A side view of Planktown Brewery's grilled cheese sandwich. It's resting on a bright white dinner plate. The bread is lightly toasted and shows light grill marks on the top. Inside is a mix of light-colored meat, cheese, and bright green for the arugula.Arts & Culture

Lane County’s 8th Annual Grilled Cheese Experience

Editor’s Note: The article was edited to add the website for Wheels Cafe.

February is a cheesy month for Lane County thanks to FOOD For Lane County’s annual Grilled Cheese Experience. This year, over two dozen eateries throughout Lane County entered the event which, for hungry customers, is more of a contest.

After eating one of many exclusive grilled cheese sandwiches, a sticker is placed on the persons’ “passport.” Every five stickers grants the person a single entry for the chance to win prizes. For every sandwich purchased, two dollars is donated to the organization.

This year, DSM’s Robert Scherle went around to nearly every place offering a grilled cheese — except Elk Horn Brewery, for, um, obvious reasons. Here’s what he had to say about them.

Fisherman’s Market
830 W 7th Ave., Eugene
eugenefishmarket.com

Lobster Mac & Cheese Melt
“This grilled cheese is stuffed with lobster macaroni and cheese, and includes a smoked Havarti cheese crust served with cris-cut fries. $15”

Fisherman’s Market on 7th in Eugene had Lobster Mac and Cheese on a grilled cheese. A starch Sandwich, it seemed like a little overkill but it wasn’t bad. It was certainly one of the heartiest of the sandwiches. A little more lobster would have been nice but their cris-cut fries were the star. Fun entry.

Cheese Bliss
110 Madison St., Eugene
yourcheesebliss.com

The 541 Crustacean
“Tillamook sharp white cheddar, artichoke, parmesan cream cheese, Dungeness crab and fried wonton strips on Hideaway Bakery bread. Served with sliced tomatoes & chips. $15”

Cheese Bliss is a small food cart on the north end of the Whitaker. Couple runs it together. The wife is from Salem, went to Maryland, and brought back her husband from there.

They have a great menu so I’m definitely going to go back for their bacon doughnut. Their entry into the grilled cheese festival, “the 541 Crustacean,” was enthusiastic but a little too complicated. I liked the spinach but found the wonton strips lacking flavor and the crunch was distracting. The crab flavor showed through, though, and the bread was toasted to perfection. Taken all together, hospitality and all: it was a good experience

Provisions South
747 E 32nd Ave., Eugene
provisionsmarkethall.com

The Dutch
“Emmental cheese and caramelized onions. Served open faced with an egg and field greens salad. $12”

Provisions South had “The Dutch” and it was exquisite. The onions were richly caramelized and the cheese was deep in flavor. The egg was perfectly runny and lubricated the whole open-face together and was accented by the vinaigrette dressing on the greens nextdoor. This one was one of the best for sure.

The Sandwich League
1239 Alder St., Eugene
thesandwichleague.com

The Yes Please Grilled Cheese
“Grilled Cheese with poblanos, mushrooms and crispy fried onions. Served with our BBQ sauce for dipping.”

When my wife and I moved to Eugene five years ago, we used to go to the Sandwich League when it was a food truck in the Whitaker lot. Happy to find them next to the UO campus in brick and mortar.

Their poblano, crispy fried onion, and mushroom grilled cheese was as good as it’s always been and I’ll start visiting them again.

Pig & Turnip
418 A St., Springfield
pigandturnip.com

The Pig and Turnip in the Springfield Public House is tied with Provisions South for the most inventive and delicious creation. Fresh thinly sliced Granny Smith apples with Muenster and Smoked Gouda were made for a swipe of German grain mustard.

This was so good I almost ordered a second one but then I realized I was on my sixth grilled cheese of the day and still had another spot to hit.

First National Taphouse
51 W. Broadway, Eugene
firstnationaltaphouse.com

The place smelled like rancid oil and the young woman behind the counter was obviously displeased to be working. The sandwich was an anemically toasted affair with generic cheese and a couple slices of bacon to feign a personality.

Why did they enter into this festival if they weren’t going to make an effort?

