The quest for the perfect grilled cheese sandwich

Grilled Cheese Blog · Guide · created about 6 years ago

Not all grilled cheese sandwiches are created equal. There’s more to perfection than just cheese and bread. As a devoted grilled cheese enthusiast, I’ve made it my mission to scour the earth (or midwest, as it were) for the tastiest sandwiches publicly available. The rules are simple: the sandwich must consist primarily of cheese and bread. Meat and veggie additions are ok, with the absolute exception of a beef patty. Omissions and/or substitutions on my part are completely within my rights. (Hold the tomatoes, please.) Most importantly: NO KIDS MENU GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES! (a.k.a, “KMGC”)

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    Grilled Cheese at Melt Bar and Grilled in Cleveland Heights, OH

    "The Hot Italian: grilled salami, honey ham, pepperoni, sun-dried tomato pesto, roasted garlic, provolone."

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Bluephies in Madison, WI

    "Cheesy Pork and Mac: a grilled cheese made with our homemade macaroni and cheese, BBQ pulled pork and caramelized onions."

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Weary Traveler Inc in Madison, WI

    Grilled Cheese Sandwich Wisconsin Cheddar and Organic Mozzarella on buttered wheat bread served with mixed greens.

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    Grilled Cheese at Chedd's Gourmet Grilled Cheese in Eau Claire, WI

    "The Oinkey: Colbey Jack, Queso Blanco, Bacon, and Salami."

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at The Mark Dine & Tap in South Bend, IN

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Melt Bar and Grilled in Cleveland Heights, OH

    "The Dude Abides: Homemade meatballs, fried mozzarella cheese sticks, rich marinara, provolone & romano."

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Fallingwater Cafe in Mill Run, PA

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at E's on Main Street in Middletown, DE

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    Grilled Cheese at Grilled Cheese & Co in Catonsville, Md

    "Sweetest Thing: Brie, marscarpone cheese blended with raspberry preserve and chocolate chips."

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Grilled Cheese & Co in Catonsville, Md

    "The Fresco: Fresh mozzarella & provalone cheese, fire roasted red peppers, basil pesto and a balsamic glaze."

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Steak n Shake in Elkhart, IN

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Chedd's in Eau Claire, WI

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Five Guys Burgers & Fries in Green Bay, WI

    I like it here, for several reasons. They name their current potato farmer on a whiteboard at the entrance. They have a giant sign inside, wherein they claim to be the “Willy Wonkas of burgercraft.” They keep their groceries in the middle of the dining room. Their fries are both greasy and magical, and taste of potatoes. And almost everything you’ll see is eatable, edible. I mean, you can eat almost everything. Maybe not the grilled cheese, though. It’s an inside out hamburger bun, with some american cheese falling out of it. If you close your eyes for a minute, I expect you already know exactly what this tastes like. So, I’m not even going to go through to motions, and insult you with a lot of snarky wordplay. Ok, fuck it. I wrote a haiku. my palate is sad how many guys does it take to make a grilled cheese

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Barkers in Hudson, WI

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    Grilled Cheese sandwich: The Gabby at The Grilled Cheese Grill in Portland, OR

    “The Gabby:” cheddar, swiss, colby jack, mozzarella, pickles, and potato chips on sourdough. Before I first perused their menu, it would not have occurred to me to put chips on a grilled cheese. That said, the more I thought about it, the more sure I was of how awesome it was going to be. (Further, after the rotten success of the Husdon’s “Ultimate” experiment, I’m fighting an urge to put pickles on all of them.) It was the first one I grabbed when our “Fromage a trois” arrived. (Their fun-to-say, three sandwich combo.) It was fantastically cheesy, and easily the favorite of the three we sampled. Good bread, perfectly grilled and greasy, and the potato chips provided a most-delightful crunch. I awarded it a (delightful) 9/10. ($5)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Bar of Wausau in Rothschild, WI

    This sandwich is made from texas toast, american cheese, and tasty bacon. (You have to ask for the bacon) It’s nothing special, but I order it every time I go. The bread is a little boring, and it has a bit of a “Cap’n Crunch” effect of the roof of your mouth. Nonetheless, it’s a reliable 6/10. ($4.99 +bacon)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Red Eye Brewing Co. in Wausau, Wisconsin

