Courtesy of Melt

Melt Bar & Grilled

Cleveland, OH

Melt has an extensive menu that covers classic blends (chorizo and potato), pork (Cuban War Pig), beef (Cleveland cheese steak), and pierogi (the Parmageddon). It's the best thing to come out of the Forest City since a certain basketball stud (we're talking about Earl Boykins, obviously).

Freezing weather and lack of championships be damned! This grilled cheese shop gives the entire city of Cleveland a reason to stick around. Also, if you get a Melt tattoo, you get a 25% discount for life. It's probably worth it.

Grilled Cheese Grill

Portland, OR

We're not saying that the Grilled Cheese Grill invented the sandwich-bunned burger (we're also not saying it didn't...), but the fact of the matter is that a grilled-cheese burger is only as good as the sandwiches that bookend the patty. Luckily, GCG's Cheesus is held together by two of the best grilled cheeses in the country, served from an OG food cart and best eaten on a psychedelic bus parked next to the mini kitchen. Not into burgers? No problem. Gourmet grilled cheeses here also include one made to taste like a jalapeño popper, another with Brie and roasted peppers, and an Italian variation stacked with cured meats known as the Shocker. Miraculously, the simple American cheese version manages to still stand out. Especially when there's a burger on top of it. -- Andy Kryza, senior editor

Courtesy of the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen

The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen

San Francisco, CA

The seven-time winner of the Grilled Cheese Invitational has to keep up appearances, but this NorCal eatery more than covers its ass with some of the best grilled cheeses on the West Coast... or any coast, for that matter. Originator Heidi Gibson has a degree in engineering from MIT, which explains how she came up with the transcendent idea of the breakfast grilled cheese -- which beats the hell out of a simple cup of Folgers, in the "best part of waking up" arena. 

{Three} Sheets

Atlanta, GA

In addition to its signature grilled cheese with applewood-smoked cheddar, Tillamook, and a hot cup of bisque, this Hot 'Lanta (sorry) staple holds a monthly grilled cheese-and-wine dinner that pairs new blends with suitable bottles of vino. The resto says, "This combination lets diners reminisce about childhood with a touch of added sophistication." We say, "Sounds good!"

Courtesy of Clementine


Los Angeles, CA

When Barker Bradford wrote "Oh My Darling, Clementine" in the 1850s, this quaint SoCal mini-chain of family-owned bakeries is almost definitely what he had in mind. Offering some timeless favorites like grilled pimento cheese and a classic white cheddar grilled cheese, all with locally sourced ingredients, Clementine is a breath of fresh, simple, cheesy air in the land of Kardashians, fake tans, and plastic body parts.

The Morning Glass

Honolulu, HI

Pick out either a mozzarella, baby arugula, basil, and tomato, or a Gruyere and caramelized onion. On the latter, you can add La Quercia prosciutto or Alii mushrooms... and I mean, why wouldn't you? You're already in Hawaii, you might as well go for it. 

Sean Cooley/Thrillist

Cheesie's Pub and Grub

Chicago, IL

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Probably... but when chicken tenders are involved, the more excess, the better. This is exactly how people in Chicago think, God bless their gluttonous hearts. Cheesie's Tenderizer (pictured above) features tenders, mozz, cheddar, bacon, hot sauce, and Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce squeezed between two slices of thick Texas toast. And this is just a single offering from the menu that features a dozen other cheesy iterations, all of which come with a distinct dipping sauce (the Tenderizer comes with ranch, just so you know). Dipping your GC in ranch is totally acceptable, unlike other comfort foods.

Blue Dog Bakery and Cafe

Louisville, KY

Around Louisville, Blue Dog is known as one of the best bakeries in the state of Kentucky, serving up fresh, artisanal bread on a daily basis. And luckily for the world and all its inhabitants, that bread is put to good use in its cafe, which turns some of the signature loafs into A+ grilled cheeses that can only be described as "classy as fuck." Example 1: bacon, Tillamook cheddar, cheese curds, cider vinegar onions, spicy mayo. Now, if they can only get their basketball team in order.


