Ranking Grilled Cheese: It’s Gouda to be Grate! 

By Alex Gryciuk & Jen Mejia

Cheesy, delectable, simple—grilled cheese remains an iconic American comfort meal ideal for rainy days or a side to creamy tomato soup. With perfectly crispy bread, extremely stringy cheese, and exquisitely buttered slices, this sandwich is everything that a good meal should be: hearty and delicious. Though a classic sandwich, grilled cheeses vary based on how every individual caters to their own standards. 

Restaurants’ culinary creations are no different with their specific cheesy dishes. Some food establishments cook on a skillet, whereas others bake their sandwiches in a panini press. Fancy cheeses like Brie and Gruyere cheese make appetizing appearances on menus, while others offer typical blends.

“But, do fancy cheeses and alternative preparation methods really make a difference in taste?” we asked ourselves. With so many different recipes and options for such a simple sandwich, we wanted to know which grilled cheese was the best in our area. Sampling from different chains, locations, and price points, we critiqued like picky, professional food bloggers; flavor, bread crispness, and cheese variety were the most important factors to us when rating all sandwiches. 

Overall, after many hours of research and tasting at various locations, we compiled the ultimate grilled cheese list. Our honest reviews — with pictures and detailed reasoning — are included down below.

Brief list of our rankings: 

  1. The Melt: 9.5/10 
    • (Jen 9/10) & (Alex 10/10)
  2. Corner Bakery: 8.25/10
    •  (Jen 8/10) & (Alex 8.5/10)
  3. Starbucks: 6.5/10 
    • (Jen 6/10) & (Alex 7/10)
  4. Boudin SF: 4.5/10 
    • (Jen 5/10) & (Alex 4/10)
  5. Panera: 4.25/10
    • (Jen 4.5/10) & (Alex 4/10)
  6. Mcdonalds: 3.25/10
    • (Jen 3.5/10) & (Alex 3/10)
  7. Vitality Bowl: 1.5/10 
    • (Jen 2/10) & (Alex 1/10)

The Melt

Price: $7.49

Specializing in burgers and grilled cheese, The Melt sets a high expectation for its classic “Three Cheese Classic”. After ordering at Local Kitchens, we found that the original grilled cheese lived not only up to our expectations, but also standards. This sandwich was everything we were looking for: simple, crispy, and perfectly cheesy.

Clearly prepared on a skillet and slathered with mayonnaise, this grilled cheese evokes memories of being a child and preparing your own grilled cheese at home. Between two perfectly toasted bread slices, the cheese’s interesting blend of Cheddar, Muenster and Fontina, created a beautiful cheese pull and great flavor. Furthermore, the bread’s outside was just the right amount of buttery goodness; neither too greasy or too dry. 

In general, though that this sandwich was everything that a grilled cheese sandwich should be. Our overall score for The Melt’s grilled cheese is 9.5/10. 

Corner Bakery

Price: $5.99

On the corner of the Westgate Mall, Corner Bakery advertises a large range of homey, American comfort foods. Despite its interesting location —fitting to the name—, neither of us had ever gone. But, after hearing nothing but stellar reviews from fellow peers, we braved into the unknown restaurant to try a grilled cheese. 

A pleasant surprise, Corner Bakery had a wonderful grilled cheese kids menu that was inexpensive. For just about $6, our meal was accompanied by chips, a cookie, and a fountain drink! In all, while the grilled cheese was nothing special, it tasted just like something our mom’s would make. The bread was perfectly toasted, had the right amount of cheese inside, and it satisfied our cravings. For a cheap price, the sandwich was filling and would pair well with a tomato soup! Sometimes simple is better. Our composite score for the Corner Bakery’s grilled cheese was 8.25/10.


Price: $7.50 

Starbucks, the well-known coffee chain, in addition to caffeinated beverages not only serves baked treats, but also sandwiches — including the one-of-a-kind grilled cheese. Found ready-made in the fridge, Starbucks is the only establishment that does not assemble the breaded lunchtime meal. Rather, when purchased, baristas warm the sandwich in a toaster oven until ideal crispiness and temperature are reached. Though not freshly prepared, we still found that the  cheesy reuben from Starbucks ranked highly compared to other establishments and traditional grilled cheese sandwiches.

Most notable, the unusual combination of cheese (mozzarella, white cheddar, and parmesan) contributed to both a fancier, richer flavor and a stringy, satisfying cheese pull. Surprisingly, the toasted sourdough bread added a satisfying crunch and extra zing to the sandwich. Unlike most other grilled cheeses, we felt that Starbucks’ sandwich provided us with a gourmet flavor experience for less. Important to note however, that once delivered, the grilled cheese sandwich was saturated in butter, causing our fingers to be highly greasy. We also noticed that at times, the cheesy treat was too rich. Without water or another refreshing drink, the flavor can be overpowering. Overall, we gave Starbucks’ sandwich a 6.5/10.

