (or mayo). That trio of simple and inexpensive ingredients is all you need to construct one of the greatest sandwiches of all time. The classic grilled cheese is truly comfort food at its finest, not to mention easiest to prepare. In just a few minutes, with a couple of flips in a pan, you'll be enjoying a crunchy, melty masterpiece.

While the gold (or rather, orange) standard of grilled cheese is tough to beat, we wouldn't begrudge you from breaking with tradition once in a while. And while there are plenty of ways to upgrade the sandwich in the comfort of your own kitchen, sometimes it's just best to leave it up to the professionals and let them work their magic (and deal with the prep and cleanup).

Across the U.S., you'll find all sorts of variations on the sandwich staple, including versions that employ simple yet sensational tweaks along with fine dining interpretations that completely reimagine what the humble meal could be. That's why we reached out to Tasting Table writers and editors and asked them to share their absolute favorite grilled cheese picks from coast to coast.

Grilled Cheese, Smoked Bacon & Tomato Soup Dumplings at Beauty & Essex — Elizabeth Blasi

As a self-proclaimed grilled cheese enthusiast, I can confidently say that the Grilled Cheese, Smoked Bacon & Tomato Soup Dumplings at Beauty & Essex in New York are unlike any other dish I have tasted. This unique and indulgent appetizer is a must-try for any cheese lover in the Big Apple (the restaurant also has locations in Las Vegas and Los Angeles). Step past the pawn shop-inspired exterior and you're immediately transported to a chic and stylish speakeasy. The ambiance is warm and welcoming, with dim lighting, opulent chandeliers, plush velvet seating, and beautiful vintage décor. 

Now, let's talk about the star of the show: the grilled cheese dumplings. You're hit with the aroma of perfectly melted cheese and crispy bread when they arrive at your table. The presentation is just as impressive, with each dumpling delicately placed on a bed of tomato soup in individualized spoons. One bite, and you're hooked. The crispy, buttery exterior, and gooey, flavorful cheese filling are pure perfections. What I love most about these dumplings is the combination of ingredients used to create a unique flavor profile. The melted cheese, smoked bacon, and creamy tomato soup combine in a bite-size flavor explosion. This plate is comfort food elevated to a whole new level.

The Boss at Ruthie's — Hayley Hamilton Cogill

In 2011, Ruthie's gourmet grilled cheese truck began rolling down the streets of Dallas. It was early in the city's food truck renaissance, with most well-heeled Dallasites preferring to dine in a traditional brick-and-mortar versus eating while standing. However, the scene was changing thanks to the popularity of mobile restaurants in neighboring cities like Austin.

The concept sprung from the mind of philanthropist Ashlee H. Kleinert, a former event planner who began the endeavor as a side business for parties. She kept the menu simple by focusing on one easy-to-prepare yet utterly delicious food item everyone loves: grilled cheese. (Kleinert named the truck after her grilled-cheese-loving grandmother, Ruth.)

Today multiple Ruthie's trucks spread grilled cheese goodness throughout the city, serving a dozen options on any given day. Though the classic grilled cheese is a gooey delight, "The Boss" is the sandwich to try. The sandwich melds smoky, slow-cooked Texas barbecued brisket with a pile of cheddar cheese on buttery, toasted sourdough bread. The tangy, sharp cheese elevates the shredded meat's smokiness and the barbecue sauce's sweetness and spiciness. I highly recommend adding a side of house-made slob sauce, which combines barbecue with ranch for a unique, indulgent dip.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese at Beecher's Handmade Cheese — Julia Collins

You may already be familiar with Beecher's famed macaroni and cheese (we even found it was the best frozen mac and cheese out there). But at the Seattle-based cheese maker's flagship café, located at the iconic Pike Place Market, you'll find a grilled cheese mashup that takes things to a whole other level.

Beecher's standard grilled cheese is at once decadent and memorable without being overloaded with grease. The bread is perfectly toasted every time and it's cut on the perfect diagonal, ensuring every bite offers a mouthful of cheesy goodness that leaves you satisfied. But it's that cheese — a combination of Beecher's Flagship and Just Jack, both of which are made on-site — that puts this sandwich over the top.

