Who doesn’t love a good grilled cheese? When it comes to warm wintry comfort food, the simple combination of melty cheese oozing from two slices of toasted bread always delivers. Whether you're a stickler for the classic cheese-only format or you prefer to go beyond the basics for a sandwich with fancy-pants extras like oxtail, pork belly and prosciutto, here’s 11 worth trying in Shanghai.
Photograph: courtesy Co Cheese
Co Cheese, Shanghai's first grilled cheese-dedicated destination, has garnered a rep for getting experimental with variations. You could say it’s their bread and butter, with 20 sarnies on the menu including the Hunanese (pork belly, jalapeño and mozzarella), Kung Pao (chicken, peanut, soy, hot peppers and mozzarella) and the Bacon that's filled with all the fixings of a fry-up (bacon, hash browns, brown sauce, egg, baked beans and cheddar). The only issue is the painful amount of umming and ahing that goes into deciding what to actually order, but really, you can’t go wrong. 50RMB (small, two slices); 80RMB (regular, four slices); 110RMB (large, six slices).
Photograph: courtesy Commune Reserve
Beer buffs may come to Commune Reserve for the craft beer, but they’ll tell you that every pour needs a good pairing. The beefy grilled cheese here fits the bill, comprised of strands of braised oxtail packed in two pieces of marbled sourdough as balsamic onions, melty Mahón and Brie slop out from the sides. It’s also served with a side of onion rings – a nice idea in theory, though a challenge to get through after devouring this. 78RMB.
Posh Grilled Cheese at Perch
Photograph: courtesy Perch
Whether you’re someone who prefers to stick with classic fail-safe combinations or flirts with the fancy, the people at Perch have you covered for both. The standard option sees a gooey three-cheese blend (mozzarella, Parmesan and cheddar) ooze out from two slices of toasted farmer’s bread, while the ‘posh’ version brings those ingredients together with avocado and prosciutto. 48RMB; 68RMB (posh).
The Hop Project were once in partnership with Co Cheese, hence why its menu looks like a smaller, toned-down adaption of the one you encounter over there. In particular, the Kraft Mac & Cheese means business, cramming Kraft macaroni between buttery, griddled bread alongside cheddar and American cheese. It's worth every calorie. 50RMB (small); 65RMB (regular).
Photograph: courtesy RIINK
You won't find any flashy fillings or pretentious twists in RIINK’s workmanlike grilled cheese. The rollerskate bar follows the simple but fail-proof four-cheese formula (Gouda, Parmesan, cheddar and mozzarella), melted neatly together under the weight of a panini press. It's a sandwich that doesn't take itself too seriously, which is apt in a place where you'll regularly be seen falling on your backside. From 48RMB.
Photograph: courtesy Tomatito
Most meals at Tomatito involve sharing ‘sexy’ tapas dishes with your mates, however if you’ve opted for the jamón bikini, a little bit of greediness can be excused (shh, we know there’s four on a plate). Tomatito’s take on the classic Catalonian sandwich uses Ibérico with Buffalo mozzarella, pine nuts, arugula and a smattering of truffle paste that gives it an extra layer of richness. 86RMB.
Photograph: Rupert Hohwieler
The cocktails at Sober Company are one thing, but how about their adult take on a grilled cheese? Compact and complex, it leads with kimchi for a subtle tang and features three cheeses (cream cheese, cheddar and mozzarella) plus spinach, bacon and garlic mayonnaise, blanketed snugly between warm multi-grain bread. It’s a good example of how the sandwich has grown up over the years. 78RMB.
Photograph: courtesy The Blarney Stone
The Blarney just doled out a brand-new menu of pub grub courtesy of Justin Birmingham (who’s also behind the menus at other carb-friendly establishments like Fat Cow and Chicken and Egg). The poster boy for the facelift is the grilled cheese, and you’ll find four to work your way through – classic with melted cheddar, spicy egg mayo, smoked turkey breast or English cured ham and mustard. Once you’ve finished your sandwich, don’t expect to be going anywhere anytime soon. Order a Guinness and settle in – it’s the honourable thing to do. From 48RMB.
The BLT Grilled Cheese at UP
Photograph: courtesy UP
Over in the far corner of UP there’s a little kitchen quietly pulling off a tactical masterclass, serving up street-style carb-heavy bites for the people who really need them – yaknow, drunken dancegoers. Unsurprisingly, the BLT grilled cheese is one of the crowd-pleasers. A cheesy union of provolone and cheddar, with greens (lollo rosso), crispy bacon and sundried tomato to iron things out. It’s not the cleanest sandwich to eat, but remember it’s dark, you’re in a club and you’ll likely dust it off before anyone can notice. 75RMB.
Photograph: Rupert Hohwieler
Only opened earlier this year, Le DAiLY has already slotted seamlessly into Shanghai’s sandwich scene with the expertise of a seasoned pro. The team’s entry into the grilled cheese game is a messy two-handed affair – only available at night – made up of four kinds of cheese (provolone, Emmental, mozzarella and a heap of house-made ricotta) with a couple of slices of fermented beetroot added in to help cut through that flood of fromage. 78RMB.
Everything at Cin Cin Cantina&Bar
Photograph: Jack Edwards
Mexican cantina Cin Cin cranks out the obvious with things like tacos and quesadillas, but it also triumphs in the unexpected with a cracking lineup of grilled cheeses. A few variations you’ll come across include a dessert-style sandwich with banana and Nutella, one with French ham, pickles and Emmental and another combining chicken with bits of bacon, Caesar dressing and a thick layer of mozzarella. If you’re down with a case of the midnight munchies, the store has your back too. It’s open until midnight every day to cure those late-night cravings. 40RMB.