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Philadelphia Does Grilled Cheese Great
Cheesemongers & Specialists Lead Philly’s Craze For The Childhood Fave
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. Sure, a couple slices of American slapped on buttered white bread will do at home, but those eating out can discover the joys of melted manchego, sharp provolone, brie and enhancements such as fried jalapenos and homemade brisket. Here’s where to find downright upscale versions of a formerly simple sandwich:
The Classic, Only Better:
- Old City’s Farmicia takes the first part of its name seriously and sources the cheese for its grilled cheeses at nearby farms, including one that’s Amish cheddar (with tomato on multigrain) and another that’s goat (with pesto and tomato on sourdough). 15 S. 3rd Street, (215) 627-6274, farmiciarestaurant.com
- The biggest 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, famous4thstreetdelicatessen.com
- 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 Dragon pairs pepper jack with grilled jalapenos and red sauce on Tuscan bread. Various locations, (215) 715-1084, thegrillcheese.us
- Out of the shadow of elegant sibling operation Fork, casual High Street on Market has earned national accolades for its house-made breads, which happen to furnish the perfect bases for the bistro’s sublime “Best Grilled Cheese Ever,” made with Pennsylvania Noble cheddar and cultured butter on roasted potato bread. 308 Market Street, (215) 625-0988, highstreetonmarket.com
- Comfort foods gone modern are the specialty of Jones Restaurant. On a menu of chicken and waffles and matzo ball soup are two grilled cheeses: One is classic, with a cup of tomato soup; the other could be a future classic, grilled Halloumi on a brioche bun with avocado, lettuce, tomato and lemon aioli. 700 Chestnut Street, (215) 223-5663, jones-restaurant.com
- The cozy, coffee-centric Little Spoon Café rotates its grilled cheese offerings, in order to satisfy its clientele with an ever-changing, always seasonal take on its most popular sandwich.1500 South Street, (267) 587-6559, littlespooncafe.com
- The Rittenhouse home of East Coast-based seafoodery 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, lukeslobster.com
- 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, watkinsdrinkery.com
Triple—& Quadruple—The Cheese:
- Bella Vista’s always packed Royal Tavern does up its triple-threat sandwich with smoked Gouda, provolone and goat cheese, plus a cup of soup for the ultimate comfort food concoction. 937 E. Passyunk Avenue, (215) 389-6694, royaltavern.com
- Sam’s Morning Glory Diner, the first of Bella Vista’s new wave of line-out-the-door brunch spots, hits its triple-cheese sammie with Swiss, provolone and cheddar on whole wheat. 10th & Fitzwater Streets, (215) 413-3999, themorningglorydiner.com
- 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, silkcityphilly.com
- Fishtown’s plainly 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, soupkitchencafe.com
- The South Philly Taproom presaged the movement of 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, southphiladelphiataproom.com
- Cozy, all-American Tavern on Camac combines four cheeses 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, tavernphilly.com
The Meat Of The Matter:
- Tomato and bacon sneak into the sandwich at Lafayette Hill’s warmly contemporary Barren Hill Brewery—all the better to soak up the pub’s signature saisons, dark ales and wheat beers. 646 Germantown Avenue, (484) 344-5438, barrenhilltavern.com
- 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 popular Roquefort-stuffed burger. 224 S. 15th Street, (215) 985-9600, gooddogbar.com
- Elegant, Southern-influenced Rex 1516 does up a brunch-time grilled cheese by combining rich homemade pimento spread with brisket and barbecue sauce. 1516 South Street, (267) 319-1356, rex1516.com
- 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. twitter.com/saycheesephilly
- 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, tiredhands.com
All Gussied Up:
- A taste of home roams via Dadz Grilled Cheese. Come hungry, very hungry, for brioche-breaded, roast beef-and-horseradish-added grilled cheddar with carmelized onions; pepper jack with sweet peppers, bacon, carmelized onions and Panama pepper sauce; or Havarti with green apple slices and cinnamon on whole wheat. Locations vary, (267) 255-2355, dadzgrilledcheez.wix.com
