It can be hard to recognize a grilled cheese sandwich these days. Sometimes you wind up wondering, where’s the cheese? It can be hard to find, in between all the savory extras such as avocado, fried egg, potato tots, pastrami or pulled pork.
By the looks of many menus, Long Island grilled cheese has gone to the extreme.
“Despite grilled cheese being a very mature food, it’s very versatile, and can be used as the foundation for a lot of really awesome innovative sandwiches,” said Kevin Muller, owner of Meltology in Mount Sinai. His menu includes more than 10 sandwich varieties, from one stuffed with buffalo chicken strips, to another with homemade macaroni and cheese. “And since grilled cheese is a familiar comfort food, people are excited to try a new take on this classic sandwich.”
So forget about the white bread with Velveeta and crusts cut by your mom. And check out these 12 eateries that are stuffing and melting over-the-top sandwiches.
Beginnings (1986 Park St., Atlantic Beach): This literature-themed restaurant rolled out the brisket grilled cheese club, a smoky, Southern barbecue-style sandwich with an explosion of Cheddar and Swiss cheeses and pickled onion, $19, about a year ago. Before that, a barbecue chicken and pickled onion grilled cheese graced the menu. Although brisket is a top seller, don’t be surprised if the sandwich gets another update, something the restaurant often does as it experiments with new grilled cheeses. Whether it’s on the menu or not, you’ll still be able to order it, served with your choice of a side of fries or a mixed green salad, and house-made coleslaw and house-cured pickles. More info: 516-239-7483, beginningsrestaurant.com
Cheezy Pete's (Barrier Brewing Co., 3001 New St., Oceanside): Food truck owner Peter Robideau ups the ante on his classic grilled American cheese by stuffing it with creamy mac-and-cheese made with five different cheeses, including Gruyère, Parmesan and sharp Cheddar, $8.50. Add a side of buffalo tots (smeared with buffalo wing sauce and crumbled blue cheese, $7.25) to round out the meal. And, if you’re not in the mood for mac-and-cheese, el Cubano (smoked ham, Swiss, pernil and pickles with Dijon mustard on sourdough) is also a top seller, $8.50. Open through the end of November, Wednesday to Sunday, unless at an event. More info: 516-242-1522, cheezypetes.com
AJ's Gourmet Grilled Cheese Shop
AJ's Gourmet Grilled Cheese Shop (182 Montauk Hwy., Bay Shore): This family-owned-and-operated shop offers an extensive grilled cheese list with everything from traditional American cheese melted between sourdough ($6) to spicy "crispy jalapeño" (homemade potato chips, sliced jalapeños and pepper jack on sourdough, $8). For vegetarians, there’s the veggie melt (sautéed broccoli, onions, red and green peppers and pepper jack on sourdough, $8.75). It’s served with a pickle and homemade chips, which you can substitute for sweet potato fries or homemade tomato bisque. More info: 631-647-9292, ajsgrilledcheese.com
Hatch (286 Main St., Huntington): Located in the heart of Huntington Village, in the space that once housed Tomo Hibachi and Hamburger Choo Choo, this cheerful brunch spot’s grilled cheese sandwich features griddled challah bread with thick apple-wood smoked bacon, vine ripened tomatoes and Vermont Cheddar. It costs $8.25 and is served with crunchy potato tots, but also goes well with hash browns, or something a bit bitter, such as an arugula salad seasoned with salt, lemon juice and olive oil. Fillings, such as bell peppers, caramelized onions, smoked ham or sausage, can be added for an additional $1 each. More info: 631-424-0780, hatchbrunch.com
Morrison's (430 Woodbury Rd., Plainview): Pastrami, a staple on the menu at this gastropub, was in need of an interesting twist, and that’s how the pastrami grilled cheese was born. Topped with pastrami, Swiss, mustard and pickles, the sandwich, $16, emerges on toasty, thick-cut white bread. Pair it with fries, roasted sweet potatoes or mac-and-cheese, all $2 each. More info: 516-932-8460, morrisonsny.com
