When it comes to grilled cheese sandwiches, I used to be a purist. Two square shaped pieces of white bread, gooey yellow cheese (cheddar or American), lots of butter slathered on both sides of the bread, a hot iron skillet, a spatula and that's all that's needed (kind of like the one pictured above).
I still admit to indulging in this comforting treat, especially on a cold winter day, sometimes accompanied by a bowl of tomato soup.
However, with a whole world of grilled cheese sandwiches out there it is getting hard to ignore the new versions that can be very good but definitely stretch the definition of grilled cheese sandwich.
I call these the "fancy" grilled cheeses. Anything goes with the cheese itself: Manchego, Smoked Gouda, Camembert, Mascarpone, Gruyere and Gorgonzola to name a few or a blend or mix of any of the thousands of other cheeses out there.
Next there's the seasoning and additions to the sandwich such as truffle grilled cheese--and what's on top like ham, duck, prosciutto, slices of apple, red cabbage, hot peppers, chutney, kale and more. These fancy creations may look something like this:
Then there's the soup. No longer is your restaurant grilled cheese sandwich served with a cup of Cambell's Tomato Soup, it has to be tomato and fennel, basil or something even more exotic.
Chicago restaurants offer a landmine of upscale grilled cheese sandwiches, our favorite, Gayle's Best Ever Grilled Cheese, available in fair weather at Farmer's Markets including Lincoln Park's Green City Market and year around at their brick and mortar location at 108 N. State St.
Gayle's outstanding menu offers a variety of choices from their "Classic" to "Little Italy" and even lobster on Fridays.
If you are looking to kick up your grilled cheese sandwiches at home, check out the Grilled Cheese Academy that offers 148 versions of cheese sandwiches that can loosely be defined as grilled cheese such as this bacon, cheese and habanero beauty pictured here. You can find the recipe for this and the 147 others, here.
If you'd rather have someone else do the work for you, this Sunday, January 15, Time Out is holding their second annual Grilled Cheese Meltdown where you can check out creations from the following Chicago spots: Gayle's Best Ever Grilled Cheese, Dusek's, Same Day Cafe, Cheesie's Pub & Grub, South Water Kitchen, Toasty Cheese Mobile Eatery, Michael Jordan's Steak House Chicago, Jerry's & Wyler Road. Click here for tickets and let us know what you think.
UPDATE: The winner of the Time Out Grilled Cheese Meltdown is Jerry's with their Nutball Grilled Cheese. Runner's up Gayle's (2nd) and Dusek's (3rd).
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Filed under: Chicago's Best