Autumn Sunset at Cheese Plus
This sandwich ($8.50) looks exactly like the idealized grilled cheese of my childhood. Two pieces of perfectly golden bread with a thin crust holding in a layer of melted orange cheese. But instead of Kraft Singles, the cheese on this sandwich is a combination of intensely nutty Dutch Mimolette, a sweet, caramelly Carmody from Marin County, and a pepperoncini studded Pecorino from Rome. Unseen beneath the cheese is a spread of chilis which adds a pleasing, tongue tingling heat.
Grilled Cheese From Hog Island Oyster Company
Hog Island is famous for the oysters they pull out daily from the waters around Tomales Bay. And indeed a trip to their restaurant in the Ferry Building would not be complete without sucking down a half dozen or so of those briny beauties. Yet try to save room for the Grilled Cheese Sandwich ($12). Though it’s an outlier on the seafood-focused menu, it’s one of the best grilled cheeses I’ve had.
Hog Island uses a combination of three very different cheeses: stinky cave aged gruyère, tart fromage blanc, and mezzo secco, a semi-firm cow’s milk cheese with a soft, milky flavor. When heated together, the cheeses achieve the perfect melting consistency; pulling apart in long, gooey strands. The flavor is a sharp and nutty. It would be perfect washed down with a glass of white wine.
Burrata at Blue Barn Gourmet
How can anyone not love burrata? (Please explain yourself if you're out there.) It’s made from mozzarella and cream. If that doesn’t say it all, try heating up this traditional cheese from Puglia. It will become super soft and velvety; just right for spreading between two pieces of crunchy, olive oil slathered ciabatta.
And what do you know, that’s exactly how this sandwich from Blue Barn ($9) starts. On top of the burrata there are layers of peppery arugula and sliced Roma tomatoes which help to balance out the richness of the cheese. A smear of pesto aioli finishes off this delicious caprese-meets-grilled cheese sandwich.
TBD at Mission Cheese
In my opinion, a simple grilled cheese is so good on its own that any extra ingredients better really add to the dish. Like the duo of sautéed chanterelles and criminis on this sandwich ($10) from Mission Cheese. The mushrooms provide a deep, earthy flavor that nicely contrasts against the stinky flavor of the Marieke Gouda. And the bright citrus pesto? It provides acid and zip.
The gouda has a great melting texture—it becomes soft but not leaky, which is important to stand up to the extra crunchy slices of Della Fattoria bread. The sandwich is grilled into a delicious, squishy flatness and each bite releases a stream of olive oil onto your hands.
Grilled Cheese of the Day at Cowgirl Creamery Sidekick
t should come as no surprise that a grilled cheese courtesy of the fine cheese mavens at Cowgirl Creamery is a truly excellent one. The sandwich changes daily, depending on available ingredients and the whims of its creators. A recent combination featured three cheeses: sottocenere (Italian truffle cheese), Cowgirl Wagonwheeel, and Pecorino Romano, pressed on thick slices of Acme sourdough loaf ($7). The three cheeses worked together remarkably well; the truffle flavor was present throughout, but didn't dominate the cheeses' rich creaminess. The sandwich was prepared in a panini press of sorts, but the Acme bread still remained thick and fluffy.
Grilled Cheese at Arlequin Cafe
Arlequin Café in Hayes Valley is one of my stand-bys. The food is excellent, the wine flows freely, and they have a beautiful back garden for those occasional sunny days. Of course, it's important to be well-equipped for the gray days, and Arlequin steps up with well-done versions of comforting classics. Take their Grilled Cheese ($9). The sandwich is elementally sound—generously buttered, high-quality bread and ample amounts of cheese make for a decadent lunch. But the added touch of fresh basil cuts through the smokiness of the cheese, adding a summer lightness to the sandwich.
Jalapeño Popper at The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen
The crew at The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen have become San Francisco's whiz kids of grilled cheese, and the daily line out the door and around the block is a testament to the success of their creations.
One of the most interesting, and most popular, is the Jalapeño Popper ($9). The combination of goat cheese, apricot-jalapeno relish, and bacon is killer—it's an excellent fusion of creamy tangy chevre, spicy kick, and smoke. On some visits, the relish was applied too liberally: rather than adding a hint of sweet, it dominated the goat cheese and clashed with the bacon. All in all, it's a sandwich worth trying, perhaps with the added request to go easy on the relish.