Boudin SF

Price: $10.99 

A popular tourist destination, Boudin bakes fresh variations of sourdough and whole wheat bread in front of ogling bystanders. Also known for sculpting yeasty baked goods, Boudin bakery certainly omits an aura of bread specialization. Since half of what makes a good grilled cheese is the bread, you’d think their grilled cheese would be amazing. But, after our taste test, we came to quite a different conclusion.

Promising a gourmet experience, Boudin’s grilled cheese consisted of brie cheese, apples, and fig jam. Yes, the ingredients sound appetizing together, but that feeling quickly fades when you realize the cheese feels like rubber and leaves a chemical aftertaste. Expecting a delicious combination of complex flavors, we were unfortunately let down. We felt that the brie cheese had a weird texture and that the apples did not complement the other ingredients well; bringing the overall score for the sandwich down. Though both the apples and cheese didn’t work well together, we thought that the fig jam and perfectly toasted bread combined to create a pleasant flavor profile. In the end, however, what could have been a heavenly, fancy sandwich, became a disappointing, lackluster one that fell just below our standards. In all, we gave Boudin SF’s sandwich a 4.5/10. 


Price: $8.99

A one stop shop known for an intricate menu of soup and sandwiches, Panera serves as the ultimate food outing for those looking for an authentic cafe experience after 3:00 p.m.. Because the restaurant specializes in sandwiches, we were incredibly excited to see what was in store for us. 

However, when served, we noticed the grilled cheese was extremely oversized as humongous slices of bread took up 75% of the plate. On a typical grilled cheese, we expect nice, crispy, buttery bread. In this case, we got overly fluffy and slightly toasted pieces of bread —yikes. Additionally, when splitting our halves, we found that the cheese didn’t pull. An overly cheesy middle that tasted like Mac-n-Cheese overpowered our taste buds. Overall, we thought this sandwich could have been delicious if the bread portions and cheese contents were reduced. We rated Panera’s grilled cheese 4.25/10.


Price: $2.99

A not so kept secret, In-N-Out supposedly has the best grilled cheese on its undisclosed menu. Intending to travel to the well renowned California fast food chain, we realized that the nearest In-N-Out is 15 minutes away. So, we went to Mcdonald’s instead with the same intention to transform a cheeseburger into a grilled cheese. Although they do not specialize in making sandwiches, employees assured us that they could prepare a cheeseburger without a patty; creating a grilled cheese sandwich!

In the end, we found that our sandwich was not terrific as a grilled cheese, but satisfactory for a burger with no patty. Our favorite part, the bun, was perfectly starchy and soft. Additionally, inside were crisp pickles and a combination of sauces perfect for a tasty burger. Though it added extra flavor to the meal, we found that the addition of extra condiments resulted in the “grilled cheese” to taste more like a burger. A more specific qualm, the cheese inside was still cold. Whether it be a cheeseburger or grilled cheese, shouldn’t the cheese be melted? In the end, we rated McDonald’s “grilled cheese” a 3.25/10.

Vitality Bowls 

Price: $8.99

Walking through Downtown Los Gatos, bystanders pass dozens of different restaurants, boutiques, and cafes. Bustling with customers and located at the end of Santa Cruz Blvd, Vitality Bowls is a cafe that serves smoothies and low calorie alternatives to many foods. Surprisingly, their menu includes a variety of different sandwiches, including grilled cheese. Excited, Jen and I decided to try their cheesy sandwich; interested in exploring a healthier alternative to a traditionally greasy food.  

Honesty should remain a top priority when advertising goods. Vitality Bowls claimed to serve “grilled cheese,” but we’d hardly even call it a sandwich. Lodged between two pieces of bread intended for a panini rather than a grilled cheese,  the cheese content was basic and gross. The combination of plasticky texture and unpleasant globs of mozzarella cheese really was really off putting. The cheese wasn’t even the worst ingredient. Each crispy bite of bread rather than tasting like starchy goodness, felt like chewing into cardboard. Lacking any sort of butter and mayonnaise, it tasted as if it sat in a pantry for a couple weeks too long. 

Furthermore, though price was not a consideration for any of the rankings, if we pay almost $10 after tax for a sandwich, we hope that it is not only delicious, but also enough to leave us satisfied. Our eyes widened in astonishment when we were handed our sandwiches; the tiny grilled cheese, smaller than our hands, was definitely not worth the price.

Overall, we encourage you to save your money, appetite, and time by traveling to a different establishment for a grilled cheese sandwich. Ranking as the worst sandwich of our trip, we rated the sandwich a 1.5/10.