Photo by rofi via flickr

You’re on a quest. A quest for the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich. You want something that has the perfect crunch to its toasted bread, and is filled with gooey, cheesy goodness that complements the other ingredients for a satisfying and comforting experience. Thankfully for us, Portland is filled with delis, farmers markets and gourmet foodie shops that feature cheeses perfect for warm, delicious sandwiches. Check out one of these spots next time you get a hankering.

The Grilled Cheese Grill

Alder Pod Cart
SW 10th & Alder | Washington, Portland (Double Decker Bus)

The School Bus
NE 11th & Alberta, Portland, OR (The School Bus)

Sure, anyone can grill a cheese sandwich at home, but it’s much more fun to eat one in a converted double-decker bus! The Grilled Cheese Grill, a whimsical food cart with two Portland locations, features a mix of traditional and creative sandwiches. Try the Shocker which has smoky bacon, provolone, zesty jalapenos, and roasted red peppers on sourdough or the Preschooler, a classic with Tillamook cheddar or American cheese, with the crusts cut off. To satisfy your sweet tooth, consider the Jaime, a cream cheese, Nutella, and grilled banana sandwich on cinnamon swirl bread. All are a treat for your taste buds!

If you’re super hungry, order the Original Cheesus. It’s basically a cheeseburger that substitutes two grilled cheese sandwiches for the buns. That’s right, two grilled cheese sandwiches, a hamburger patty, more cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato and condiments. It’s big and messy, but incredibly tasty, and worth trying just for the bragging rights.

Cheese Bar
Open from 11:00am-11:00pm Tuesday through Sunday at 6031 SE Belmont Street, Portland, OR

Gazing into the display case at Cheese Bar reveals about 120 different types of domestic and European cheeses. You always knew cheese paradise existed, and this is it. The friendly staff is eager to let you sample the goods and help acquaint you with the lesser known artisan cheeses like Tumalo Farms Pondhopper from Bend, Oregon a – mild, semi-hard goats’ milk cheese delicately spiced with Mirror Pond Ale. Or the award-winning Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk triple-cream cheese made in California from organic cows’ milk. Take a few selections home to mix and match, and make your own newsworthy nosh.

Cheese Bar also offers a small menu featuring sandwiches, salads, and meat plates composed of local and seasonal ingredients. A salad of goat cheese, beets, Asian pear and ginger-infused balsamic is a good option for those seeking greenery. And their sandwiches are perfectly delicious with accouterments such as ham, bacon and caramelized onions. Need something heartier? The Mac N’ Cheese with cheddar, fontal and Parmigiano is just the thing to curb your hunger pangs. Since nothing goes better with cheese than beer and wine, Cheese Bar also offers a selection of small-batch and hard-to-find beers and food-friendly wines.

Chizu Interior

Chizu bar. Image courtesy Chizu.

Chizu

1126 SW Alder Street, Portland, OR

For those with an endless appetite for cheese, Steve Jones, owner of the Cheese Bar, has started another ooey-gooey venture. Chizu has all the charm of a tapas restaurant melded with a sushi bar tailored for the ultimate cheese-lover.

Mr. Jones chose a former lingerie shop as the home for Chizu, the Japanese loan word for “cheese”. Now instead of being asked what size you wear, you’re handed a small pencil and thin paper menu that boasts about thirty different cheeses. You can choose your cheese a la carte or order a flight. In no time at all you can work your way through the chef’s choice of artisanal offerings, many of which are being seen for the first time in Portland.

The staff at Chizu suggests a few favorites and advise on beer, wine or cider pairings which elevates the cheese to the next level. Depending on the cheese you order, nutty or fruity flavors can linger on the palette, creating a unique experience with every cheese.

Whether you’re a seasoned cheese connoisseur or simply love cheese, Chizu has your perfect match. You may even find a new cheese to melt between two slices of your favorite bread.

Grilled cheese sandwiches have a humble beginning as homey, comfort meals. Over time new ingredients and toppings have made grilled cheese gourmet. Grill it at home on the stove top, buy it from a double-decker bus or try new specialty cheeses with a glass of wine; however you have it, grilled cheese is always in season.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2011 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Featured image: Jackie Newgent via flickr; Top image: The Stickles at Grilled Cheese Grill. Image: Andrea Vorvick