Reader, your prayers have been answered. They thought it impossible. They thought me a madman. They told me I was unnecessarily endangering myself for no reason — but I did it anyway. I ate every grilled cheese in New Paltz so you don’t have to.
Ever since I was a boy, grilled cheese has been my favorite sandwich. Nothing matches the perfect simplicity attained by those two slices of bread giving a warm and comforting hug to a bed of well-melted, gooey cheese.
But not all grilled cheeses are created equal, and that’s why I’m here. Bread and cheese are my bread and butter, so I’ll give you the scoop on the best grilled cheese sandwiches New Paltz has to offer. To start, I had to find all the options that would be on the menu for this grease-filled journey.
Unsurprisingly most restaurants offer some form of bread and cheese sandwich, but to qualify for this review the grilled cheese must be pure (i.e. only two ingredients, bread, and cheese). After compiling my list of candidates, I set out on a weeklong quest of grueling carb and dairy consumption. But before I could start reviewing, I had to dig deep and find out what really made a great grilled cheese.
There are only two criteria we can really grade a grilled cheese on and that is the two aforementioned ingredients. To assess the cheese there are three crucial aspects the grilled cheese must have to be perfect. First, there should be a cheese pull when you either bite into the grilled cheese or separate the two halves of the sandwich if it is bisected. A good cheese pull shows that the cheese has been perfectly melted.
Second, the cheese must have flavor; it can’t be too bland. Whether these two requirements are accomplished with one cheese or a combination of cheeses is inconsequential. For the bread, it’s mainly about consistency. The bread should be crunchy on the edges and yet soft to bite through overall.
Lastly, I will be breaking down the price-to-enjoyment ratio of the overall sandwich. To save you time, I will provide the final rating and price of the sandwiches before the reviews in case you are the numerical type who doesn’t care about the intricacies that grilled cheese reviews involve. With the rubric for good grilled cheese under my belt, it’s time for a few sandwiches to get tucked down there too. So grab your Lactaid pills and hold on to your toilet seats.
Price: $10.49 (in dining dollars with a reusable container and a side of your choice of plain or sweet potato fries)
Rating: 2/5ths of a cheese wheel
Served in a putrid green container to reduce waste and price, this grilled cheese from our very own Element 93 at SUNY New Paltz features three kinds of cheese: cheddar, provolone and mozzarella on a self-proclaimed Texas toast.
This sandwich wasn’t as bad as I expected. I’ll admit I have my biases about campus food, but I was pleasantly surprised by this sandwich’s satisfying cheese pull before I took my first bite. At first, I was skeptical of the combination of provolone and mozzarella on grilled cheese. That being said, it wasn’t amazing either.
To start, the bread was not as thick as I would have expected Texas toast to be — and one of the qualities of Texas toast is that it is supposed to sear on the outside because of the butter applied to either side and then remain soft on the inside for the perfect mouth feel. However, this grilled cheese was clearly overdone and was dry and crunchy throughout.
The aforementioned cheese made for a pleasant texture experience with the mozzarella making for a stretchy, mucilaginous, meal. Sadly, I did not find the flavor as pleasant as the texture. The three cheeses did not seem to agree on a flavor profile so the sandwich was left tasting mild, with a strange aftertaste possibly caused by the provolone.
Overall, the sandwich wasn’t the worst grilled cheese I have ever had, but it certainly wasn’t the best sandwich I have ever had either with its main issues being the dryness of the bread and strange combinations of cheese. Considering the price point I would give this sandwich a third of a loaf of Texas toast.
Peregrine Dining Hall
Price: One meal swipe
Rating: One grain of sand out of an entire beach
Obtaining this grilled cheese is somewhat up to random chance as Peregrine has a rotating menu. To find out if Peregrine is offering their rendition of this beloved American staple, you can either consult your neighborhood medium, a Oujia board, cast the bones of a chicken into a fire, or just look at the menu for the day on their website. As for the price, this sandwich is included in the all-you-can-eat meal swipe that you use to enter the dining hall so you can eat as many or as few as you like for the same price.
This sandwich is an enigma to me. Never have I experienced a grilled cheese that has been toasted into oblivion and yet has cheese that seems to be completely untouched by any sort of heat. There was no cheese pull to be spoken of, and there wasn’t nearly enough cheese not that I wanted much more of that rubbery orange cheddar, but I would have liked enough to bind the two pieces of bread that were as dry as the Mojave desert together.
I love grilled cheese. My blood is brie and my body is sourdough, but when I tell you I couldn’t stomach another bite of this sandwich I swear I’m telling the truth. I gave it my best effort to eat but this sandwich really lives up to its name because it felt like biting through sand as it sucked the moisture out of my mouth. As a reviewer, I cannot in good conscience recommend this sandwich and so I give it one grain of sand out of an entire beach.
