Ooh baby, it’s cold outside!
When the mercury drops, Dixon and I – like everyone else – like to burrow under the covers and call out for delivery. When we do venture out to restaurants, it’s often for the kinds of comfort food that keeps us warm, both literally and figuratively. Grilled cheese and tomato soup ranks high on that list.
Here are a few of our favorite spots for the classic combo, including all sorts of restaurants, from delis to diners to sit-down spots with more sophisticated menus. One thing they all have in common, though: they serve a great grilled cheese and tomato soup that makes dunking delicious.
our favorite grilled cheese in baltimore
4800 Roland Avenue, Roland Park | 410-773-0777 | Website
The cheesy contents of Johnny’s grilled cheese, especially when doctored up with bacon and tomato, is consistently excellent. But the real star of the sandwich show isn’t the cheese or the bacon. It’s the bread.
Johnny’s, like all the Foreman Wolf restaurants, uses bread that’s made daily in the kitchen at Bar Vasquez (formerly Pazo). The grilled cheese is built on the kitchen’s very own “wonder bread,” a riff on the polka dotted supermarket bread most often associated with 1980s cafeteria PB&Js.
In the very capable hands of the Foreman Wolf bakers, wonder bread gets and upgrade. It’s terrific – and even better when it’s paired with Johnny’s silky, creamy, slightly spicy tomato pepper bisque.
Mt. Washington Tavern
5700 Newbury Street, Mt. Washington | 410-367-6903 | Website
The Tavern is a tried and true spot for gussied up pub fare for good reason. Its grilled cheese selection, which includes a couple creative, tasty options, plays to the kitchen’s strengths.
Go for a classic GC if you want, but I prefer the Tavern Grilled Cheese, an intense combo of cheddar, American and goat cheese, bacon and tomato on thick slices of white bread. Paired with a bowl of extra-herbaceous tomato basil soup, it makes a real splash.
The kicker is the goat cheese, which adds a tangy, creamy element to the sandwich that’s especially appealing. With the bacon’s salty, fatty flavor keeping the tang in check, the sandwich is a winner.
Dixon’s favorite? The kid’s grilled cheese, pictured above.
9396 Belair Road, Nottingham | 410-529-3354 | Website
This low key deli on the Nottingham-Perry Hall border looks like any average carryout from the outside. Inside, though, one look at the menu makes clear why it wins “best of” awards right and left. The kitchen takes traditional deli offerings up a notch.
Tomato basil soup isn’t on the menu all the time, but it is a frequent special. Go on a night it’s available and pair it with a goopy, gorgeous grilled cheese stuffed with a blend of cheeses, lumps of Maryland crabmeat and cooked with Old Bay aioli. You’ll make a mess, but it’s well worth the extra napkins.
Grilled Cheese & Co.
Locations in Federal Hill, Catonsville and Gambrills | Website
With “Grilled Cheese” in the name, it’s no surprise that Grilled Cheese & Co. offers a wide variety of grilled cheese options, or that they’re satisfying on every level. They get that job done.
What is surprising, however, is just how good the restaurant’s tomato soup is. Served in paper cups and topped with crunchy croutons, the soup is chunky and surprisingly hearty. Dixon loves its seasoning and I love that the savory flavor distracts him enough that he scarfs it down, ingesting at least a whole serving of fruits and vegetables without a single complaint.
510 East Belvedere Avenue, Belvedere Square | 410-878-0069 | Website
Belvedere Square’s newest addition, the bright, funky Starlite Diner, delivers big on the grilled cheese front, with a meaty version of the sandwich. Cheddar, caramelized onions, barbecue sauce and braised short ribs stacked on Texas toast make for a serious, grown-up meal (but one Dixon loves, too, minus the onions).
The diner’s tomato soup is a treat, too: thick, laced with basil and garnished with the most adorable, tiny grilled-cheese-on-rye “crouton.”
Photos by Laura Black.