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The Best of Grinnell: Grilled Cheese Edition


Grilled Cheese GraphicThe origins of the modern grilled cheese can be traced back to the availability of inexpensive sliced bread and cheese in the 1920s. Over time, this evolved into the so-called “cheese dream,” a grilled cheese sandwich left open instead of putting the two slices of bread together, during the Great Depression. Since the 1930s, the grilled cheese has evolved in many exciting ways as people once more gained the economic means to turn two separate pieces of bread into a sandwich. Now considered the epitome of American comfort food, the grilled cheese can be found in many different forms in restaurants all around Grinnell. This week, the S&B’s Community Editor Michael Cummings went to three such establishments to get the scoop on Grinnell’s grilled cheese scene.


Grilled Cheese1 - Michael Cummings1854 Deli

Truly the jewel of 1854 Deli’s menu, the AJ’s Grilled Cheese stands a head and shoulders above similar options at local restaurants. A review by an anonymous “food critic” displayed front-and-center on the Deli’s chalkboard menu purports the AJ’s to be “the gooiest grilled cheese in Iowa,” and I wouldn’t doubt that for a second.

Three types of cheeses — an immaculate combination of cheddar, Swiss and provolone — come together between two thick, buttery pieces of sourdough bread to create a sandwich with the exact right amount of toasty crunch and melt-in-your-mouth gooey goodness.

At $7.75, the AJ’s is a bit pricey for what you get. However, in my opinion it’s worth every bite. I usually ask for it with pesto when I order it, and they’re happy to add that at no extra cost. While the AJ’s approaches perfection on its own, I think that pesto gives it an added flavor which puts it into a category on par with the ambrosia of Mount Olympus.

As all good sandwiches do, this one comes with a side, your choice from a selection of chips or 1854’s daily special soup. This time I got the Doritos, but this meal is at its best on days when they’re serving the tomato basil soup. As you might have guessed from the aforementioned pesto addition, I’m a big fan of basil, and a tomato basil soup with a pesto grilled cheese is a truly incredible twist on the old classic.

Overall, the AJ’s Grilled Cheese provides you with exactly what you bargained for: a gooey, cheesy sandwich guaranteed to comfort your belly and bring back fond grilled cheese-related memories from your childhood. 1854’s take is my personal favorite grilled cheese in town.

Grilled Cheese2 - Michael CummingsBob’s Underground Cafe

While 1854 Deli is a great option to satisfy your grilled cheese cravings, its distance from campus and inconvenient hours (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) make it a choice that is often only possible on the weekends. Luckily, there’s a great grilled cheese which can be found much closer to home, at Bob’s Underground.

Bob’s brings a few twists to the classic recipe. Instead of square bread, an adjective descriptive both of its shape and its character, the Bob’s sandwiches use fun, roughly diamond-shaped bread as the base for their sandwiches. Other unique ingredients include honey and (if you’re willing to pay the extra 75 cents) avocado.

It’s a little-known trade secret that Bob’s sometimes has more than one variety of cheese, and if you ask nicely they can use any combination of the options they have in stock. Options may include American, cheddar, provolone and even mozzarella.

If you’re searching for a grilled cheese to satisfy childhood nostalgia, Bob’s may be the place to go. Their menu also includes root beer floats, allowing you to feel exactly like a little kid during your after-bedtime study break.

At only $3, Bob’s Underground’s grilled cheese is a significantly more affordable option than nearly anywhere else within walking distance. While those in a hurry may find themselves frustrated by the wait, if you have some time to kill the ambience of Bob’s and the creaminess of the intertwined flavors of cheese and avocado make the wait well worth it.

Now that Golden Dick is but a memory, Bob’s has returned to its rightful place as Grinnell’s only non-Kum & Go late night food source. And what better late night snack than a grilled cheese?

Grilled Cheese3 - Michael CummingsPrairie Canary

What should you do if you want a grilled cheese but Bob’s is a little too lowbrow an establishment for your tastes? Luckily Prairie Canary has you covered. Prairie approaches the concept of the grilled cheese from a gourmet angle, combining several very interesting flavors which one might otherwise have never tried.

The Grilled Cheese and Jam, as it is called on Prairie’s menu, is a surprisingly delicious combination of two types of cheese, strawberry jam, kale and pecans. This combination could have turned out as a hideous Frankenstein’s Monster of culinary disaster at any other restaurant, but the genius chefs at Prairie Canary somehow managed to successfully combine nearly every food group into a delicious grilled cheese which is salty yet sweet, crispy yet creamy and all around an incredible sandwich.

The result of this immaculate combination is a grilled cheese which makes you feel like you definitely aren’t ordering off the kids’ menu. The jam, the titular centerpiece of the creation, makes one question why people haven’t been putting jelly on their grilled cheeses forever. The pecans add a rare and surprising crunch, and the kale adds just enough green to convince yourself that you’re eating healthy.

Prairie’s grilled cheese comes with a side — your choice of fries, salad or soup. While I sometimes order either the apple or pear salad, which are both great options, my favorite side is the truffle fries with garlic aioli. While my unrefined palate can’t tell that much of a difference between the truffle fries and the regular variety, the aioli and shredded parmesan cheese sprinkled on top make it more than worth it.

Overall the Prairie Canary grilled cheese with jam and truffle fries provides a refreshingly classy dining experience for such a typically simple food. While it doesn’t quite stack up against the gooey goodness that is 1854’s AJ’s Grilled Cheese, the additional flavors make it a perfect meal for when you’re out on the town.

—Compiled by Michael Cummings, Community Editor

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