Price: $6.25 (in dining dollars)
Rating: 3/5ths of a cheese wheel
The Starbucks grilled cheese is truly an anomaly. When I discovered it, I thought it was going to be one of the worst grilled cheeses to ever grace my distinguished taste buds, because who buys a grilled cheese at a coffee shop?
But after spending $6.25 of my precious dining dollars at the campus Starbucks, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of this grilled cheese. It has a great cheese pull (as seen above), it is buttered (somewhat unevenly) on the outside so that it becomes crispy when toasted, it has a hearty helping of mozzarella mixed with sharp cheddar to give it a stretchy texture and a sharp flavor and last but not least, it is served on two slices of sourdough bread which compliment the aforementioned cheese perfect for a crunchy, crispy, experience.
The Starbucks grilled cheese is definitely my favorite option for grilled cheese on campus — but it has two shortcomings. The first is its size. The grilled cheese is quite small compared to some of the other options you can find around town. It just about fits in the palm of my hand and although I have pretty big hands I feel like this sandwich amounts to about half of a regular grilled cheese and leaves me wanting more.
The second issue is the grease and this may be a recurring con (or maybe a pro?) on the list. Due to the butter on the outside which helps to make the sandwich more crispy and delectable, the sandwich also sweats grease like a pig who ate a bucket of mayo and ran a marathon. Some of you may be into that, I know I can look past it but I feel it must be mentioned as there is no clean way to eat this sandwich and the grease seeps through the small Starbucks bag it comes in. You have been warned. I would give this sandwich 3/4 of a strawberry acai refresher.
Price: $6.95 (fries included)
Rating: 2/5ths of a cheese wheel
B-Side Grill is one of the cheaper options on the list and it’s also the first off-campus sandwich we’ll be taking a bite out of. To preface, B-side has some impure options for grilled cheese along with the standard grilled cheese, but I will not be speaking on their quality.
I’m a big fan of B-Side generally (their breakfast quesadilla is to die for) but their grilled cheese is extremely middle-of-the-road. It’s a classic take with sourdough and cheddar, but the bread was soggy and soft and the cheese wasn’t really melted enough. There was a decent amount of cheese on the sandwich and the portioning was reasonable, plus they throw in a side of fries for free to maximize the bang for your buck. It was definitely a grilled cheese.
Definitely not the best grilled cheese in New Paltz. But no shame on B-Side, just order something else.
Price: $7.95 (pickle and fries included)
Rating: 3/5ths of a cheese wheel
After rushing to Lola’s Cafe in between class and a meeting I threw my grilled cheese on the heated passenger seat of my car and rushed back to my dorm to devour it. This sandwich was just what I needed, and with a side of nice crispy fries and a complimentary dill pickle spear, I was set.
This grilled cheese didn’t have a great cheese pull, but the cheddar was well-melted, so I’ll let it slide this time. The bread was a well-toasted sourdough, but it had a strange grainy texture. Despite the bread’s imperfect texture both the cheddar and the sourdough tasted really nice and the pickle was a lovely touch.
This sandwich was a little pricier than some of the other options on the list, but the portioning plus the fries and pickle made it more worth the price of $7.95 (before tax).
Still, I’m not sure I’m fully satisfied with the price-to-enjoyment ratio, but this was the second-best grilled cheese I have had so far after Starbucks. So I would give it 2/3 Lola’s milkshakes (which pair very well).
Price: $16.72 (waffle fries not included)
Reader, I have made a grave mistake and I am not proud of what I have done. This entry may not even be viable, but I will talk about my experience with what may be loosely described as McGillicuddy’s grilled cheese.
Dear reader, my teeth have torn through so much cheese and my stomach has absorbed so many carbs that in my delirious state I created a monster. An odious beast, girdled only by a side of waffle fries, that weighed in at an astounding $16.72. A purchase that, to this day, I cannot justify to you, even for the noble quest of science. So without further adieu, may I present to you, McGillicuddy’s grilled cheese.
Atrocity of Nature: Finn’s custom McGuillicuddy’s grilled cheese, photographed by Finn Krause
A lot of things went wrong with this particular review and so McGillicuddy’s is exempt from any judgment. This was entirely my fault. Please picture this, if you will. You are bent over your desk working and it’s time to order a grilled cheese for the story you’re writing (relatable I know). You’re doing laundry at the same time to maximize productivity. You pick up your phone, dial McGillicuddy’s number and put it on speaker while chipping away at your work. The dial tone rings once or twice through the lint-clogged speakers of your phone that you never bothered to clean. A waiter picks up on the other end. They ask you what you want. You say “a grilled cheese with waffle fries.” They say, “Alright, what kind of bread would you like that on and what kind of cheese would you like?” Then they proceed to list a bunch of different kinds of bread and cheeses they have available. You panic. You heard brioche somewhere in there, but didn’t hear the word bun attached to it. You love brioche. It’s soft and delicious so you order it without hesitation. For the cheese, you blurt out mozzarella and cheddar because that’s a killer combo and it makes the cheese stretchy and flavorful. Congratulations! You’ve made all the same mistakes as me and created a monstrosity.