However, even better than Beecher's classic grilled cheese is its grilled cheese stuffed with, you guessed it, mac and cheese (simply order a grilled cheese with mac in it if the location you're at doesn't already have it on the menu). It's the ideal comfort food, and you need to try it out the next time you're in Seattle or any other Beecher's location.

Halal Philly Cheesesteak at Twisted Grilled Cheese — Aries Jones

Although Twisted Grilled Cheese now has two brick-and-mortar locations in Houston, it had humble beginnings as a food truck. There's a reason the brand has seen resounding success: it knows how to get creative with a simple recipe.

Twisted's spin on the traditional grilled cheese features white cheddar, provolone, mozzarella, and American cheeses. But if you're craving something with a bit more substance, I highly recommend the halal Philly cheesesteak. It's filled with the ingredients you'd expect from a spin on the classic sandwich, such as marinated ribeye, caramelized onions and peppers, and provolone — but American and mozzarella cheese are added to the mix for an extra savory meal. (If you're not a fan of red meat, the restaurant's grilled chicken version of this sandwich is also hard to beat.)

If you like to dip your grilled cheese, the establishment also offers an in-house tomato soup, but once you take a bite out of the Philly, you'll quickly realize you really don't need it. However, the parmesan waffle fries are my recommended go-to option if you're hankering for a side.

Macaroni Pony at The Mule — Matt Kirouac

When it comes to ooey-gooey comfort foods, grilled cheese and mac & cheese reign as two titans of hearty Americana, and when said titans clash, it achieves a whole new stratosphere of sandwich supremacy. Such is the case at The Mule, a sandwich-slinging pub in Oklahoma City's Plaza District, where gourmet grilled cheeses are the bread and butter — or rather, the cornbread and pulled pork. A feat of sheer excess, the Macaroni Pony is a burly behemoth that takes the classic parameters of grilled cheese ... and turns it on its head.

Sure, it's got the familiar molten American cheese, but the sandwich also features a layer of three-cheese mac & cheese and chipotle BBQ pulled pork, all heaped on thick slabs of fluffy jalapeño cornbread. This beast of a sandwich, with its Southern-style twang, tastes like a picnic in barbecue country, all conveniently compacted into one extravagant sandwich that doubles down on multiple cheeses and pairs perfectly with a smattering of tangy pickle slivers and a cup of creamy tomato soup.

Inside Out Cheese Melt at James Ranch Grill — Lindsay D. Mattison

A trip to the small mountain town of Durango, CO, isn't complete without picking up an Inside Out Cheese Melt from James Ranch Grill. What makes this sandwich so special is the unique Belford cheese made right there on the ranch. This raw milk cheese won't become stringy or stretchable when melted, but its flavor is impossible to beat.

On cheesemaking days, the milk goes straight from the cows to the cheese vat, fresh and warm (and the whey from the cheese-making process goes back out to pasture to feed the pigs). The 100% grass-fed milk is so rich in beta-carotene that it creates a natural golden color without adding dye. When melted inside two pieces of locally-baked focaccia, this rich and creamy cheese melds with the airy bread to create a soft, chewy texture and a delightfully sharp, slightly salty flavor.

The restaurant adds texture to the mix by cooking a second batch of cheese directly on the flattop, scooping it on top of the sandwich once it's bubbling around the edges. I love how that gives this grilled cheese a caramelized flavor and a cheese-forward crunch. If you're ready to take the dish to the next level, use your imagination when ordering and add fillings like local chokecherry jelly, tomatoes, bacon, or (my favorite) roasted green chiles. Put it all together, and this sandwich is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Grilled Cheese at Mercantile Dining & Provision — Taylor Murray

The ever-changing grilled cheese sandwich at Mercantile Dining & Provision in Denver is a personal favorite for many reasons. Back when I started working there as a young cook, I was put on the lunch line to develop my skills before moving to dinner. One of my tasks would be making the sandwich, which features a new ensemble of cheeses and accompanying soup each day. The only thing that never changed was the sourdough bread, which we hand-cut into thick slices and buttered on each side before searing the sandwich on the plancha.