MELTology, Mount Sinai (5507 Nesconset Hwy., Mount Sinai): This comfort food joint delivers an oversized, oozy grilled cheese stuffed with melted mozzarella, buffalo chicken strips and blue cheese dressing on grilled sourdough bread for $8.50. The sandwich pairs well with sweet potato fries ($3.50) or the homemade soup of the day ($3.95 a cup or $5.95 a bowl). Other versions worth trying include honey BBQ grilled cheese (melted Cheddar, honey barbecued chicken strips, hickory-smoked bacon and ranch dressing, $8.95); the kitchen cinque (Parmesan crusted sourdough with melted Cheddar, Gruyère, American and pepper jack, hickory-smoked bacon and sliced tomato, $7.50); and bacon mac n cheese with melted American, mac-and-cheese, hickory-smoked bacon on grilled sourdough ($7.95). More info: 631-509-0331, meltology.li
Spanky's Food Factory
Spanky's Food Factory (2458 Jericho Tpke., Garden City Park): This fairly priced, family-friendly spot combines two comfort foods into one to give us the grilled cheese beast, featuring creamy macaroni-and-cheese and bacon stuffed between two pieces of traditional Texas toast ($7.95). The creation, which came to fruition when owner Chris Patalano saw a customer top his grilled cheese with mac-and-cheese, found a spot on the often-updated menu about six months ago. Add a heap of hand-cut fries for $1.50, or a side of garlic fries, jalapeño poppers or homemade fried pickles for $5.95 each. More info: 516-280-8440, spankysfoodfactory.com
Melt Shop (Roosevelt Field Mall, 300 Old Country Rd., Garden City): Since 2015, this franchise has offered familiar and crave-able comfort food, including the fried chicken melt, which features crunchy fried chicken, sweet and salty red cabbage slaw, pepper jack and melt sauce (spicy aioli meets ranch dressing) on country white bread for $8.96. Pair it with shop tots (herbed Parmesan potato tots, $2.99) and add on bacon, $1.75. Also try the burger melt (American and New York Cheddar, pickles, caramelized onions and burger sauce on country white, $8.96). More info: 516-405-3221, meltshop.com
Mac & Melts
Mac & Melts (684 Stewart Ave., Garden City): Mac & Melts sends out a beefy take on traditional grilled cheese, the 50/50 burger. This specialty grilled cheese is a burger melt infused with sharp Wisconsin aged Cheddar and bacon, grilled red onions and red chili ketchup, served on sourdough for $9.49 (for an extra $2, you can add a fried egg). Typically, the sandwich is served with homemade potato chips, but potato tots ($3.99) or waffle fries ($4.25) complement it, too. More grilled cheese favorites include: The mac and melt (deep-fried mac-and-cheese, Wisconsin aged Cheddar topped with sun-dried tomato pesto on Pullman bread, $8.99); Adam’s rib (braised short rib, brown gravy, Wisconsin aged Cheddar on sourdough, $9.49); and the classic Wisconsin melt (smooth blend of Wisconsin mild and Wisconsin aged Cheddar on Pullman, $7.29). More info: 516-246-9610, macnmelts.com
Buttermilk's Kitchen (76 W. Main St., Patchogue): The menu at this new brunch spot features a popular Create Your Own corner, where you can design your own grilled cheese. Choose from seven breads, 15 cheeses, 14 toppings and 11 spreads and dressings. A good choice is the white Cheddar with spinach and tomato on multigrain bread, served with fries, a mixed green salad or the cold salad of the day for $10.95. Buttermilk’s also has nine of its own variations, including the popular lumberjack (bacon, yellow Cheddar, white Cheddar, avocado and sliced tomato on multigrain bread, $12.95), the arugouda (Gouda, sharp Cheddar, bacon, tomato, onion jam and arugula on ciabatta, $12.95) and the buffalo bleu (Cheddar cheese, blue cheese crumbles and Buttermilk’s signature grilled chicken with a drizzle of buffalo-ranch sauce on sourdough, $13.95). More info: 631-654-6455, buttermilkskitchen.com
Swingbellys BBQ (909 W. Beech St., Long Beach): For its “three little pigs” grilled cheese, this barbecue spot smokes its pulled pork for about 12 hours and its ham for about four, then brings them together with freshly cooked bacon and American and Swiss cheeses on pressed garlic Texas toast, $12. Pairs well with mac-and-cheese, $5. More info: 516-431-3464, swingbellysbbq.com
Flo's Luncheonette (38 W. Main St., Patchogue): The gourmet grilled cheese at this eatery updates the original Flo’s grilled cheese, which has been around more than 90 years. Topped with apple-wood smoked bacon, a three-cheese blend, grilled tomato and sliced avocado, it arrives on toasted ciabatta and is served with fries for $11. For $4 extra, you can upgrade to dirty fries, topped with house gravy and mozzarella. More info: 888-356-7864, flosfamous.com