I’m ashamed to say it was pretty good, but is a grilled cheese on a bun a grilled cheese at all? Or is it just a cheeseburger without a burger? And that reader is for you to decide. In conclusion, McGuillicuddy’s grilled cheese was unratable due to reviewer error.
Price: $9.25 (fries included)
Rating: 3/5ths of a cheese wheel
Clemson Brothers Brewery offers two kinds of grilled cheeses. The first is their French onion grilled cheese, which nearly disqualified them on the grounds of being tainted. However, luckily (and humiliatingly) enough, I was able to order off the kids’ menu to secure a grilled cheese with no frill or fluff. A classic setup of sharp(ish) white cheddar on white served with a generous portion of tasty fries. If I was rating on fries this place would have come in first because they had the crispest, and most well-seasoned fries I had on this journey. Alas, I am not a fry connoisseur.
Still, as far as the grilled cheese was concerned it was a very solid entry on our list. The bread had the perfect crunchy edges while maintaining a soft bread and the cheese was well melted. There was no cheese pull — but that was because the two halves of the sandwich were pre-separated before they got to me. They didn’t skimp on the cheddar either and the portioning was quite filling.
I’d like to give this grilled cheese a higher rating because it was pretty good, but for this sandwich to be perfect, I think the price would have to be a bit lower. I think there are better options on this list that are cheaper.
Rating: 4/5ths of a cheese wheel
Oh, The Bakery grilled cheese … what is there to say? It’s truly a sight to behold, isn’t it? The only sandwich on our list that has experienced the warm embrace of a panini press, this grilled cheese has a wonderful evenly toasted exterior with an aesthetically pleasing grid pattern to boot. The challah bread is fluffy and has a delightful flavor that compliments the white cheddar perfectly, making it a dream to bite into.
Another great feature of this grilled cheese is the multitude of cheddar slices applied to the sandwich. The price is reasonable for the quality of the sandwich and this was one of the best-tasting entries on the list, but this particular grilled cheese failed to achieve a perfect score due to a lack of cheese pull from insufficient melting.
If it had been perfectly prepared and the cheese was just a little more melted it could have been the perfect muse.
Price: $6.75 (price may vary due to customization)
Rating: A full cheese wheel
You can’t talk about sandwiches in New Paltz without talking about Russo’s. You especially can’t talk about Russo’s grilled cheese without talking about the king of kings: the breakfast grilled cheese. Sadly, I couldn’t review that grilled cheese because it is impure, but if it fit the criteria it would have obliterated the competition.
That being said, the plain Russo’s grilled cheese is nothing to scoff at. The beauty of this grilled cheese is that it is customizable and you can make any combination of cheese and bread that they have available at their quant deli. But you would be remiss to pass on their focaccia. At this point, I am probably more cheddar than a man so I decided to stick with the trend and opted for cheddar on my grilled cheese. It had a great cheese pull and the focaccia added an aromatic element to the equation.
I loved this sandwich and Russo’s has become my go-to place for all my grilled cheese needs, plus it’s not too far from campus. This sandwich received the full cheese wheel because it has the potential to be the perfect grilled cheese for anyone due to its customizable features plus this was the best all-around grilled cheese I ate during this arduous gauntlet of carbs and lactose.
Price: $6.95 (includes complimentary pickle and side of macaroni salad or coleslaw)
Rating: 3/5ths of a cheese wheel
After turning down the side of macaroni salad or coleslaw in an awkward interaction with the waitress my food arrived. At first, I was skeptical, the sandwich looked like a pretty standard diner-style grilled cheese. My expectations were low, but honestly, this sandwich tasted like victory. Maybe it was because this was the last grilled cheese I was obligated to eat, but it tasted surprisingly above average.
I happily tore this sandwich apart and enjoyed its well-buttered, golden brown white bread. The mystery cheese which I believe to be American or a mild cheddar (leaning American) was a little rubbery, but the cheese was melted which was good. There was no cheese pull, but the pickle was a great compliment to the sandwich and served to enhance the flavor profile of the sandwich. I enjoyed this grilled cheese, but there wasn’t anything special about this sandwich, white bread and American cheese make for a bland combination and that’s coming from the guy who ate grilled cheese every day for two weeks straight.
I’m happy I ended this journey on this sandwich because it was perfectly middle of the road, but that won’t score it an above-average rating.