The Grilled Cheeserie

Nashville, TN

When you think of Nashville's food scene, BBQ and hot chicken immediately spring to mind. And by all means, you should totally gorge on all that stuff on your next Aziz Ansari-style jaunt to the Music City. But please, save a little pocket of stomach space for this gourmet sandwich truck, founded by a husband-and-wife team of LA transplants (one of which happens to be a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef). Their truck is always packing eco-friendly melts like the B&B of Tennessee (Benton's bacon, buttermilk cheddar, and seasonal jam on multigrain), and they're even cool enough to let you build your own sandwich on the fly, with any combo of their 15+ ingredients.

Courtesy of Meltkraft


Philadelphia, PA

New York owes the City of Brotherly Love a thank you, as the PA original Meltkraft has expanded its line of revered grilled cheeses throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. The cheese in the artisanal sandwiches at Meltkraft come from cows, sheep, and goats that are actually owned by the restaurant. Be sure to try the Valley Thunder (12-month-aged cheddar, beef brisket, and baked macaroni and cheese) and/or the Melter Skelter (three-month-aged raclette, pickled green tomatoes, jalapeños, BBQ potato chips, and watercress). See, there's more to this city than cheesesteaks. There's also Meltkraft. Oh, and a Rocky statue. 

The Old Fashioned

Madison, WI

Wisconsin... where the beer is cheap, the cheese is hot, and the murder cases are fishy. Every time I visited my girlfriend in Madison, we'd go to The Old Fashioned, where -- hidden among the curds tots -- laid one of the best grilled cheeses I've ever laid my greasy lips on. It's Wisconsin cheddar, Swiss, a handful of bell peppers, and savory-ass bacon on Texas toast. I've never had what you would call a "mouth orgasm," but during that one frigid winter in Wisconsin, I came damn close. -- Jeremy Glass, Sex and Dating writer

MacKenzie Smith/Thrillist

The Commodore

Brooklyn, NY

The "Adult Cheese" sounds like the worlds worst dirty movie... in reality, it may be New York City's best and most distinct grilled cheese in a sea of copycats and soggy to-go containers. The addition of roja salsa, cream cheese, and poblanos to the classic cheddar and (probably) pimento blend may strike some as violating grilled cheese sacrosanct -- but really, if that's your mindset, you need to grow up. Oh... maybe that's why they call it the "Adult Cheese."

Beecher's Handmade Cheese

Seattle, WA, and New York, NY

Beecher's Pike Place Market location quickly gained cult status during the early '00s as one of the best grilled cheese spots in Seattle, and the entire country. It finally took its show to the East Coast, opening a New York outfit in 2011 (we are very thankful). It's a straight-up cheese shop, first and foremost, but the cafe also offers a variety of meat-laden grilled cheeses on crispy artisanal bread that makes you wonder why Starbucks remains the Emerald City's second-most-loved export. (Number one is Frasier, obviously.)

Dan Gentile/Thrillist

24 Diner

Austin, TX

People can argue all day about the perfect grilled cheese ratio, but at 24 Diner it's two parts freshly baked sourdough (from its sister restaurant Easy Tiger), two parts cheese (cheddar and havarti), and one part butter to turn that bread into a crispy, golden diet-destroyer. On top of the basics, it adds roasted tomatoes for a big burst of umami, and when the server asks if you'd like to add bacon and avocado, the answer should always be a resounding "yes." -- Dan Gentile, staff writer

Woodstock Farmers' Market

Woodstock, VT

If you can wade through all the crunchy "Vermont-ness" (if you've been there, you know what I'm talking about) present at the all-around pleasant farmers' market in Woodstock, VT, you'll find one of the best grilled cheeses of your lifetime. The expansive menu touts myriad sandwiches packing genuine Vermont cheddar, with options for carnivores and vegetarians alike. If you've ever met someone from Vermont, you've probably heard about "how great Vermont is" no less than 30 times. When it comes to sandwiches, they may be selling themselves short.  