    This is the holy grail of grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s made from THREE slices of house-made bread, white cheddar, mozzarella, gorgonzola, parmigiano, roasted garlic and chive aioli. It’s as sophisticated a grilled cheese as I have ever eaten. Despite the social implications of the SERIOUS garlic on this sandwich, it’s definitely a 10/10. Go get one right now. ($7.99)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Great Dane Pub in Wausau, WI

    Smokey gouda, sharp cheddar, basil pesto, and applewood bacon on wheatberry-grain bread. This was pretty tasty. I wasn’t in love with their pesto, (it was a little bit processed for my liking) and the whole mess was bordering on soggy. However, the bacon was top notch and the cheeses were melty and plentiful. Overall, a solid 7/10. (On a side note, these fries are a 9.) ($9.50)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Nook the Casper's & Runyon's Nook in St Paul, MN

    This place is apparently pretty famous for their burgers. That said, it should have come as no surprise when this dreadful thing showed up: hatefully constructed with gaping hole, at least three slices of unmelted american cheese, and all topped off with a sprinkling of grill droppings. Clearly, the kitchen staff does not take kindly to audacious patrons who snub their cheeseburgers. I didn’t actually finish it, but I can say it’s possibly the worst grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever been served, due largely to the disdain with which it was prepared. I awarded it a shameful 2/10…and am seriously considering writing them and asking that they have the decency to remove it from their menu. To their credit, though, the fries and burgers were, in fact, delicious- evidenced by Kate actually finishing a whole one. ($5.50)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Becket's in Oshkosh, WI

    “Grown-up grilled cheese.” Swiss, provolone, cheddar, and grilled peppers and onions on sourdough. Looked great on paper, but it just didn’t come together. Cheeses were ok, but everything else was really unremarkable. Veggies were still crunchy. I gave it 5/10. (Ok, so it probably didn’t deserve the 5. I may have been swayed by hipness and ultra modern furnishings. That may have been a factor.) ($7)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Denny's in Rothschild, WI

    The much anticipated “FRIED CHEESE MELT.” Four fried mozzarella sticks and melted American cheese grilled between two slices of sourdough bread. I was pretty amped up to eat this thing, especially after all the “bad” press it was getting. (See ‘scapegoating-fitness-crazies’ in the Blogroll.) Who would have thought a reject from the kids menu with 4 mozzerella sticks jammed into it would evoke adjectives like “beyond gross,” and “disturbing?” Really, man. Get a grip. The sandwich was good. TREMENDOUSLY salty, though. The bread was pretty unremarkable, and not really appropriately sized. (There was a fair amount of sandwich with literally nothing in it.) Dare I say, it could have used MORE cheese – but I thought the marinara was a nice touch. I gave it a 7/10. Ultimately, I wouldn’t say it lived up to all the hype, but I did find it a pretty nice value at 4 bucks.

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    Grilled Cheese at The Sixth Street Filling Station in wausau, wi

    The “grilled cheese and soup” special – american on wheat. Let me start right there. Now, maybe I’m off base here, but I was a little perturbed to discover they’d made my sandwich on wheat bread without asking me. (Don’t misunderstand me – plain old white bread is not my preference…but it IS the standard, like it or not.) This sandwich was tiny and dry, and a ‘kid’s-menu-grilled-cheese’ in every sense. I knew going in that it was nothing special, but still had some expectations. Fortunately, I had chicken dumpling soup to dunk it in – which was actually quite good. I try to be fair when I order sandwiches take-out, (styrofoam is not kind) but it was an eight block drive. I’m not grading on a curve for that. To be fair, I ordered this over the phone without a menu. What I was actually after, was their “deluxe grilled cheese,” which sounds super tasty. (There is hope for redemption!) Had I known it was their $2.84 kids menu grilled cheese, by my very own rules, I wouldn’t have ordered it. This was a disappointing 2/10. It’s important to note, though, my co-worker had their burger and house fries and raved that they were both scrumptious. ($2.84)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Hudson's Classic Grill in Wausau, WI

