O.C.’s Best: Grilled Cheese

The all-American, ooey-gooey comfort food is at its savory best when done simply

The classic grilled cheese sandwich has been elevated to a near art form thanks to obsessed chefs and cheese-lovers alike. Here are seven places in Orange County where you can indulge in the melty, crispy goodness of this nostalgic staple.


 

1Shuck Oyster Bar
It’s a surprise to find grilled cheese perfection at an oyster bar, but it’s the most popular item on the menu. The sandwich, LEFT, arrives in slender wedges with molten goodness oozing out of panini-pressed sourdough slices. No tricked-out fillings here, just two kinds of aged cheddar and Parmesan that hit the salty, cheesy jackpot. Your server might offer an ancho-chile aioli Po’Boy sauce for dipping—not vital, but delicious nonetheless. $12; 3313 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa, 949-420-0478, shuckoysterbar.com

2Boudin SF
Bread is king here. The house made sourdough, sliced thick and copiously slathered with butter for a deep golden crisp, has a distinctive tang that pairs amazingly with the creamy Havarti and sharp cheddar in the Great Grilled Cheese. Prepare yourself for extra crunch and flavor with each bite: The sourdough is Parmesan-crusted. And if you want grilled cheese for dessert, try the Grilled Brie with apples and fig jam. $7 to $9; locations in Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Irvine, and Santa Ana; boudinbakery.com

3Waff-N-Roll
This little food truck delivers everything you could want in a grilled cheese: a melange of savory, rich, and tangy flavors with five kinds of cheese—sharp cheddar, Swiss, Jack, pepper Jack, and goat cheese crumbles—all tucked in a warm and crisp-to-the-last-bite waffle. Mix it up by adding avocado, bacon, sauteed mushrooms, or, to cut some of that richness, fresh tomato. $8.50; mobile locations throughout Orange County; 949-715-1999, waffnroll.com

4Sessions Sandwiches
One of O.C.’s coolest sandwich spots adds a Southern twist to its white cheddar grilled cheese: a smear of smoky pimento cheese. The grilled ciabatta bread offers a rustic crunch, and if you’re a sandwich dipper, you’re in luck; Sessions also makes it own roasted tomato soup. Make sure to order a pickle to go with that sandwich. $6; 2823 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, 949-220-9001, sessionssandwiches.com

5The Counter
Resist the urge to order a hefty burger and instead get the Grilled Cheese Trifecta, with Tillamook cheddar, American, and provolone on sourdough. The flavor is mild yet satisfying, and the trio of cheeses achieves that iconic stretchy stringiness. Make it a “superfecta” by adding applewood smoked bacon. A new build-your-own option allows you to choose any three cheeses from American, feta, Gruyere, goat cheese, and more, plus toppings from the burger menu. $7 to $8; locations in Irvine and Newport Beach; thecounterburger.com

6The Melt
It’s pretty much Grilled Cheese Central here, with nine cheese-centric sandwiches on the menu, all prepared on an orderly row of gleaming griddles. The restaurant’s interior is fresh and minimalist, with all-white subway tiles, pale wood paneling, and pops of orange. We love the Classic, a straightforward offering with the right proportion of melted aged cheddar and artisan bread—it’s light and fluffy, not at all greasy. For something a bit more decadent, there’s the Mac Daddy: aged cheddar mac ’n’ cheese with bacon stuffed between slices of bread. $5 to $7; 73 Fortune Drive, Irvine, 949-954-6621, themelt.com

7Boathouse Collective
Executive chef Mathieu Royer’s answer to over-the-top grilled cheese sandwiches? More cheese! He uses a blend of Gruyere, brie, and burrata in his rendition, and the result is a creamy, gloriously liquified gob of cheese that’s barely contained by the levain bread. It’s served with an addictive romesco, a roasted-pepper-and-almond dip that should be bottled. $9; 1640 Pomona Ave., Costa Mesa, 949-646-3176, boathousecollective.com

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