Lee Breslouer/Thrillist


Denver, CO

Steuben's is Denver's unofficial source for top-notch comfort food, and it has been since it opened its doors 10 years ago -- if you translate that age into "restaurant years," it's practically 100. But it still looks damn good. Its sandwich is a decadent cheese bomb, with two slices of Texas toast needed to structurally support the yellow, white, American, and Muenster cheeses within, and it's somehow only $4. With that low of a price point, the restaurant is begging you to add green chile (because it's Colorado) and bacon (because it's sourced from local pork geniuses Tender Belly). It comes with a side of chips and a pickle, but we're guessing you won't have room. -- Lee Breslouer, senior writer

Tupelo Honey Cafe

Charlotte, NC

Tupelo Honey Cafe describes its Southern Belle grilled cheese " delicate as it is bold!" This is very much the case with almost every Southern belle I've ever met, and it definitely holds up in sandwich form. This classy dish packs Brie, gorgonzola cheese, and house-made pear & onion marmalade on sourdough, because sometimes, you just need a little Southern sophistication. And now, that sophistication has spread throughout the South, as Tupelo has outposts in Virginia, Tennessee, and that other Carolina. 

Courtesy of Ms. Cheezious

Ms. Cheezious

Miami, FL

A perennial favorite for "best food truck in Miami," Ms. Cheezious has now taken root in Vice City with a brick-and-mortar store, so you always have a solid joint for sandwiches in between tanning sessions and watching Scarface (that's what people in Miami do, right?) The cheeky name only exemplifies the playful menu: we're talking about barbecue pork melts, cheesy crab melts, and even a waffle-and-chicken melt. And if you are the kind of person who likes to cleanse his palate with a decadent dessert (my man!), try the s'mores melt, which is exactly what you'd expect it to be.

Highland Park Pharmacy

Dallas, TX

Of the million things I envied as a merely well-off kid growing up in a notoriously rich neighborhood, a monthly, parentally funded account at Highland Park Pharmacy perennially occupied a Top 10 otherwise filled with mansions, exotic vacations, deb ball invites, and first cars most people can’t afford ‘til after they sell their first business. Which is funny, because the 104-year-old treasure -- since renamed the Highland Park Soda Fountain -- specialized in exceedingly cheap, Rockwell-basic counter-diner fare, including the exact kind of grilled cheese your mom used to make, if your mom had the magical ability to make not much taste like everything. American or Swiss (even cheddar was too fancy) on perfectly crispy, not-too-buttery white, wheat, or rye (so, white), with a short stack of pickle slices dropped between the halves. Wash that down with all the malt (each order is more than a glass' worth, with the overflow served in a metal cup), and I guarantee you’ll be happy just to be so damn well fed. -- David Blend, director of content

Grilled Cheese & Co.

Catonsville, MD

Grilled Cheese & Co. -- which owns the coveted domain name -- is a regional Maryland chain that serves up handmade sandwiches along with homemade soup. It sounds like a lot of work, but it is definitely worth the trouble. The trademark is the literally trademarked Crabby Melt®, which combines the already-amazing sandwiches with sweet claw crab meat and signature Crabby Dip. And you thought The Wire was the best thing to come out of Baltimore...

Instagram/Roxy's Grilled Cheese

Roxy's Grilled Cheese

Boston, MA

You may see Roxy's food truck cruising the streets of Boston, and if you do, chase it down like a fat kid scoping the first ice cream truck of the summer. Or don't, because it now has several brick-and-mortar joints all over the greater Boston area. You can frequent them at your convenience to sample dishes like the absolutely essential Mighty Rib Melt, with fontina, braised short rib, and caramelized onion. It's as sharp as a Harvard undergrad, without the crippling sense of entitlement that usually comes with.

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1. Melt Bar & Grilled 13463 Cedar Rd, Cleveland Hts, OH 44118

There are hundreds of people in the Cleve with Melt-inspired tattoos because this sandwich shop is seriously OG. You shouldn't feel the need to emblazon your arm with an illustration of a stuffed hoagie, however, to profess your Melt love. Serving up dozens of hulking variations of the classic sandwich packed with everything from pulled pork to steak, pierogies, fish, and lasagna, Melt sandwiches leave your brown bagged in the dust.

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2. Grilled Cheese Grill 1027 NE Alberta, Portland, OR 97211

The name Grilled Cheese Grill might be a bit gratuitous, like "We get it! This spot serves grilled cheese!", but don't discount this Portland shop's predilection for puns: they do make a mean grilled cheese. We especially like The Gabby: with four local cheeses and a ton of bacon between two hunks of bread, this is the hottest Union since Gabrielle starred in Bad Boys II. Ohhhh!!