    “The Ultimate Grilled Cheese.” Take note, Denny’s – this is how it’s done: melted cheddar, jack and american cheeses, crispy bacon, and FRIED FUCKING PICKLES on three slices of sourdough. (Mind-grenade, right?) In the interest of full disclosure, fried pickles don’t exactly come standard on this thing…but not only did the waitress not even bat an eye, I’m pretty sure I didn’t even get charged for them. (See “Fried Dilly’s” on Hudson’s appetizer menu.) Well, I won’t keep you in suspense, it was EPIC. Perfectly grilled, soaked in butter, cheeses falling out of it on all four sides….and mmmm pickles. I could only eat half. This was a guilt-inducing 10/10. I might be ruined for the others. ($7.99)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at The Grilled Cheese Grill in Portland, OR

    “The Jalapeno Popper:” Roasted jalapenos, colby, cream cheese, and corn chips on sourdough. This wouldn’t normally be something that would jump off a menu for me – but as I was doing my research, it kept coming up, again and again. I was a little apprehensive about the cream cheese, only because historically, I’ve never really been a fan of hot cream cheese. (i.e. crab rangoons.) However, being that it was such a staple, I felt I had an obligation. It wasn’t bad. I admit, I immediately loved the corn chips. Same as with the “Gabby,” the bread was good and grilling was just right. I really wanted to love it, but ultimately found it to be a little dry. To be fair, I did say “easy on the cream cheese” when I ordered, so that may have been my own doing. Regardless, it definitely needed another cheese to hold it together, probably a processed one. I also probably could have done with less jalapenos, but that’s just personal preference. (My accomplice notes: they [the jalepenos] were making my face “all blotchy.”) In the end, I gave it 6/10….which I admit is a little unfair, as it clearly just wasn’t my thing. It got me to thinking, though: there is serious potential here. Grilled Cheese Grill, if you’re reading this, hear me out: “It’s Nacho Grilled Cheese” sandwich: sharp cheddar, fritos, diced jalepenos, and american / velveeta on artisan bread. Maybe with salsa served on this side. It could be epic. Just sayin. ($5)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at The Grilled Cheese Grill in Portland, OR

    “The Jaime:” Mascarpone, nutella, and grilled banana on cinnamon swirl bread. We obviously saved (my first) dessert (grilled cheese) for last. It was delicious, naturally, but somehow very reminiscent of pecan spins. The guts of the thing were super scrumptious. I wish, though, that the bread would have been a little less processed. Something local and fresh would have really made this something mind-blowing. If you’re listening, GCG: go get a little old lady to make you some homemade cinnamon bread. Charge us more for it, we will pay. I gave it a 8/10. ($5.50)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Tillamook Cheese Factory in Tillamook , OR

    “The Centennial Grilled Cheese:” (created for their 100th anniversary in ’09) Tillamook sharp cheddar and vintage white medium cheddar on sourdough bread. You probably can’t tell from the photo, but this was a beast of a sandwich. I did not finish. (Although, since rehydrating from the night before took precedence over eating, I had a belly full of pepsi before I even started.) The cheeses were delicious. The combination of cheddars were a sharp and buttery mess of awesome. Grilling was just right, and the bread was huge and decent. I immediately bought two blocks of the vintage white to take home with me. I gave it an 8. ($6.99)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Cafe 440 in Eugene, Oregon

    Although simply called, “Grilled Cheese Sandwich,” this was anything but ordinary: White American, Tillamook cheddar and Havarti cheeses with roasted garlic aioli on grilled sourdough bread. First, I must talk about this bread. Apparently sourced locally, (as all their ingredients, I’m told) from a place called the Bread Stop, it is unequivocally the best fucking sourdough bread I’ve ever eaten. Thickly sliced, dense, moist, and perfectly grilled. The cheese and garlic aioli were creamy and delicious in a way that makes your eyes roll back in your head. If there had been more of it in there, I wouldn’t have complained. That said, I cannot award a 9 to a sandwich that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about in the 24 hours since I ate it, can I? 10/10 ($7.50)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Jack in the Box - Eugene, OR in Eugene, OR

    “Pastrami Grilled Sandwich:” pastrami, melted swiss, and pickle strips on grilled artisan bread. (No mustard, please.) In the fast food landscape, there aren’t too many grilled sandwiches that can be enjoyed from the comfort of one’s car. (Sadly, a quick glance at their location map reveals a midwest, bare.) This was an awfully tasty alternative to what surely would have been another disappointing late night drive thru misadventure. If you can look past how fatty this pastrami is, it’s pretty salty and scrumptious. In addition to being a pretty good-sized sandwich, the bread was actually good. Despite the bonus points scored by the pickle strips, it clearly needs more cheese - which is why I had to give it a 7/10. ($4.65)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Adventure 212, LLC in Stevens Point, WI

