Brisk fall days mean a welcome return to soft fleece layers, cozy socks – and a yearning for grilled cheese sandwiches. But our nostalgia-fueled appetites go beyond mom’s basic lunch offering, made with Town Talk bread and paired with Campbell’s tomato soup. These Pittsburgh spots up the wow factor with savory additions and flavor profiles, oozing with cheesy goodness.
1. Bier’s Pub, 900 Western Ave., North Side
The munchy-crunchy Loaded Grilled Cheese at Bier’s Pub features Cheddar cheese and bacon between thick slices of bread. Grilled poblano peppers, onions and tomatoes add another level of flavor, texture and color. Choose from a bunch of sides — such as Broccoli Salad kicked up with wasabi, Pesto Pasta Salad and Bourbon Baked Beans — or follow our lead to the Bacon Fat Home Fries with peppers and onions.
Bier’s Pub is the exclusive spot to sample drafts from brewer Jake Bier’s War Streets Brewery. A few guest taps are offered, too. Sample a flight of four or six, then fill up a growler or howler of your fave to take home.
2. The Abbey on Butler Street, 4635 Butler St., Lawrenceville
You’d be hard-pressed to find a prettier setting to enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich than the patio at The Abbey on Butler Street. A trickling fountain surrounded by flowers, hanging baskets of waving ferns and black wrought iron add to the ambiance that sends our imaginations to a New Orleans courtyard.
The Pimento Cheese Melt adds a Southern flair to its grilled cheese offering, too. This sandwich is built from pimento cheese spread and Pittsburgh dill pickles on house-baked sourdough bread. Keep it vegetarian or opt for adding pulled bacon — savory slow-cooked pork belly — and you’ve got a winner. Sides include a cool Mashed Potato Salad. Or substitute fries, greens or the addictive Hog & Vin Tots, a grownup version of tater tots that are soaked in a tangy hot bacon vinaigrette.
3. Provision PGH at Federal Galley, 200 Children’s Way, North Side
Federal Galley is all about choices. The site’s five incubator restaurants allow diners to sample an appetizer from one kitchen, an entrée from another and maybe a dessert along the way.
The Build Your Own Grilled Cheese at Provision PGH takes choice a bit further. The sandwich begins with American and Cheddar between slices of sourdough bread. And then the magic begins with all the special touches you could imagine. Go big with a Wagyu Smash Burger or healthy with sautéed greens. Caramelized onion, roasted tomatoes, bleu cheese and goat cheese are other tasty options for a grilled cheese that’s bursting with flavor. Thin-cut Triple Cooked Fries arrive alongside your sandwich.
Time your visit for happy hour from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and enjoy half-off craft beer, wine and cocktails like the Deja Blu, Parliament Tropidelic and Eye of the Walrus.
4. The Yard: An American Gastropub, multiple locations
The heart of Pittsburgh’s greatest grilled cheese sandwiches can be found at any of The Yard’s locations, where the menu has a complete section dedicated to cheesy heaven. The lineup lists 22 variations with fun names that are as creative as the minds in the kitchen.
The Big Che-Bowski includes applewood smoked bacon and an over-easy egg with Cheddar, smoked gouda and tomato. The Cheesy Capresey goes the Italian route with Roma tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella and provolone, then given flavor flair from a balsamic reduction and infused white truffle oil. Hankering for a cheesesteak? It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a grilled cheese version of that iconic item. You can find pierogies inside a grilled cheese, mac and cheese on another and even one packed with fried green tomatoes. House seasoned potato chips and a bowl of tomato soup give the most flamboyant sandwiches a touch of cafeteria nostalgia.
5. BRGR, multiple locations
Grilled cheese is so popular at BRGR, it’s earned a spot on the appetizer menu, too. To construct Grilled Cheese Bites, the kitchen layers provolone, applewood smoked bacon and tomatoes that are drizzled with truffle aioli and pressed between Texas toast before grilling. Cut into four triangles and threaded onto a wooden skewer, the crisp-edged sandwich is served alongside tomato fondue as a flavor reminder of old-school tomato soup.
But if you’re looking to satisfy a meal-size appetite, order the Short Rib Grilled Cheese. Smoked Cheddar and provolone melt into a gooey goodness that holds banana peppers, tomatoes and tender braised beef short ribs. Sourdough bread works perfectly for this handheld package. Sides will up the game with extras on traditional offerings: Sweet Potato Fries come with BBQ chipotle aioli. Add truffle cheese whiz to the Fried Onion Rings. Or try Cajun Tater Tots with chili and Cheddar cheese.
6. Rear End Gastropub and Garage, 399 Butler St., Etna
The recently opened Rear End Gastropub and Garage has quickly grown into a go-to spot for the community. Garage doors open to fresh air and a turf-carpeted outdoor space, where picnic tables compete with Adirondack chairs surrounding a fire pit.
Found among the Get Your Hands Dirty portion of the menu, Rear End’s Grilled CHZ includes a trio of cheeses — gouda, provolone and Cheddar — with oven-roasted tomatoes on Texas toast. Sandwiches come with a side of crispy house-cut fries, salad or slaw. But you can satisfy your food fancy with a side of Brussels Sprouts that’s made with bacon in a beer reduction with pickled mustard seeds and grilled onions. Or try the savory Ancho Sweet Potato Kebab with baby beets, poblano peppers, red onions and avocado lime crema.
7. Dive Bar & Grille, multiple locations
The name of this sandwich at Dive Bar & Grille had us sold right off the bat. The Ultimate Warrior grilled cheese begins with options. Pick three kinds of cheese from a list that includes bleu, feta, pepper jack, fresh mozzarella, Swiss, Cheddar and American for your personal palate profile. The sandwich comes with tomatoes and you can go for bacon as a performance enhancer.
The long list of à la carte sides includes Jasmine Rice, Fried Brussels Sprouts with bacon and chili, plus Asian Slaw. But the Sweet Potato Tots with cinnamon butter rose to the top as the perfect match to balance a bit of sweet to the salty savory of our Ultimate Warrior meal.
8. Carmody’s Grille, 4905 Grand Ave., Neville Island
To get the proper sort of cheesiness that stretches out from each bite, Carmody’s Grille relies on four different varieties — Swiss, Cheddar, provolone and pepper jack. Bacon gives it a crunch and slices of tomato add color and juiciness. Fries are an option as a side but go for the Super Slaw instead. This delectable salad is so much more than a blend of the usual green cabbage and carrots. Grated kohlrabi, red cabbage, baby kale, Brussels sprouts and broccoli add superfood status to the creamy mayo-base dressing.
9. Back to the Foodture, 2767 E. Carson St., South Side
The big fat grilled cheese at Back to the Foodture is — technically speaking — a burger. The monstrous sandwich, called the Buggie Burger, stacks two beef patties, bacon and a fried egg between two grilled cheese sandwiches. The Buggie is dressed with lettuce, tomato and “mayochup” for a mega meal threaded through with a wooden skewer to hold it all together. This is the definition of a fork-and-knife sandwich!
Back to the Foodture bills itself as a restaurant/museum. While waiting for your food, revisit the ghosts of childhoods past by looking through the toys, gadgets and early electronic games on display.