The filling for the grilled cheese varies, but it typically includes some kind of cheese from the artisan cheese counter in the front of the restaurant. (We would often use a blend, like cheddar with robiola fondue.) Other fun items, like pancetta, peach jam, or roasted poblano pepper are rotated into the sandwich. It's that combination of high-quality ingredients and constant creativity that puts Mercantile's grilled cheese over the top.

Grilled Cheese at Hudson Hill — Sarah O'Phelan

Blue isn't a typical pick when it comes to grilled cheese sandwiches, but Hudson Hill, a combination coffee shop and bar in Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood, has risen to the challenge ... and I'm happy to report that their efforts have succeeded. This sandwich is a far cry from the white bread and Kraft singles I used to slap onto a butter-slicked frying pan after a day spent playing in the snow: Hudson Hill's sandwich features Shropshire (a bright orange, blue-veined type of blue cheese famed for its smooth texture and robust flavor) melted together with Parmesan. 

Perhaps even more notably, Hudson Hill forgoes the traditional side of tomato soup in favor of swirls of spicy mustard and sweet cherry jam on the plate for dipping. It's the cherry jam that seals the deal for me: The intriguing combination of briny Shropshire, nutty Parmesan, and bright cherry jam is unexpected, but it works. Sitting at the cozy bar, listening to vinyl records, and munching on this incredible grilled cheese — perhaps with a lavender latte or one of Hudson Hill's signature cocktails in hand — is an idyllic way to spend a Saturday afternoon. At $15, this toastie is a splurge, but if you're looking for the best grilled cheese in Denver, it's well worth the cost.

Anabella at The Delachaise — Erin Shaw

I lived in New Orleans from 2013 until 2017 and the grilled cheese that still haunts my dreams to this day is the Anabella from The Delachaise, a wine bar and bistroon St. Charles Ave, Uptown. The beauty of this sandwich is the combination of savory decadence with a hint of sweetness. The cheese used for the sandwich are two extremely flavorful Italian varieties: asiago pressato, a cow's milk cheese from the northeastern region of Italy, and fiore sardo, a sheep's milk pecorino cheese from Sardinia. They combine to create a perfectly creamy and salty flavor and have the ideal ooey-gooey texture when melted. 

The sandwich is further highlighted by an earthy and flavorful semolina bread, but the kicker is the little bit of housemade apple butter that is spread lightly onto the bread. Fruit and cheese together is always a special marriage but put it all together in the form of this decadent grilled cheese sandwich and you'll think you've ascended into food paradise. Enjoy it on their patio with a glass of wine while you watch the streetcars go lazily past.

Waylon & Willie at Burro Cheese Kitchen — Crawford Smith

Burro Cheese Kitchen is a little Austin, Texas grilled cheese stand with a couple of locations in the city. Founded by Austin-born Justin Burrow, the business aims to bring the fancy cheese plate experience to the grilled cheese space.

My favorite item on the menu, the Waylon & Willie, accomplishes this goal admirably. It combines all the components you'd enjoy in a charcuterie board (cheese, cured meat, pickled veg, and a sweet spread) into a harmonious whole pressed between two sturdy slices of rustic sourdough. The cured meat comes in the form of bacon, which is chopped into tiny bits and mixed into a sweet maple syrup-flavored sauce. Caramelized onions add even more sweetness, but all the sugar gets balanced out by the tartness and heat of pickled pepperoncini. Shredded cheddar and Gouda cheese bring just the right mix of sharpness and creaminess. The blend of smoky, sweet, acidic, and fatty flavors is unbeatable; it's everything you want to taste, all at once.

Other than the perfect mix of ingredients, this sandwich's other neat trick is that the cheese is melted with a blowtorch before the bread gets toasted. This allows Burro to use a frankly alarming amount of cheese without worrying that it won't melt before the bread burns. The blowtorch seems to add a little extra smoky flavor as well. This sandwich is a 10 out of 10, no notes.

Grilled cheese at Hana Food — Autumn Swiers

To walk into Hana Foods is to step inside the New York deli scene at its best. If you're looking to experience Brooklyn like a local — with all the glamor and grunge that come with it — look no further than this gem located just steps from the Metropolitan-Lorimer G/L subway station. Peruse the witty menu board displayed over the deli counter, advertising such avant-garde sandwiches as the Camel Killer, Bikini Sherman, Kingdom of Heaven, Jessica Cat Woman, or the Monkey Returns. But, the star of Hana's gastronomic menagerie in this writer's eyes is none other than the humble grilled cheese, specifically, with pepper jack and provolone cheese — mayo, too, if you're feeling crazy. 