- New Jersey-based Valley Shepherd Creamery owns and operates two Center City Meltkrafts, known for a cheesy sandwich menu that stars Valley Thunder (12-month cheddar, brisket and mac and cheese), Somerset (Gruyère, cured ham, cornichons, whole-grain mustard), Brielle (Brie, cranberry chutney, caramelized onion, toasted pine nuts) and roasted fennel and tomato soup. Reading Terminal Market, 12th & Arch Streets, (267) 639-3309; 46 S. 17th Street, (215) 687-4950, meltkraft.com
- Two west of Broad Street locations of the The Milk House double 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, themilkhouse.com
- High-end and quick-serve operation Plenty is working on a third location, better to serve the people elegant coffees, breakfast all day, a fully stocked bar and melted Gruyère and Fontina with roasted tomato and caramelized onions on High Street multigrain. 1602 Spruce Street, (215) 560-8684; 1710 E. Passyunk Avenue, (267) 909-8033; (coming soon) 705 S. 5th Street, plentyphiladelphia.com
- If anyone in town knows and loves cheese, it’s Talula’s Daily owner Aimee Olexy, who 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 breads, via recipes that change with the season. 208 W. Washington Square, (215) 592-6555, talulasdaily.com
- Old City’s quaint, petite Wedge + Fig has built an entire bar of grilled cheeses, better to showcase its deep dairy selection (farmhouse cheddars, Cantal, Manchego, more) that customers can combine with condiments (truffle honey, quince paste, fried egg, fried jalapenos and more) to create their own sandwiches on white, wheat or rye. 160 N. 3rd Street, (267) 603-3090, wedgeandfig.com
- Chef Marc Vetri’s casual dinner-and-brunch-only Alla Spina proudly serves pretzels and pig tails—and reinterprets the grilled cheese Trentino-style, with Gorgonzola, provolone, speck and figs. 1410 Mt. Vernon Street, (215) 600-0017, allaspinaphilly.com
- 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, devilsalleybarandgrill.com
- The cheesemongers at Di Bruno Bros. take their decades of dairy knowledge to a foursome of grab-and-go markets in and outside Center City. Each one offers made-to-order sandwiches, including a decadent mac and cheese grilled cheese; a panini of melted Prima Donna, mozzarella and ricotta on an everything focaccia; and the bestselling French onion brisket, made with Comté, caramelized onion and sherry vinegar on a seeded gyro. 1730 Chestnut Street, (215) 665-9220; Comcast Center, 1701 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, (215) 531-5666; Franklin Market, 834 Chestnut Street, (267) 519-3115, Ardmore Farmer’s Market, 120 Coulter Avenue, Ardmore, (484) 416-3311, dibruno.com
- Smokin’ Betty’s, Devil’s Alley’s younger sister, also serves the business crowd comforting fare. Its grilled cheese has fresh mozzarella, grilled tomato and pesto-dressed arugula on ciabatta. 116 S. 11th Street, (215) 922-6500, smokinbettys.com
- Tria’s first pair of elegant, wine-centric cafes (the company also has an upscale taproom and a bistro) pride themselves on 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, triacafe.com
VISIT PHILADELPHIA® makes Philadelphia and The Countryside® a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases the number of visitors, the number of nights they stay and the number of things they do in the five-county area.
On Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com, make up the most-visited website network out of the 10 biggest U.S. cities. Visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.
Experience A Taste Of That Famous Philly Flavor
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Here are some of the sandwiches, snacks, meats and more that have left a...
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What Is It?
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Here’s a short explanation of how the BYOB scene came to be—and advice on navigating the landscape.
What Is A BYOB?:
A BYOB restaurant allows patrons to
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What Is A Cheesesteak?:
A cheesesteak is a long, crusty roll filled with thinly sliced sautéed rib-eye beef and melted cheese. Generally, the cheese of choice is Cheez Whiz®, but American and provolone are common substitutions. The art of cheesesteak preparation lies in the balance of flavors, textures
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- Taking up residence in a cozy