Grilled Cheese, Please!

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Laguna eateries pay homage to this American classic with savory selections that are all grown up.

By Beth Fhaner | Photos by Jody Tiongco

Tommy Bahama serves up a modern take on a classic sandwich with the addition of succulent pieces of lobster.
Tommy Bahama serves up a modern take on a classic sandwich with the addition of succulent pieces of lobster.

As the French know all too well, there’s nothing more satisfying than indulging in the simple, but delicious pairing of bread and cheese. And, as April is Grilled Cheese Month, we decided it was the right time to seek out some of the best places around town to enjoy this popular sandwich. No need to order off the kids’ menu—from gourmet to traditional-style sandwiches, several Laguna restaurants offer an adult version of this childhood favorite. Whether a delectable grilled cheese sandwich is paired with soup, french fries or a la carte, this comfort fare always hits the spot.

Gourmet Lobster

Grilled cheese enthusiasts craving a gourmet version of their favorite need look no further than Tommy Bahama Laguna Beach Bar & Grill, which is located in the Heisler Building in the heart of downtown and features a decadent lobster grilled cheese sandwich on its menu. With succulent pieces of fresh Maine lobster and four types of melted fromage on thick slices of grilled sourdough, this rich, flavorful entree is a must-try for grilled cheese sandwich connoisseurs. Served with a bowl of tomato bisque, this satisfying option is large enough to share—depending on your appetite, of course. (949-376-6886;

Beachside Vermont Cheddar

Bacon complements this grilled cheese at The Deck.
Bacon complements this grilled cheese at The Deck.

The Deck on Laguna Beach offers another incredible oceanfront dining experience with a mouthwatering grilled cheese sandwich on its menu. Available as a lunch or dinner entree, the Deck’s version of this popular sammie features first-rate aged Vermont cheddar, Nueske bacon and caramelized onions served on grilled French sourdough bread with butter pickles and kettle chips. With appealing flavors and that amazing ocean view, this beachside eatery’s grilled cheese is delish and will certainly please any palate. Cheese aficionados with a taste for the white, semi-hard Vermont cheddar will especially appreciate this scrumptious, cheesy sandwich.
“When we set out to create a grilled cheese for our menu, we wanted to focus on simplicity, but utilize choice, quality ingredients,” Executive Chef Rainer Schwarz of The Deck on Laguna Beach says. (949-494-6700;

European Style

Further up Coast Highway, at Laguna Coffee Co.—which features an inviting patio—diners can enjoy a grilled three cheese panini consisting of thick slices of Swiss, cheddar and provolone served on a choice of whole wheat, sourdough or ciabatta bread. A scrumptious item on the lunch menu, the cheesy, European-style grilled sandwich is served with a side of chips or sliced carrots. Pair your perfect panini with one of Laguna Coffee Co.’s delicious beverages, and be sure to save room for dessert—freshly made cookies, cupcakes and slices of cake are available for a sweet ending to your tasty grilled cheese. (949-494-6901;

Gruyere Goodness

At Zinc Cafe, a comfort food classic is all grown up.
At Zinc Cafe, a comfort food classic is all grown up.

For another pleasant alfresco lunch at one of the most popular patios in town, grilled cheese lovers should head to Zinc Cafe & Market. Available only as a whole sandwich (not part of the half sandwich plate), Zinc’s grown-up grilled cheese consists of delectable, melted Gruyere cheese on grilled sourdough bread with pickles, marinated onions and tomato served with whole grain mustard and arugula. For those with a heartier appetite, diners can always opt to add a cup of soup or vegetarian chili to their grilled cheese goodness. (949-494-6302;
Delish Duo

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Nothing goes together better than the combination of a savory grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of creamy tomato soup—it’s the ultimate comfort food. At Hennessey’s Tavern, patrons can find this tasty pairing consisting of a trio of melted fromages, including Irish cheddar, Swiss and Jack cheese on grilled sourdough served with a bowl of tomato bisque and a side of kettle chips. Whether it’s a chilly spring day or you’re just in need of a comfort food fix, this grilled cheese sandwich and soup pairing is the ticket to food paradise. (949-494-2743;
Traditional White Cheddar

The grilled cheese made with oozing white cheddar begs to be devoured at The Cliff Restaurant.
The grilled cheese made with oozing white cheddar begs to be devoured at The Cliff Restaurant.

At The Cliff Restaurant, overlooking the ocean and Main Beach area, lunchtime diners can indulge in the grilled white cheddar cheese sandwich while gazing out at the waves of the gorgeous Pacific. The Cliff’s classic version of this sandwich features oozing aged white cheddar cheese on grilled sourdough served with a choice of french fries, pasta salad or fresh fruit. Patrons can also opt for the soup and sandwich combo and get a half grilled cheese sandwich with a cup of clam chowder or soup of the day, served with a side of fries or pasta salad. Either way, you can’t go wrong while noshing on a yummy white cheddar grilled cheese and viewing the spectacular scenery. (949-494-1956;

Many other Laguna establishments serve adult versions of grilled cheese sandwiches on their menus, including Madison Square & Garden Cafe, Heidelberg Café & Bistro, Ruby’s Diner and Husky Boy Burgers, which boasts grilled cheese options with ham, turkey or bacon. Additionally, Three Seventy Common Kitchen + Drink sometimes features miniature grilled cheese sandwiches on its “bites” menu; an inventive short rib grilled cheese was a recent rendition.

So, whether you intend to honor Grilled Cheese Month or continue the celebration far beyond April with a traditional-style grilled cheese sandwich or something a bit more adventurous, Laguna eateries are armed with an array of options to satisfy your craving for the ultimate bread and cheese indulgence. LBM

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