    “Grown-up Grilled Cheese Panini:” Muenster, cheddar, and bacon with basil garlic mayo on multi-grain bread. Sounds good, right? What’s that? Can’t see any of that awesome stuff in the picture? Hrm. Funny, I didn’t taste any of that stuff either. Maybe it’s invisible bacon? Maybe, (since Bistro 212 is attached to a gym) they’re trying to promote healthy eating? At any rate, this was a (hilarious) disappointment: from the soggy, downright used-looking sweet potato fries, to the decorative orange garnish. Where to begin? First of all, let’s start with the name. There was nothing grown-up about this sandwich, nor was it by any stretch a “panini.” Clearly, the fellow holding down the fort on this day has no idea what he’s doing. I should have been tipped off when we were the only people in the whole place – or maybe when we were grossly undercharged at the counter, or perhaps when he apologetically muttered “we’re really low on everything,” as he set down our food. This was one slice of cheddar on multi-grain bread. And tiny. I gave it a 3/10, but it’s only because I have a sense of humor. . . . and because the oranges slices were divine. ($6.50?)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at The Sixth Street Filling Station in wausau, wi

    The “Deluxe Grilled Cheese w/Bacon: Our own thick bread grilled with bacon and three slices of american cheese.” You can’t tell from this angle, but this bread is THICK. Like, encyclopedia thick. (I’m not complaining.) Once again served on multigrain - but this time a dense and chewy multigrain. The cheese and bacon were ample, appropriately proportioned to the mass of bread. I would have preferred to see the american paired with something else, like a swiss, sharp cheddar or a muenster….but it was good. Once again, I took to dunking it in their yummy chicken dumpling soup. Only this time, it wasn’t to help choke the sandwich down. I gave it a 6/10, and would have it again. ($4.74)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Wausau Mine Co in Wausau, WI

    “Miss Piggy: A blend of four melted cheeses on sourdough with sliced ham.” I was optimistic when this thing showed up. It looked like some kind of natural disaster where lives would be lost. As you can see, the cheeses were tremendous. Unfortunately, being that (at least) three of the four cheeses were outside the sandwich, they didn’t really count. What was left was unimpressive; bland sourdough that didn’t taste like sourdough, and ham that tasted all rectangular with rounded corners. (Oh, you know what I’m talking about.) I gave it a 5. I wouldn’t have it again….but enjoyed the cheese-paper immensely. ($6.59)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at UMR in Wausau, WI

    The “California Chicken Panini: Jack cheese, grilled chicken, onions and fresh cilantro.” As noted previously, I happen to know they don’t use real butter to grill their sandwiches. Despite this knowledge, I couldn’t stop myself from enjoying it. The cheese was sufficient, chicken was moist, onions were subtle, and the cilantro didn’t taste like soap, doll hair, stink bugs, or any of the other vile things these folks say it does. Take note, cilantro freaks: maybe if more of you served cilantro in appropriate proportions, the rest of us wouldn’t have to channel our trepidation into hate-haikus and compiling statistical data. Just a thought. Thumbs up, cafeteria Greg! You get a 7. ($3.99)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at The Mint Cafe in Wausau, WI

    The “Grilled Ham and Cheese.” The Mint’s been feeding me this sandwich for the better part of a decade: Two slices of American cheese, and an (almost too big) heap of juicy ham. That’s it. As lunch meats go, ham has never been my favorite – but this ham happens to be tastier than most. (It gets grill-sizzled prior to construction.) Contributing to my fondness, perhaps, is the fact that they’re closed almost everytime I try to go? You know what they say. The Mint delivers a reliable 7/10 - and there’s something to be said for that. ($5.79)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Wild Truffle in Appleton, WI

