Grilled cheese sandwiches are one of those amazing foods that have made the transition from being a childhood staple to an adulthood treat flawlessly. What in this wonderful foggy city could possibly be better than a gooey bread-plus-cheese-plus-butter combo? But all grilled cheeses are not created equal, so we have rounded up the best spots for you and the gang to get your fix, from purest outposts (just cheese and bread, please!) to kitchens turning out wilder options (local chèvre with apricot-jalapeño relish, to name just one). Say cheese!

Sidekick Cafe Cowgirl Creamery Flickr
Photo: Sidekick Cafe by Vanessa Druckman via Flickr

San Francisco

Sidekick Cafe & Milk Bar
Browse the ultimate cheese-centric menu in the carry-away café located next door to the Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Shop at the always awesome San Francisco Ferry Plaza. Here, they serve ’em up creamy, melty and with just a hint of sweetness. Wash it all down with a (milky, natch!) Raspberry Egg Cream Soda for an interesting, unusual finish on your palate. Yum!

Kid fave: Try their Classic Grilled Cheese sammy, perfection in its purest form.

Adult fave: You can’t go wrong with their Flatbread Cheese Melt with Kirkham’s Lancashire, Wagon Wheel, and apple chutney all blended in between.

One Ferry Building, Suite #19
San Francisco, Ca
415-392-4000
Online: cowgirlcreamery.com/sidekick-cafe-milk-bar

Great American Grilled Cheese InstagramPhoto: American Grilled Cheese Kitchen Instagram

The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen
If you’re in South Park or the Mission, drop in and visit Heidi and Nate, Co-Commanders in Cheese. Did someone say ‘Award-Winning’? Yes, we did: Heidi brought her MIT-degree scientific approach to sandwich making and has SEVEN National wins under her belt for the good stuff. Psst! They have tomato soup here, too, and technically tomato counts as a veggie, right?

Kid fave: Go for the Mousetrap—a trio of Cheddar, creamy havarti, and Monterey Jack on toasty sourdough.

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Adult fave: Get Hot! Hot! Hot! with Heidi & Nate’s Jalapeño Popper—local chèvre, more of that Jack, and zesty apricot-jalapeño relish on levain.


1 South Park Ave.
San Francisco, Ca
415-243-0107

2400 Harrison St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-926-5076
Online: theamericansf.com

 

Arlequin-Grilled-Cheese-630x420
Photo: Arlequin

Arlequin Cafe
When you get your creamy, rich sandwiches here, be certain to dine with your family in the charming patio out back underneath the canopy of trees. It’s also only two-and-a-half blocks from the War Memorial Opera House, so it makes for a festive and affordable option before a family ballet outing (Nutcracker, anyone?).

Kid fave: Grilled Cheese—with a spin made with aged provolone, cheddar, gruyere, and olive-basil pesto on griddled levain bread.

Adult fave: Yes, please to the Croque Arlequin—swiss cheese, ham, Dijon mustard.

384 Hayes St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-626-1211
Online: arlequincafe.com

 

Jane on FillmorePhoto: Jane

Jane
Chef Amanda Michael named this Pacific Heights eatery after her daughter. Chef Amanda herself produces, fresh every day, a variety of muffins, breads and cookies from Jane‘s ovens on the premises, plus organic salads and soups, and of course tasty cheesy sandwiches. Sophisticated and very friendly ambiance coupled with great food!

Kid fave: They can’t go wrong with Three Cheese—cheddar, swiss, provolone.

Adult fave: The delicious Jane’s Egg Sandwich—scrambled egg with homemade tomato chutney and Cheddar Cheese.
2123 Fillmore St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-931-5263

925 Larkin St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-593-5359
Online: itsjane.com/fillmore/

 

 

grilledcheese_shop_grandePhoto: Mariposa Baking Co

Mariposa Baking Company
This joint is 100% GLUTEN-FREE (bonus: bakery is also peanut-free, so none of the products contain peanuts!). There’s no cross-contact with gluten because the facility is a dedicated allergy-safe kitchen. The SF Ferry Building bakeshop offers freshly baked, gluten-free breads, sweets and pastries delivered piping hot from Oakland, and the cafe is open for breakfast & lunch.

