The grilled cheese sandwich sucks you in with its likability. The simple marriage of melted cheese and toasted bread is as American as baseball games and apple pie. We ate them as kids, crusts optional. Even the least accomplished home cooks can make their own, be it the buttered and browned skillet variety or the bachelor method of popping two slices of bread in the toaster and quickly throwing on some cheese.
In the past year, the humble grilled cheese has gone from food truck headliner to restaurant menu staple. From Seattle to Cincinnati and down to Jacksonville, grilled cheese trucks were hitting the streets at breakneck speed. Charleston was no different. The Magic Cheese truck and Cory's Grilled Cheese stand have been fixtures since 2011. While the Magic Cheese truck is long gone, Cory's has upgraded to a permanent location on James Island. But it's not just former street vendors that are embracing the grilled cheese trend. At the newly opened Warehouse, chef Eva Keilty has included an assortment of the melty classic on her eclectic menu.
Our universal love of grilled cheese is just a starting point for chefs, who can pile on ingredients like candied pork belly or pickled okra for an extra-special sandwich. At Cory's Grilled Cheese, the Cory's Famous ($4.50) is assembled on cinnamon raisin swirl bread and features muenster cheese with crisp bacon and honey dijon mustard. The Downtown ($5.75) is a sweet and creamy combination of brie and chevre cheeses, fig spread, apple, and fired onions. Not all of the sandwiches are a riff on sweet and salty, however. The Southern Grilled ($5.50) melts American and cheddar cheeses atop fried onions, bacon, and a drizzle of barbecue sauce. The sliced jalapeño cornbread that contains it all is a welcome deviation from plain white bread. By offering 11 types of bread, 13 cheeses, and a smorgasbord of proteins, fruits, veggies, and spreads, Cory's Grilled Cheese is ground zero for building the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich in Charleston.
If you like grilled cheese, you'll like the ones we discovered at these places too.
45.5 Spring St. Downtown. (843) 202-0712
The breads on Chef Eva Keilty's four piece Grown-up Grilled Cheese menu are universally sourdough, but bursting at the seams with artisanal ingredients. The housemade chorizo ($9) combines manchego cheese with avocado, chipotle jicama pico, and a tomatillo crema, while the fried green tomatoes that grace the candied N. Carolina applewood bacon ($9) are a highlight of the pimento cheese-filled sandwich.
474 King St. Downtown. (843) 974-5481
A lot of restaurants might fear being too simple when it comes to grilled cheese, but Rarebit uses tradition in their favor. White bread is slathered in butter and toasted on a grill with your choice of one of three tame cheeses. In defense of using white bread instead of a fancier alternative, Chef Brannon Florie says, "We're not trying to be anything we're not. We keep it pretty simple with our grilled cheese." They offer crazy specials on occasion, but you can count on Rarebit for a classic fix.
Closed for Business
453 King St. Downtown. (843) 853-8466
Bartender Ben Lucas says grilled cheese is definitely a popular menu item at this downtown tap room. Popular indeed, since you're offered the option of a perfectly paired tomato soup with your grilled cheese on Texas toast, making this a classic diner provision. Offering a $10 grilled cheese, stuffed with three different types of dairy goodness, Closed for Business turns a simple sandwich into an experience.
1137 Morrison Drive. Downtown. (843) 277-2900
The Super Melty Grill Cheese at the Moose is a no-frills, American cheese splendor on sourdough that's grilled with lots of butter. This is the kind of sandwich mom used to make on those rainy winter afternoons. Several slices of American cheese, sourdough bread, and the super meltiness factor make for a great grilled cheese, even though the cheese sticks to everything it touches. The key is to just go for it and enjoy the embarrassing mess.