    The “Italian Grilled Cheese: Imported fontina, provolone, white cheddar, herb ricotta, fresh mozzarella, and fire roasted tomatoes.” Why they thought the garlic wasn’t worth mentioning, I have no idea. I’m not saying it was too much garlic…but it was certainly too much not to mention. Garlic is to be boasted, my friends. Moving on. Bread: theirs was (seemingly) house made, and fantastic. I had hoped their complimentary bread and that of their sandwiches were one in the same, and they WERE. (and equally delightful when grilled and accompanied by an excellent medley of soft cheeses.) I do have a confession to make, though. I kind of panicked in the last moments, and asked that they go easy on the tomatoes….and easy they went. My fault. I really need to learn to trust. All things considered, Wild Truffle racked up a respectable 8/10. While not exactly casual dining, they definitely got the important things right. ($7.50)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Red Ox Seafood & Steak House in Appleton, WI

    The “Grilled Shrimp Melt: Mozzarella, cheddar, bacon, diced tomatoes & Cajun grilled shrimp on Texas white.” (+ side of risotto.) When I tracked down this shrimp grilled cheese on the Red Ox’s lunch menu, I certainly wasn’t going to let a little thing like not being able to eat another bite stand in my way of having it. (I couldn’t bear to live with the kind of regret I suffered in Tillamook.) You got me, though. This is a to-go container. On my lap. In my car. I know, it might seem kind of non-committal. On the contrary, I assure you – were it not for committment, that one bite would simply not have been possible. So, I took it home, and….reheated it when I was drunk. Now, before you get all judgy - hear me out. Sure, a grilled sandwich is certainly going to suffer some degradation sitting in car for 6 hours….and true, I will eat just about anything when I’m drunk. But the way I see it, that just makes it kind of a wash, yes? I did, at least, have the decency to reheat in in the oven? Good. So first, my gripes. The bread was kind of a yawn, and drier than a popcorn fart. Obviously, though, that charge probably isn’t going to stick. More legitimately, though, the sandwich innards never quite made it to the breads edge. (Empty bites make drunkie sad.) Despite those things, it was really pretty good. Plenty of cheese, tasty bacon, not too many tomatoes, and spicy shrimp made it a big mess of yum. If I find myself in Appleton again at lunchtime (and in the mood for some old school supper club action) I would definitely have it again. I gave it an 8. ($9.99) **On an unrelated note, (not that you asked) as a lover of rice, and a first-time eater of risotto, I feel very comfortable calling theirs complete garbage. As a general rule: if salt, pepper, and my being drunk doesn’t make something edible, it probably isn’t food. Sorry, guys.

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Nancy's Ja Mar's in Wausau, WI

    “Grilled Cheese: American on white.” Most bar-restaurants in Wisconsin serve only their “abbreviated” menus on friday nights … so typically, if you want something other than a fish fry, you’d best be under twelve. Thankfully, here was a classic little grilled cheese in its unabbreviated glory. (Well, maybe glory is too stong a word.) It was a little on the dainty side, (bread was pretty thin) but what it lacked in stature, it made for in correctness. Almost made me feel like a kid again. A beer drinking kid, eating dinner in a bar. 6/10 ($4.99)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Ella's Deli in Madison, WI

    This was my first stop on a recent trip to Madison. I’ve been here a number of times over the years, but not in any official, grilled cheese capacity. As one look around this place will tell you, nobody actually comes here for the food. The plethora of animatronic whirligigs and other creepy circusry make this a destination for children and tweakers alike. Their menu is literally 20 pages long, and they boast a number of (I guess?) Jewish favorites. (I.e. Matzo, kugel, tongue sandwich?) Interestingly, internet sources confirm that despite what their name might suggest, they are in fact, not Kosher.But, they have a big fiberglass banana. So…who cares. “Grilled Cheese w/American:” Pretty standard stuff. It was small, but it was pretty alright. (The pickle was skunky.) Curiously, the sandwich itself occupied only about 1/5 of the plate it arrived on. That aside, it was sufficiently crunchy, buttered, and melted - and was a nice light start to what promised to be a small marathon of grilled cheese consumption that day. Actually, I get the feeling they might make a lot of these. I gave it a 6/10, and we escaped without seizure. ($5.10)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Madison Sourdough Co in Madison, WI

