Best grilled cheese photo
(Grilled cheese at Stoney's; Photo by Kathryn Norwood)

Best grilled cheese

Going Out Guide staff  |  Updated 04/23/2012

Let's just get this out of the way at the beginning: Grilled cheese isn't the kind of delicacy that requires the sure hand of a trained chef. But should you choose to indulge outside the home, we'll steer you toward these great examples of the childhood favorite.

 

Bayou Bakery

Arlington, VA

The grilled pimento cheese sandwich from chef David Guas is revelatory, with a shmear of piquant, custard-like cheese slathered between glistening slices of hot toast, making for one delicious texture contrast.

 

Birch & Barley and ChurchKey

Washington, DC

The ciabatta plus fontina mix at ChurchKey gets its grown-up flavor from truffle oil. The dish is served with a tomato soup dipping sauce. Chef Kyle Bailey was inspired to serve the classic combo because of memories of his mom's "killer" grilled cheese.

 

Bourbon

+ Multiple Locations

The neighborhood bar has always had above-average food, but grilled cheese is one of the best items to order. It's bright yellow cheese on thick, singed bread. The side of waffle fries costs extra, but it's worth the splurge.

 

Cava

+ Multiple Locations

The Cava restaurants offer one of the most exciting twists on the sandwich: grilled halloumi sliders. To make the dish, chef-owner Dimitri Moshovitis grills tomato, onion and slices of halloumi. He then places the ingredients on a hamburger-like bun, douses it in olive oil and grills the entire sandwich. The sliders come with a house-made Greek yogurt for dipping.

 

Central Michel Richard

Washington, DC

Mushrooms take on a dominant role in this cheese sandwich. A duxelle of button and other mushrooms, roasted Vidalia onion and garlic is pressed between Swiss cheese. The sandwich quarters/triangles arrive cheerily arranged on a wooden board, with a four-cheese dipping sauce.

 

Galaxy Hut

Arlington, VA

Melted American and mild cheddar ooze from either wheat or white Texas toast. When developing the menu, owner Lary Hoffman wanted to offer dishes that could be made vegetarian and "stuff that's traditionally awesome to eat when you're drinking beer." The grilled cheese fulfills both goals. This sandwich has one of the thickest layers of cheese in town.

 

The Light Horse

Alexandria, VA

Of the four (!) grilled cheese options here, go for the Big Cheese, a gooey mix of Monterey jack, gruyere and yellow cheddar on challah bread that has been pressed into a crispy panini. Chef Adam Lippe says the kitchen coarsely grates the cheeses and tosses them with freshly snipped chives, salt and pepper and a bit of garlic. The coarse grate, he says, "provides a better melt."

 

Quarry House Tavern

Silver Spring, MD

Slices of provolone, Swiss and cheddar come together on sourdough bread in Silver Spring's basement bar-cave. "The biggest argument I normally hear is whether you butter the bread or the grill," says owner Jackie Greenbaum. Quarry House butters both. "As far as I'm concerned the more butter, the more fat, the better we all are."

 

The Saloon

Washington, DC

The grilled cheese here probably most closely resembles the one your mama used to make. The sandwich arrives on thin slices of white bread (or rye or wheat, if you so desire) and comes with pickles and fries. It's not a mind-blowing dish, but it's a humble, satisfying accompaniment to a pint.

 

Garden District

Washington, DC

Order the buttery, grilled cheese here and find that it packs a couple of surprises. For one, the sandwich arrives with four cheeses oozing from between slices of a healthier, grainy bread. But the best part is the portion: With three perfect triangles, it's really a sandwich and a half, making it perfect for sharing.

 

Stoney's Bar & Grill

Washington, DC

Widely regarded as the gold standard in town, this grilled cheese sandwich is forged from the basics: American cheese and thick white bread. The "super" grilled cheese comes with bacon, onion and tomato. Owner Tony Harris prefers bulk American cheese over the pre-sliced variety.

 

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