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Great Grilled Cheese in San Francisco

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Ah, the classic grilled cheese…I grew up with Velveeta, so my cheese sandwiches were melted Parkay butter, a slice of Velveeta melted to perfection with a squirt of ketchup. And even though even I don’t make them that often anymore, I’ve graduated to a good cheddar, real butter, and sriracha ketchup. Sometimes I will throw in an egg in too, but then I am not sure that is technically still a grilled cheese sandwich….but I digress.

Photo credit: Lucas Richarz

April is National Grilled Cheese month (seriously, there is a month for everything…when is sushi month?!) and so I thought I would share some really great grilled cheeses sandwiches in San Francisco.

We actually had a grilled cheese kerfuffle two weeks ago by my office when Vice President Joe Biden stopped for a grilled cheese lunch at The Melt in San Francisco’s Financial District. I was trying to go to the post office and the entire building was blocked off so that the VP could eat his lunch. The Melt has a truck too, it might have been easier to drive the truck to Joe’s caravan rather than shut down two streets!

Anyway, The Melt offers a decent grilled cheese, but these are my favorite picks:

Blue Barn Gourmet (2105 Chestnut St, b/t Steiner St & Pierce St)
This Russian Hill salad spot also offers six incredible grilled cheese sandwiches with cheese choices that include Pt. Reyes Toma, manchego, and provolone. But the must-have in my book is the grilled burrata. I think this is the only place in town where you can get fresh mozzarella burrata, sliced Roma tomato, peppery arugula & pesto aioli on an olive oil brushed ciabatta roll – mamma mia!

Great Grilled Cheese in San Francisco: Blue Barn gourmet burrata
Photo credit Blue Barn Gourmet

Cowgirl Creamery (1 Ferry Bldg)
Of course, the undisputed cheese mecca in the Ferry Building serves a great grilled cheese. They have one that changes every week as well as open-faced toasties with Cabot Clothbound Cheddar and a flatbread cheese melt with Wagon Wheel cheese. Decisions, decisions.

Hog Island Oyster Co. (1 Ferry Bldg)
Cowgirl Creamery may be the queen of cheeses, but there is another spot in the Ferry Building that just might have the best grilled cheese. When a friend first told me she went to this oyster spot and had an amazing grilled cheese sandwich I thought she was crazy. I mean who goes to an oyster shop for cheese!? Then one time I forced myself to have just a half dozen oysters so that I could try the sandwich. And wow! Their sandwich has Cowgirl Creamery Fromage blanc, Vella mezzo secco, and cave-aged Gruyere, truly an out-of-this-world combination!

Great Grilled Cheese in San Francisco: Hog Island Oyster Grilled Cheese
Hog Island Oyster grilled cheese, Photo credit: Lauren Loves to Eat

Hi Tops (2247 Market St, b/t Sanchez St & 16th St)
Hi Tops might be known for their fried chicken sandwich (they are serious competition for Bakesale Betty) but they have a magnificent buttery grilled cheese with Gruyere, cheddar, Jarlsberg, and smoked Gouda with dried fruit chutney.

The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen (2400 Harrison St, b/t 21st St & 20th St)
A favorite place of mine to go I always have a hard time choosing which grilled cheese to get! They have a really great selection of cheeses, and fillings, you can, of course, add meat if you like, but I am a big fan of their pickles! My preferred sandwich is the Jalapeño Popper with goat cheese, apricot-jalapeno relish, and bacon.

Great Grilled Cheese in San Francisco: The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen Jalapeño Popper
The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen Jalapeño Popper

Bacon Bacon (205A Frederick St.)
Although I really like the goat grilled cheese at The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, when I am craving a goat cheese sandwich I seek out the Bacon Bacon food truck. Technically a BLT, the LGBT..because goat cheese….still qualifies as one of the best in the city!

Great Grilled Cheese in San Francisco: Bacon Bacon LGBT Sandwich
Bacon Bacon LGBT Sandwich

Outerlands (4001 Judah Street, b/t 45th Ave & 46th Ave)
Their grilled cheese is worth a trip out to Outer Sunset. They use house-made levain (the owner took baking lessons from Tartine Bakery, it better be good!) brushed with garlic oil. Add in several artisanal cheeses (they don’t say) then they put that baby into a cast-iron skillet until it is grilled to perfection. Bonus: add the egg on top…but you know how much I love eggs, so I may not be objective!

Tartine Bakery & Cafe (600 Guerrero St b/t 19th St & 18th St)
Oh, the dilemma! Going to one of the best bakeries in town it tortures you, you want to eat absolutely everything! Stick to your mission of seeking out grilled cheese and steer clear of the pastries! Think you are on easy street now? There are nearly a dozen grilled cheese choices, like sheep’s milk cheese with quince jam to Pecorino with crushed almonds and olive oil, oh yes! But my recommendation is the simple ham and Gruyere sandwich with Dijon. Finish it all and you reward yourself with the banana creme tart!

Mission Cheese (736 Valencia St)
What I like about Mission Cheese is, like Cowgirl Creamery, they celebrate American cheese. Don’t get me wrong, I love cheese from all over the world, but American cheeses are really under-valued and I want to support the efforts to teach Americans and more than cheese is more than Kraft slices! All the sandwiches are delicious but the one I crave is the ‘Chedd or Alive’ with two kinds of cheddar cheese, Cabot and Vella along with an apple and ale chutney on the house levain bread.

Great Grilled Cheese in San Francisco: Mission Cheese Chedd or Alive
Mission Cheese Chedd or Alive, Photo credit: Pei Ketron

Straw (203 Octavia Blvd)
Known for their burgers, particularly burgers with glazed doughnut buns, Straw does have one amazing grilled cheese sandwich. The Parmesan Crusted Grilled Cheese is cheddar and Swiss cheese grilled with Parmesan cheese that becomes crusted with the bread. Too simple for you? Add tomato, avocado, and maple-glazed bacon.

The Butler & The Chef (155A S Park St at 3rd St)
I couldn’t be called a real francophile unless I listed a Croque monsieur! Here the sandwich is Niman Ranch ham and Emmenthal cheese with crème fraîche Béchamel – oh la la!

That’s my list of great grilled cheese in San Francisco, how about you? Do you have a favorite, not on this list? How about your favorite grilled cheese where you live?

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