Grilled cheese. Simply saying the words conjures up memories of creamy Velveeta toasted between two slices of bread, with a bowl of tomato soup on the side. The standard “visiting grandma” lunch.
Luckily, here in Austin, it’s easy to relive those memories with a wide variety of takes on the childhood classic. From the simply delicious to the decadently complex, Austin’s grilled cheese options are as diverse as our city itself. Here are some of the best.
Note: This list is in no particular order.
1/ 24 Diner
Growing up as a Jersey boy, diner culture was my life. Chromed-out 24/7 eateries with a missive for a menu defined my formative years. 24 Diner on South Lamar maintains the vibe of the 50’s diner, without the cheesy exterior.
M’s Grilled Cheese is the definition of a kicked-up classic. The sandwich starts basic with a cheddar and havarti cheese blend smashed between two slices of sourdough. The key is a hearty helping of roasted tomatoes. The combination sounds basic, but the sharpness of the cheddar plays beautifully with the tomatoes’ concentrated richness. Add the velvety texture of melted havarti, and you have a 3 a.m. winner.
600 North Lamar Blvd. – Website
2/ Bouldin Creek Cafe
With bicycle wheel light fixtures, walls covered in local adverts, and the hippest crowd this side of a Wild Child show, Bouldin Creek Cafe is where I’d hang out if I were a rad, new age novelist. With an exceptional menu that includes tantalizing espresso, killer tacos, and a mouth-watering sandwich list, this South 1st Street eatery fills all the check boxes.
The Grilled Cheese Con Hierbas starts with an immaculate blend of cheddar/jack cheese, herbs, and veggies that begs to be devoured. The options are extensive. Like a cheesy champion, I went for the works: cilantro (instead of basil), tomato, red onion, spinach, jalapeños and, for kicks, threw in an avocado to make it crazy.
Despite the mass of ingredients, the sandwich was exceptionally well-balanced. The cheese, tomatoes, and onion give it an up-front sweetness, while the jalapeños settle on the back end with some welcome heat. Pair it up with a fresh side salad (if only for the pepper jack dressing, which is perfect for dipping) and you have a lunchtime home run.
1900 S. 1st St. – Website
3/ Burro Cheese Kitchen
The original mobile eatery dedicated to grilled cheese also happens to be one of the best. With multiple locations, Burro Cheese Kitchen redefines the meaning of grilled cheese. The truck is a mad laboratory of flavors: from the subtle Via 206 (cheddar, gouda, balsamic apricot fig) to the ATX-centric Waylon & Willie (aged cheddar, gouda, caramelized onions, pepperocinis, spicy maple bacon sauce), there’s innovation galore.
My choice was the menu’s big daddy, the Croque-Madame. While it may not be a grilled cheese sandwich in the traditional sense, it’s too good to ignore. The concoction features smoked ham, gouda, and pesto aioli, with a fried egg on top, sandwiched between two slices of sourdough bread. Add a touch of dulce de leche for an extra kick of sweetness and you have something amazing.
Wash it all down with a cold brew coffee or a lime Jarrito, and you have the perfect lunch. Guaranteed to challenge your cheesy expectations.
Multiple locations – Website
4/ Emojis Grilled Cheese
Take some time to gaze upon the mouth-watering image above. That, dear readers, is the cinnamon sugar grilled cheese sandwich from Emojis. A newer player in the ATX food scene, head chef Hope Green takes bold chances with her concoctions, and the proof is in the cheesy goodness.
At first glance, the sandwich looks like an over-sweet disaster, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The cinnamon presents an earthy sweetness that blends wonderfully with a sharp four cheese blend. The contrast is striking, making this a balanced meal dressed up as a desert.
If you’re looking for something more sensible, Emojis offers a lively tomato and basil option, and a savory pepperjack and bacon combo. Plus, you can draw on the truck’s chalkboard walls. The only emoji you’ll need is a smiley face!
Note: The cinnamon grilled cheese is not a regular menu item, so be sure to call ahead before going specifically for that sandwich.
Location changes – Website
Twice a month, this fresh-faced newcomer to the Austin food truck scene rolls into my office’s parking lot, and I ignore my diet for a day. Of all the cheese peddlers on this list, Melted may take the most chances. For every Classic with a side of tomato soup or Margherita (mozzarella, blistered tomatoes, basil, spinach, balsamic glaze), they have a flavor that goes completely off the wall.
From a grilled mac and cheese sandwich to the outstanding Republic (Angus beef, caramelized onions, garlic ailoi, smoked cheddar, gruyere cheese), Melted blurs the line between grilled cheese and Noble Pig sandwich. The king of the menu is the imposing and impressive Godfather. Ready for this? It’s a Republic pressed between two Classics. A towering sight to behold!
And like SAvery, Melted is all about giving back. 100 percent of their profits go to the International Justice Mission, an organization dedicated to protecting victims of human trafficking in high-risk areas. Another reason to give Melted a try.
Location changes – Website
Walking up to SAvery’s eye-catching purple food truck is like visiting an old friend. With giant smiles and a welcoming hello, these purveyors of high quality grilled cheese could be the happiest restaurateurs in Austin. And why not? Their fresh take on the traditional sandwich is enough to make anybody smile.
SAvery’s menu changes on a seasonal basis, but basic themes run throughout: fresh, local ingredients combined in fascinating, ingenious ways. Their summer menu focuses on bright and flavorful. A fine example is “The Austinite.” This sandwich combines a Gruyere base with vinaigrette kale and prosciutto, laced with a lemon chevre. The result is a tap dance of delicious flavors.
And they also have a heart for giving back. Since 2015, SAvery has been donating 10 percent of their sales to charities and organizations dedicated to fighting modern day slavery. Even their name is slavery with the “l” removed, proof of their dedication to irradiating injustice. Great food for a great cause is a win-win.
7/ Wholly Cow Burgers
Everyone’s first grilled cheese sandwich was homemade. Like I mentioned, my grandma’s recipe was simple: Wonder Bread, Velveeta, with a slice of tomato, and maybe some bacon left over from breakfast. Pure, simplistic heaven.
Situated in a convenience store in the heart of South Lamar, Wholly Cow Burgers has a grilled cheese pulled straight from mama’s kitchen. The sandwich, called the Golden Gate IV, features Texas toast with a four cheese blend and side of fries. While you can pick and choose your cheese choice, I opt for the full mixture. The result is a delightfully gooey and creamy experience, further enhanced by the buttery Texas toast. For many of my grilled cheese tastings, I had to eat half and save the other, but not at Wholly Cow. The entire thing got devoured. This is a gem in the Austin grilled cheese crown.
3010 S. Lamar Blvd. – Website
In your opinion, what is the top grilled cheese sandwich in Austin?