Philadelphia, PA - The grilled cheese sandwich, once considered so plain it was relegated to kids' menus, has now gained grown-up favor and flavor among specialty food vendors, lunch spots, and esteemed eateries in and around Philadelphia.
Here's Where To Find Downright Upscale Versions Of The Grilled Cheese
Sure, a couple of slices of American slapped-on buttered white bread will do at home. Still, those eating out can discover the joys of melted manchego, sharp provolone, brie, and enhancements such as fried jalapenos and homemade brisket.
The Classic, Only Better:
- The enormous sandwiches in town come from just south of South Street's deservedly Famous 4th Street Delicatessen. Though the retro hangout is best known for its overstuffed corned beef specials, it also makes the city's mightiest grilled cheese, available with or without bacon. 700 S. 4th Street, (215) 922-3274
- The Grill Cheese truck calls University City its semi-permanent home and names its specialties after nearby institutions and neighborhoods. The Penn Quaker is Swiss, and Asiago with sautéed spinach on rye with garlic butter, and the Drexel Dragons pairs pepper jack with grilled jalapenos and red sauce on Tuscan bread. Various locations, (215) 715-1084
- Out of the shadow of grand sibling operation Fork, casual High Street on Market has earned national accolades for its house-made pieces of bread, which happen to furnish the perfect bases for the restaurant's sublime "Best Grilled Cheese Ever," made with Pennsylvania Noble cheddar and cultured butter on roasted potato bread. 308 Market Street, (215) 625-0988
- The Rittenhouse home of East Coast-based seafood very Luke's Lobster is best known for its lobster roll but does non-crustacean eaters right with its grilled Gruyère on classic Maine bread (with lobster for those who wish). 130 S. 17th Street, (215) 564-1415
- East Passyunk's best-kept secret, Watkins Drinkery, makes a mean burger and switches up its grilled cheese recipes on a delicious whim. The artisanal concoction always comes on sourdough, gets fries on the side, and never costs more than $9. 1712 S. 10th Street, (215) 339-0175
- Fishtown - Bottle Bar East Gastropub, 16 Taps Craft Beer Bar, Craft Beer Retailer, Local Arts Showcase, Beer Lover's Hangout. Know for its great grilled cheese and Half priced grilled cheese Sundays
Triple—& Quadruple—The Cheese:
- Three-cheese griddled sandwich after midnight? Yes, please. Northern Liberties' classic Silk City Diner loads American, provolone, and Swiss cheeses onto country white, adds a tomato, and country ham or bacon (for those who so desire), for the ultimate late-night or day-after cure-what-ails-you fare. 435 Spring Garden Street, (215) 592-8838
- Fishtown's perfect coffee-plus-morning cocktails Soup Kitchen Café does its triple-cheesed grilled cheese four ways: plain, with pickled green tomatoes, vegan, or with a cup of tomato soup. 2146 E. Susquehanna Avenue, (215) 427-1680
- The South Philly Taproom presaged the movement of the hip, new drinking-dining establishments to its neighborhood. Longtime locals and newcomers might dress differently, but they agree on the three-cheese grilled cheese served with dense tomato lager soup, pickles, and fries.1509 Mifflin Street, (215) 271-7787
- Cozy, all-American Tavern on Camac combines four kinds of cheese on its griddled sourdough: Cooper sharp, Cotswald, pepper jack, and Midnight Moon, and serves it with a cup of tomato soup. 243 S. Camac Street, (215) 545-1102
The Meat Of The Matter:
- Double-decker Center City establishment Good Dog Bar loads porter-braised brisket and Carolina barbecue onto New York sharp cheddar and sourdough to create a strong competitor to the bar's famous Roquefort-stuffed burger. 224 S. 15th Street, (215) 985-9600
- The tradition goes mobile, and the menu changes daily at Say Cheese food truck, an operation known for rich to quirky recipes that might include oxtail, brisket, or pork belly. These delights are served citywide from the Navy Yard to Love Park and out into the suburbs.
- Main Line Brew Café and Fermenteria of Tired Hands Brewing Company serve rib-sticking sandwiches to go with their small-batch beer. One menu standout: A bologna panini made with Lebanon-style lunchmeat and smoked white cheddar from Lancaster County. Brew Café, 16 Ardmore Avenue, Ardmore, (610) 896-7621; Fermenteria, 35 Cricket Terrace, Ardmore, (484) 413-2983
All Gussied Up:
- Two west of Broad Street locations of The Milk House doubles down on dairy with a menu of grilled cheeses and ice cream (plus mac and cheese, soups, salads, and cheese fries). The twin institutions improve on the classic grilled cheese and tomato by adding bacon and avocado and consider their sourdough cheesesteak not a steak but a grilled cheese. 37 S. 19th Street, (267) 639-4286; Suburban Station, 1617 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, (267) 606-6757
- Suppose anyone in town knows and loves cheese. In that case, Talula's Daily owner Aimee Olexy carries only the finest fromages in her charming Washington Square breakfast-through-supper eatery's dairy case. Those same cheeses appear between grilled slices of artisan slices of bread via recipes that change with the season. 208 W. Washington Square, (215) 592-6555
- Workers who lunch fill the two floors of Rittenhouse's Devil's Alley to down a done-right selection of comfort foods, including a sandwich of cheddar, mozzarella, roasted red peppers, and pesto on griddled wheat bread. 1907 Chestnut Street, (215) 751-0707
- Tria's first pair of elegant, wine-centric cafes (the company also has an upscale taproom and a cafe) pride themselves on the efficient service of tapas-style fare. On their menus: a savory roasted mushroom and brie-pressed sandwich with baby spinach and truffle oil. 123 S. 18th Street, (215) 972-8742; 1137 Spruce Street, (215) 629-9200
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Written By: Philly Bite Magazines Staff
Philadelphia Best Of Series consists of a round-up of the best places to find great food, entertainment, and more in Philly.