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3. The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen 1 S Park Ave, San Francisco, CA 94107

From the seven-time winner of the Grilled Cheese Invitational and her biz-savvy BF, AGCK's a triumphant homage to the food-diction you never quite kicked. Set up in a SOMA space that rocks a big, heat-lamped patio and a nostalgic '50s aesthetic via milk bottle light fixtures and a multi-media mural comprised of old postcards and cuckoo clocks, providing the backdrop for the sandwich action for which you came. You can keep it basic or reach for next-level creations like Mushroom Gruyere (with roasted potato and melted leeks) or the Mac n Cheese... which you can probably figure out.

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4. {three} Sheets 6017 Sandy Springs Cir NE, Atlanta, GA 30328

Three Sheets is a comfortably furnished dinner den with cushy brown leather couches, a chandelier of clear glass globes, and curtained-off red-draped private dining areas. The folks at TS regularly hosts live rock/blues/jazz/funk bands and serve small plates, signature 'tails, and cigars. TS also hosts a grilled cheese and wine dinner, which is as amazing as it sounds.

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5. Clementine 1751 Ensley Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024

Clementine is a quaint cafe and bakery counter serve in Westwood with all of the expected cafe and bakery things, plus a build-your-own grilled cheese sandwich option that makes the inevitable wait in line, the crowded quarters, and hard-to-find parking all well worth your efforts. The grilled cheese is piled high with your choice of cheese (there’s a vegan-friendly version made with cashew cheese for the dairy-averse) and toppings, and pressed on the grill. There’s really no telling why this grilled cheese reigns supreme, so you’ll either have to take my word for it, but you should really just try it for yourself.

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6. Morning Glass Coffee + Cafe 2955 E Manoa Rd, Honolulu, HI 96822

Pre-made coffee doesn't exist in this breezy Manoa Rd coffeeshop—whether they're making espresso drinks like macchiatos or pour-over cups, this coffeehouse does individually filtered, brewed-to-order cups of joe every time. Patrons can choose between a plethora of Stumptown roasts or a Hawaiian coffee-of-the-day for their cup, which takes about five minutes to brew. Breakfast and lunch are available with a changing list of decadent specials and dishes sourced from local island ingredients, like their Kalei eggs which are fresh every day. Bakery treats are available for people on-the-go, but with plentiful seating inside and out on the front patio, why would you rush?

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7. Cheesie's Pub & Grub 958 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60657

Available in massive 12" iterations plus smaller chump-ready sizes, Cheesie's riffs on grilled cheeses include the Mac (American & Merkts w/ actual mac & cheese), and the bacon/ cheddar/ cream cheese Jalapeno Popper.

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8. Blue Dog Bakery & Cafe 2868 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, KY 40206

Most restaurants in Louisville are serving Blue Dog bread, and this is the original spot. But why go somewhere else when they have their own cafe in house? Stop in for brunch or lunch, it won't disappoint.

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9. The Grilled Cheeserie Mobile, Nashville, TN

When you think of Nashville's food scene, BBQ and hot chicken immediately spring to mind. But please, on your next trip, save a little pocket of stomach space for this gourmet sandwich truck, founded by a husband and wife team of LA transplants (one of which happens to be a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef). Their truck is always packing eco-friendly melts like the B & B of Tennessee (Benton's bacon, buttermilk cheddar, an seasonal jam on multigrain), and they're even cool enough to let you build your own sandwich on the fly, with any combo of their 15+ ingredients.

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10. Reading Terminal Market 51 N 12th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

RTM is your indoor farmers market for all Philly fare, housewares and area specialties. Check out Meltkraft: from the guys behind NJ dairy farm Valley Shepherd Creamery, Meltkraft is RTM’s first-ever grilled cheese stall, equipped with a mozz-making laboratory, a 30-cheese counter, and eight hot-buttered melts stuffed with everything from burger, to brisket baked mac 'n cheese, to bacon fat. Or stop by The Rib Stand offering authentic Southern-style comfort food like BBQ, potato wedges and green beans.

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11. The Old Fashioned 23 N Pinckney St, Madison, WI 53703

At Madison's The Old Fashioned, "Wisconsin is King." What exactly does that mean for you, future diner? Expect sharp Green State Cheddar cheese in all its glorious forms (curds, grilled cheese, cheese plates, beer cheese soup, mac, and cheeseburgers), plus pitchers of Old Milwaukee and Schlitz. Also, probably football playing somewhere in the background.