    “Grilled Cheese: Havarti, provolone and sun-dried tomato pesto on white sourdough.” This was my second GC of the day, and initially, was just going to be a bread stop. (As it happened, I discovered the sandwich while perusing their website.) So, two birds, as it were. When it arrived, I was rattled. What’s this big, cold wet mess all up in my sandwich?! Silent rage. DON’T IMPOSE YOUR DIETARY AGENDA ON ME, MSC! No, calm down. *breathe* Unfortunately, it was pretty much downhill from here. The “tomato pesto” was more paste than pesto, the bread was seemingly pressed with no butter whatsoever, and the cheese was frankly difficult to locate. It was verging on combustible. (In retrospect, this is all very confusing…as I bought a loaf of their sandwich bread, and it made an excellent grilled cheese.) Fortunately, I only had to eat half of this, thanks to the benefits of teamwork. I gave it a 4/10. Sorry MSC. This hurts me more than it hurts you. ($7.50)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at The Old Fashioned in Madison, WI

    Ironic red candles and supper club lighting aside, the Old Fashioned is pretty much a Wisconsin treasure. It’s crowded and loud, they have damn near thirty wisconsin beers on tap, and they have a five page menu full of words like “cheese,” “wurst,” and ”battered.” (A bit of a conundrum, too, that they manage to make one feel nostalgia for a home state one is in, and still lives.) As expected, they got the grilled cheese right, too. Although not terribly crunchy, it is foolishly delicious. The bacon and roasted red peppers take this sandwich to serious flavor country….and they make a pretty good curd, too. (Despite what their name might suggest, they’re probably better known for these.) I gave the sandwich a 9, and the curds an 8. On a side note: if you think my getting cheese curds on the side was overkill, we probably can’t be friends. ($6.95)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Kwik Trip in Wausau, WI

    OH NO, THEY DIDN’T. Thanks to my sophisticated network of grilled cheese spotters, I got the hot tip on this little gem the day before this. (I don’t know what’s more unsettling here - the absolute certainty of total unpaletability, or this price point.) As luck would have it, I stumbled upon this super low-buck deal on my lunch break. I could not WAIT to hate it, so I came back later and picked one up for a pre-dinner snack. (Please note my arrival at dinner time; which I think is a testament to my sportsmanship.) I took it with me to my mom’s. Had I not already had it on good authority that it was both “terrible,” and stomach-ache inducing, this presentation would have conveyed both those things pretty effectively. Snack attack, indeed. You have to hand it to them, though. This does look pretty convincing.Well, all it took was one bite, and I knew I’d found something pretty special. Grilled cheese #27, and the spectrum was finally complete. This bland, luke-warm, sponge of mystery was my very first 1/10…and marks the successful establishment of the full, grilled cheese spectrum. The “Roy G Biv” of sandwiches, as it were. Let the quest continue.

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at National Coney Island in Detroit, MI

    I had an hour and forty minutes on the ground in the Detroit airport, and managed to rustle up a grilled cheese in the McNamara Terminal. I had never heard of National Coney Island before, but a quick google revealed that they have 20 locations throughout Michigan. (Something about this seems less than “National” to me, but apparently no one’s policing this.) I was pretty hungry, so it kind of hit the spot. Truthfully though, it offers nothing special. It had a nice crunch on it, but whatever they grilled it with wasn’t all that tasty. I gave it a 5, and as my mom is apt to say, “Well, I would eat it if I was starving…” 5/10

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Flour Sack LLC in Eagle River, WI

    “Unbelievable Raspberry Grilled Cheese: Two slices of sourdough bread with seedless red raspberry preserves, swiss cheese, onion, and pecans.” I found this little oddity while conducting a google search to drum up some blog prospects in Eagle River. Among the usual fluff, a review popped up on Trip Advisor, using some words not typically befitting of a grilled cheese sandwich description. Taking into account my not caring much for jellies or preserves of any sort, and that I generally find nuts to be disruptive - I cannot account for my inexplicable optimism about eating this. (I probably found the eccentricity a little refreshing after the long run of boring grilled cheeses I’ve eaten lately.) Regardless of the reason, I found both the sandwich and the cafe pretty charming. Mind you, the sandwich was as dainty as the soup & sandwich plate it arrived on, most of the raspberry filling was smack dab in the center, and “unbelievable” is a probably a stretch. That said, the big slab of swiss was exactly right, the nuts didn’t really bother me all that much, and diced onions made brilliant sense. After a lot of back and forth, I ultimately forgave its size and inconsistency and gave it a seven. (I’m a sucker for cute dishes, it’s a sickness.)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Soda Pops Restaurant in Eagle River, WI

