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Photo by Rosa Cautela

Grilled Cheese for Grownups

This city’s sandwich scene seldom sides with nostalgia. From experimental to reckless, Columbus “carbovores” reward few endeavors more than a radical idea between two pieces of bread.

But simple pleasures aren’t easily outgrown.

“It’s the most comfortable of comfort foods,” mused Ian Hummel — prolific singer/songwriter, Shazzbots skipper, and grilled cheese guru. (The local music loyal may recall Hummel’s off-beat ballad, “An Ode to Cheese.”)

“As a grown up, of sorts, I have come to appreciate the enhancements made to the world’s greatest sandwich,” Hummel confessed, rattling off the range of cheeses now available on the simple staple. “Meat eaters and vegetarians love ’em — it’s still the perfect food.”

Affirming its enduring charm, The Shazzbots television pilot even used sandwich making as a metaphor for childhood creativity and self-expression. Much like its most notable ingredient, our affection for grilled cheese often improves with age.

Despite the rise of restaurant chains and food trucks redefining the delicate blend of crispy and gooey, there are equally sophisticated takes found off the radar. Paired with the right cup of soup, these grilled cheese for grownups will surely warm your soul and win over your inner child.

Katzinger’s 475 S Third St. | katzingers.com

Finding a new favorite at this German Village landmark is quite the pickle, and not the kind found in their barrels of garlics and dills. Next time, skip the New York standards in favor of Franklin’s Kibbetz — housemade mozzarella and pesto with tomato on grilled sourdough. A cup of intense chicken soup with egg noodles or matzo balls is customary, but Seth’s daily special may also include tomato, red onion, or fresh greens.

Bodega 1044 N High St. | columbusbodega.com

This neighborhood haunt is nearly legendary for their $1 grilled cheese during Monday night happy hours. But don’t let that low price dissuade you from going any day. The three-cheese pleaser features cheddar, Swiss and Monterey Jack—then makes a deft departure by adding tomato aioli and zesty arugula. Jalapeños add extra punch and the seasonal soup of the day round out the palate. If you’re lucky, it will be a ladle of lentil.

Philco Bar + Diner 747 N High St. | philcodiner.com

Eclectic ingredients conspire to create a remarkable balance of smooth, savory, salty, and sweet at this sleek spot in the Short North. Ohio cheddar, Havarti and bacon contrast the tart taste of diced Granny Smith apples, served on slabs of Texas toast. Add a cup of turkey, chorizo and white bean chili with the peppery bite of matchstick radish, chopped cilantro and a dollop of sour cream on top for a mix of Midwest meets Southwest.

101 Beer Kitchen
397 Stoneridge Ln., 7509 Sawmill Pl. | 101beerkitchen.com

Suburban watering holes aren’t the kind of places you expect to take craft beer and comfort food so seriously. But that’s exactly where you’ll find creamy brie and pears on crusty sourdough with fig and honey jam served with a side of crisp, crimson beet chips. Butternut squash soup with spicy pumpkin seeds, duck confit, and crème fraîche will make you wonder what else you’ve been missing away from downtown and outside 270.