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12. The Commodore 366 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

The Commodore is a Southern/tropical-themed dive bar in Williamsburg. Open late, hipsters flock to its incredible fried chicken sandwiches, burgers, biscuits, and seriously dope grilled cheese. Its cocktails are also top-notch: get the eponymous Commodore, which is a Pina Colada gone buck-wild with an extra shot of amaretto thrown in there for good measure.

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13. Beecher's Handmade Cheese 900 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

Moving East from their Seattle homebase, this popular cheesery's new three-floor complex in NYC is a fromage lover's paradise. Outfitted with a ginormous, 8000gal steel milk tank, and they'll be selling their famed curds (including the NY-only Flatiron version, with a washed, soft red & gold rind), plus grilled cheese sandwiches, mac 'n cheese, salads and share plates. Beecher's also has a dope wine menu.

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14. 24 Diner 600 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

Open 24 hours nightly, which fits well with the name, 24 Diner has food that is head and shoulders above what you would normally expect from such an establishment; this is a greasy spoon gone swanky. Order up some delicious chicken and waffles topped with maple syrup and hot sauce and see what we're talking about. Bonus points for 24's grilled cheese!

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15. Woodstock Farmers' Market 468 Woodstock Rd, Woodstock, VT 05091

The expansive menu at this earthy-crunchy spot touts myriad sandwiches packing genuine Vermont cheddar, with options for carnivores and vegetarians alike. If you've ever met someone from Vermont, you've probably heard about "how great Vermont is" no less than 30 times. When it comes to sandwiches, they may be selling themselves short.

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16. Steuben's 523 E 17th Ave, Denver, CO 80203

Taking its name from a hot jazz spot and restaurant in Boston from the 1940s, Steuben’s in Denver hopes to recreate classic American regional fare and your new go-to happy place. The upscale diner offers hearty dishes like meatloaf and fried chicken, but its cocktail menu is anything but down home. Featuring a loaded cocktail menu plus a wide selection of classic libations, you'll be able to find the perfect drink to whet your whistle.

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17. Tupelo Honey Cafe 1820 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203

This Asheville-proud spot serves a mean brunch. Order the Super Southern Breakfast Bowl with black eyed peas, goat cheese grits, and farm-fresh eggs alongside The Queen Mary--it's a Bloody Mary variation made with your choice of vodka oooor jalapeño-infused moonshine. We think the correct option is pretty obvious. Lines can be long for brunch here, so arrive early.

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18. Ms. Cheezious 7418 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33138

One of Miami’s best and most popular food trucks has gone brick-and-mortar, complete with a woodsy back area with games, plus a bar so you to wash down your grilled cheese with a local craft beer. Grilled cheese options go savory with bleu cheese and bacon; pulled pork melts; Frito Pie sandwiches (I know); and build-your-own's; or sweet (think marshmallows, Nutella, and ricotta).

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19. Highland Park Pharmacy 3229 Knox St, Dallas, TX 75205

Not so long ago, drugstores and pharmacies often housed soda counters as part of their storefronts. You could go up to the shopkeep and order a burger 'n fries with your first aid odds 'n ends, and now you can do the same at Dallas's old-timey relic, Highland Park Pharmacy. Open since 1912, this sweet local shop is a go to for milkshakes, egg creams, and grilled cheese.

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20. Grilled Cheese & Co. 500 Edmondson Ave, Catonsville, MD 21228

This regional Maryland chain performs miracles with its handmade grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade soups. Most famous is its trademarked Crabby Melt®, made with sweet crab claw dip and Monterey cheese. Other favorites include the Kick'n BBQ Chicken, Smashed Meatball, and Sarducci (provolone cheese, hand pinched Italian sausage, fire roasted peppers and onions finished with marinara sauce). Blessed be.

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21. Roxy Beacon St & Chestnut Hill Ave, Brighton, MA 02135

The culinary vision of two brothers and a chef, this long-awaited first-to-the-Hub mobile fromage factory is finally parked in its latenight (as in 2am on weekends) Cleveland Circle spot where they're slingin' a rotating arsenal of over 30-plus contempo grilled cheese sammies made exclusively using mayo in lieu of butter -- partially because it's healthier, but mostly because it's better at creating its own shot.