    “2010 winner of the Grilled Wisconsin Cheese Recipe contest. Wisconsin Sarvecchio Parmesan Crusted Grilled Cheese: wheat bread with pesto, Wisconsin Swiss & Cheddar, sliced roma tomato, then finished with winning Wisconsin Parmesan cheese grilled on the outside.” Behold, the winning submission in the grilled cheese contest held in Eagle River this past August. Soda Pop’s boasts being one of the oldest operating soda fountains in Wisconsin. Perhaps more noteworthy, though, is their adjacent retail space, offering 150+ varieties of old-timey bottled soda. (Probably one of the few places in the midwest one can still actually peruse these gems in person.) We wandered in at 2:00 on a saturday, eight of us. They were reasonably busy, so we split ouselves in two groups. Still. There. Was. Waiting. Although the boy who waited on us was earnestly apologetic about his own service – it was hilariously clear that he wasn’t holding himself accountable for it. After all, he couldn’t possibly be expected to provide adequate service under these conditions. (I mean, have you SEEN all these people??) If you’ve read any of my past reviews, you may have picked up on the fact that I’m not all that keen on tomatoes. Despite my aversion, I’ve been trying to make a sincere effort to order more items “as-is.” (As much to broaden my own horizons, as to support the “integrity” of the process. Frankly, if you removed the word ‘without’ from my vocabulary, I would sometimes be hard-pressed to order a meal.) Perhaps predictably, both juicy slices still landed right back into the bottom of the basket after only one bite. Just couldn’t do it. Sadly, even after that wrong was righted, it still didn’t come together for me. The parmesan crust offered a promising texture that unfortunately, the rest of the sandwich just didn’t deliver on. Neither slice of cheese was melted, and the pesto that I was so optimistic about left much to be desired. Ultimately, I just have to believe something was lost in translation here. If this sandwich truly did justice to the original, it must have been one hell of a contest. After our meal, a thirty minute wait for our bills ensued, during which we joked that after they were paid, we could just ask for the menus back and order dinner. I gave it a 5/10, and a “Meh.” I will be back for the soda. ($5.95)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at The Millstone of Iola Mills in Iola, WI

    “Grilled Cheese: American on sourdough.” I was pretty happy with myself for scoring a grilled cheese respite on a day trip to Iola (population 1229,) and even more pleased to find one that served a dozen varieties of gelato. As I understand, this place has some historic value as well, although I don’t claim to know all the facts, as their website is a little bit feckless. (Is it a museum? A gift shop? Restaurant? Who can tell.) Anyway, it’s a charming little place with friendly service and eclectic decor. Although their menu carried a bevy of promising grilled cheese prospects, (my accomplice had a pretty creative hawaiian panini with bacon, onion and pineapple) for whatever reason, I decided to test the least redeeming of these. Say what you will, I still think the grilled cheese with the fewest ingredients can be the most delicious, and also the hardest to get right. In this case, unfortunately, less was not more. Admittedly, I was pretty charmed by the curious little nubbins on the bread crust - but as lunches go, it was pretty mediocre. Off-putting, too, was the unending stream of sax-y, Kenny G muzak, which (coupled with fact that the place was otherwise empty,) somehow made me feel like I was on an awkward first date. I gave the sandwich a 5, and the gelato a 7. Worth a visit, so long as you’re ordering the gelato, or sandwiches with a 4-ingredient minimum. ($3.95)

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    Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Friendship House Family Restaurant in Rhinelander, WI

    “The Chicken Bacon Melt: Crispy bacon, lightly-breaded chicken and melted swiss.” I wound up at this unassuming family restaurant a couple weeks ago; (pretty much the quintessential, locally-owned-and-badly-named, in the still recognizable body of a failed chain) and was pleasantly surprised to find this little beast. Actually, once I saw the size of their menu, I was feeling pretty lucky – this thing had to be like, 6 full pages of laminated possibilities. Victory. Well, I can’t lie. It was downright scrumptious. Big and crunchy, delightfully salty, and abundantly cheesed: everything a good grilled sandwich should be. Well played, Friendship House. You earned a meritable 8/10. (Ok, barely an 8, but an 8′s an 8, right?) *slow clap* ($6.95)

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