Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwich from The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen.
Since The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen opened its Mission branch earlier this month, I’ve had grilled cheese on the brain, and have become almost unnervingly aware of its omnipresence. You wouldn’t expect Absinthe to have it, but their chef makes an appropriately up-market version for $14 with gruyere, cheddar, pickled red onion, and jalapeno-sun-dried tomato jam on pan de mie. And Mr. Lobster Pot Pie himself, Michael Mina, offers an $11 lunch-time (bargain?) of soup and grilled cheese, made with Firebrand Bakery bread and Point Reyes Toma.
Here’s a rundown of some other restaurant grilled cheeses around town. These are tiered according to price, starting with the cheapest, which—mind you—is among the best, for several reasons.
1) Chomp N’ Swig The sourdough bread slices in Chomp N’ Swig’s bacon butter crunch ($4.50) are slathered with white cheddar and a combination of bacon, butter, and “secret spices,” blended together into a spreadable consistency. You can add pork shoulder if you like, or house-made spicy guacamole. This unassuming Inner Richmond spot also has a way-above-average beer selection, including Ommegang Abbey Ale and Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch. 1541 Clement Street, 415-683-5946
2) The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen One of the owners at The American, Heidi Gibson, racked up a wall-full of trophies during her years on the competitive grilled cheese circuit. And it shows. If you’re a fan of spicy things like I am, get the Jalapeno Popper ($9), rich with soft local chevre slathered onto slabs of perfectly chewy and crispy Pinkie’s levain. It also contains a lovely jalapeno-apricot relish that’s sometimes available by the jar. Watch out for a scaled up dinner menu to drop here in the coming months. 2400 Harrison Street
3) Straw This place has a cheeseburger that uses two glazed donuts instead of buns, and the grilled cheese with tomato and bacon ($10.75) is almost as heart-stopping. There is extra Parmesan cheese pressed into the bread before it hits the griddle, and the tomato soup ($2) is laced with a lot of cream. This is the softest grilled cheese I tried on a recent crawl. It’s tasty, but so heavy that one would have to get horizontal after consuming the whole thing. 203 Octavia, 415-431-3663
4) Two Sisters If you’d like a delicious cocktail, like a chamomile old fashioned ($10) to cut the fat of your grilled cheese, Two Sisters is the place. Their grilled cheese ($12) was definitely on the crispier side, made with garlic buttered toast, and St. George cheddar. All orders come with smoky tomato soup on the side. 597 Hayes, 415-863-3655
5) Hog Island Oyster Company A grilled cheese for high rollers, Hog Island Oyster Company’s $13 number is their only menu item available to-go. The kitchen stuffs a foccacia-like green onion bread slab from Acme with Cowgirl Creamery’s fromage blanc, aged Vela jack, and—to raise your pinkie finger, just so—a touch of cave-aged gruyere. The sandwich was specifically built for dunking in the bar’s creamy clam chowder, but a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and the accompanying house-pickled vegetables make a great, and less gut-busting, accompaniment. If you can afford it, this grilled cheese is worth it, as it’s one of the best in the City. 1 Ferry Bldg. 415-391-7117
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