At Hana Food, "Lemmegedduhhhh grilled cheese. With pepper jack and provolone. White bread." is one of the most rewarding sentences you can utter. Curing a hangover? The pepper jack G.C. with banana peppers is a fatal one-two combo; ask for a little sriracha to deliver the knockout hit. The whole thing comes steaming hot, toasty but still soft, and expertly folded into a sheet of white deli paper like some angelic parcel. Plus, it'll only set you back $4.50. Since Hana Foods is across the street from the iconic 24-hour Kellogg's Diner, grab a to-go coffee to enjoy with your grilled cheese on a stoop somewhere. Coffee and grilled cheese is the tragically unsung Breakfast of Champions.

CB&J at Hopleaf — John Tolley

Is it even a grilled cheese? You're not wrong to ask this about the CB&J from Chicago's Hopleaf, a haven for those who love an expansive beer menu and well-executed, yet unpretentious food to pair with it. The sandwich, which has been on their menu for well over 15 years, has been a sort of sleeper hit for the bar, one many assume would be upstaged by meat-filled sandwich offerings. But the CB&J has gained a loyal following, and for good reason. This hybrid peanut butter and jelly/grilled cheese somehow elevates both of those classics.

The sandwich features cashew butter ground in-house, a thick and seedy fig jam, and runny, funky raclette cheese in between slices of sourdough that are griddled nice and toasty. It shouldn't work, but the interplay of the rich, nutty cashew butter with the sweetness and light acidity of the jam off the sturdy richness and assertive flavor of the raclette begs to differ. What's more, the dynamic array of flavors contained in the sandwich means that it can work with myriad beer styles, from light, esther-scented Belgian wits to malty German marzens and Oktoberfests.

Grilled Cheesen Lobster at Maine Kitchen & Topside Tavern — Emilee Unterkoefler

If you find yourself traveling up along the coast of northern New England, you are sure to develop a fondness for the state of Maine and all its secret gems. Hidden throughout the picturesque stretches of rocky shorelines and deep forest beds entangled with rocks and roots, you'll find several charming towns. One must-stop is Freeport, a popular tourist destination thanks to its wide selection of shopping outlets and excellent dining establishments.

One restaurant that sits proudly in the center of all the hustle and bustle is Linda Bean's Maine Kitchen & Topside Tavern. The mouthwatering eats and overall atmosphere exemplify the feel of the state and Linda Beans' "Perfect Maine" brand. Among the many seafood-centric standouts on the menu is Linda Bean's Grilled Cheesen Lobster which shines bright for countless reasons.

You'll find yourself swooning over nearly a half-pound of tender lobster meat, juicy sliced tomato, and thick melty white cheddar slices from Maine's very own Pineland Farms. (In fact, all the ingredients featured in the sandwich are sourced from the Pine Tree State to support the hardworking fishing families and local farmers.) The sandwich is anchored by two buttery crisp slices of sourdough while a side of homemade chips provides a welcome extra portion of carbs. A secret herb dressing effortlessly brings the whole sandwich together — I'll let your taste buds interpret the mystery ingredients.

Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich at ABC Commissary — Dani Zoeller

Walt Disney World Resort is home to plenty of great food options but I tend to gravitate towards the Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich at the ABC Commissary located in Hollywood Studios. The delicious fusion of two comfort food classics is prepared with two thick slices of bread and a gooey filling of melted cheese and shredded buffalo chicken for a tangy kick.

The bread is grilled to perfection, which gives the sandwich a golden crust on the outside and an oozy filling. This results in a delicious combination of flavors and textures sure to satisfy any comfort food craving. It also comes with extra buffalo sauce which can be drizzled over the sandwich or used for dipping. This buffalo sauce is the perfect complement to the sandwich, adding an extra burst of flavor and heat that I'm sure will make this a go-to favorite for you too. My advice: Save some sauce for your side of fries.