Kid fave: Signature Grilled Cheese—Simple, yet soooo good, it’s made with mild cheddar cheese on a sublime sandwich batard. The artful magic is in the bread and we swear you will never taste the gluten-free difference.

Adult fave: A pretty darn sophisticated Tuna Melt on artisan crafted gluten-free Rye bread with organic tuna salad, Samona Brinery pickles, and Swiss Cheese.

One Ferry Building, Ste. #32
San Francisco, Ca
510-595-0955
Online: pickup.mariposabaking.com/pages/san-francisco

Grilled-Cheese-Muir-WoodsPhoto: Muir Woods Trading Co

Marin County

Muir Woods Trading Company Cafe
Food Network chef Tyler Florence dubbed this the best grilled cheese sandwich ever and even featured it on the program “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”. This hidden treasure is located in gorgeous Muir Woods (gooey sandwiches taste even better out in nature). They use a luscious triple-cream Brie cheese and serve the sammy alongside homemade organic tomato soup. Then spend the afternoon going for the hike!

Kid fave: They’ll devour the Original Grilled Cheese—plain and simple, super duper cheddariffic.

Adult fave: The world-famous Marin Melt—Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam cheese & Point Reyes Farmstead Creamy Toma.

Muir Woods National Monument
Mill Valley, Ca
415-388-7059
Online: muirwoodstradingcompany.com/cafe.html

 

Melted Napa ValleyPhoto: Melted

Melted
Nestled in tranquil downtown Napa, local artist Paul Slack offers creative new spins on grilled cheese sandwiches. His names are as inventive as some of the flavor combos, and to dine here with the family feels like you’re a real part of an art collective. Everything is served up on an utterly unique white bread waffle.

Kid fave: Don’t let the name fool you, it’s true love with the Singles Breaking Up—Cheddar, American, and Jack cheeses.

Adult fave: More than a mouthful, the arty version of a tuna melt Delivering the Groceries at 138 BPM features BBQ Tuna, Smoked Gouda cheese, bacon and micro greens.

966 Pearl St.
Napa, Ca
707-392-9669
Online: meltednapavalley.com

s'mores sandwichPhoto: The Melt

East Bay

The Melt
This SF-based mini-chain is serving up panini-style pressed grilled cheeses throughout the West Coast, but the Berkeley joint is extra special and incredibly popular. Here, location is everything, so park yourselves in the bright picture window at a counter for people watching up and down the block while you munch.

Kid fave: Be the most popular parent on Telegraph Avenue when you dole out the Chocolate Marshmallow S’more Melt—marshmallow, chocolate, you know the drill.

Adult fave: Super satiating Italian Job—Fontina and Provolone cheeses, and grilled mushrooms served on spicy garlic bread.

2400 Telegraph Ave.
Berkeley, Ca
510-868-2501
Online: themelt.com/locations/berkeley

 

 

sacred wheelPhoto: Sacred Wheel Sandwich Shop

Sacred Wheel
Half cheese store, half restaurant, the interior has a local buzz of being “for hipsters” and “locavores” but it truly has a family feel with attentive and warm counter staff, and delicious cheesy goodness everywhere you turn. It’s also the type of place where you can grab a bite and sit down at a picnic bench to enjoy a quick, casual meal either indoors or outdoors. Psst: there are cheese samples galore at the delicatessen, and their Tomato Soup side is infused with a kick of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer!

Kid fave: Hallelujah, let them eat cheese on the Grilled Cheese Trinity—Daily selection of three heavenly, divine cheeses.

Adult fave: Tasty Pimento Cheese Sandwich—House made pimento cheese, with pickles and tomatoes, on ‘Texas Toast’.

4539 Shattuck Ave.
Oakland, Ca
510-653-1353
Online: sacredwheelcheeseshop.com

Where do you take your gang when they’re craving grilled cheese sandos?

—Mireille Schwartz