Agate Alley Bistro
1461 E 19th Ave., Eugene
agatealley.com

Ocean Melt
“Bay scallops, bay shrimp, artichoke hearts, parmesan, mozzarella, provolone, arugula and pepperoncini on grilled sourdough.”

Agate Alley’s grilled cheese was another seafood affair but much more interesting because of the pepperoncinis and arugula. The best of the seafood grilled cheese. Got it with the Manhattan clam chowder as a side which was an excellent pairing.

Mandy’s Family Restaurant
1491 Willamette St., Eugene
mandysfamilyrestaurant.com

Maple Mascarpone Breakfast Grilled Cheese
“Monterey Jack cheese, maple mascarpone, and bacon on French toast drizzled with hot maple syrup.”

Mandy’s Family Restaurant’s grilled cheese was verging on a dessert. The Maple mascarpone made it sweet and gooey and lusciously heavy. I can’t think of a better munchie cure.

Northwest Burger
296 E. 5th Ave., Eugene
nwburgers.com

Cheesy Saucy Goodness
“Add this special GCE sauce to any burger or fries on the menu! This is a cheesy experience done your way!”

Northwest Burger took the lame way out.

Their contribution was offering a cheese sauce to whatever burger or sandwich you order for an additional $5.00. Five dollars is a lot for a ramekin of liquidy cheese sauce but it actually ended up being really good. Dipped the burger in it like a doughnut in coffee and dipped the fries in it too. I begrudgingly liked it a lot.

Hop Valley Brewing Eugene
990 W. 1st Ave., Eugene
hopvalleybrewing.com

Mushroom Truffle on a Pretzel

Hop Valley Brewing Eugene’s grilled cheese was a big cheesy pretzel roll with mushrooms and spinach. The pretzel roll brought a nice depth to the sandwich. I would definitely buy this one again.

Screamin’ Jays
460 Willamette St., Eugene
screaminjays.com

Bye Bye American Pie
“Sharp Tillamook and New York Cheddar melted over a Screamin’ savory, sweet and tart apple jam and baked apple chunks, topped with spiced praline cheddar streusel. $12”

Jay’s HOT ROCK-IT!
Canadian bacon and house pepperoni baked in marinara sauce and melted mozzarella, topped with candied pineapple. Drizzled with green chili chutney, hot honey and brown butter parmesan
crumb. ‘What are ya gonna pick? HOT ROCK-IT!’ $12″

Both were original and interesting. The Apple sandwich wasn’t as fine and balanced as the one at Pig and Turnip. Maybe it veered a little too sweet. The “Hot Rock-It” seemed more like a pizza hot pocket but that didn’t make it bad. Just straddling between being a good grilled cheese or a bad pizza.

Please do the extra effort to find Screamin’ Jays. it’s on the north west corner (back side) of the old “Lane Hotel” on 5th and Willamette.

Bacon Nation
Go to baconnation.com for daily location

GBD
“Bacon, bacon jam, and 7 cheeses on thick cut Bread Stop brioche with a side of tomato soup.”

Bacon Nation was parked across from Costco off Chad Dr. They had one of the best crusty bread layers of all the competitors. The cheese was sharp and gooey and plentiful.

Lovely
349 Main St., Springfield
lovelyspringfield.com

Lovely’s KIMCHEESE Experience
“Toasted sharp cheddar and house fermented kimchi grilled sandwich on Hideaway sourdough with a side of house pickles.”

Lovely was lovely. Their kimchi grilled cheese worked great. I love grilled cheese and I really like kimchi but it never crossed my mind to combine them. Bread was crisp and grainy so I felt healthy eating it.

Planktown Brewing
346 Main St., Springfield
planktownbrewing.com

Week #2
“House smoked turkey, cranberry cream cheese spread and arugula on sourdough. $14”

The meat was moist and the sandwich had a nice balance between the sauce and the greens. I still prefer traditional grilled cheese, though, as this was more like a turkey sandwich with some cheese.

A side view of Planktown Brewery's grilled cheese sandwich. It's resting on a bright white dinner plate. The bread is lightly toasted and shows light grill marks on the top. Inside is a mix of light-colored meat, cheese, and bright green for the arugula.

Wheels Café at Kendall Auto
864 Goodpasture Island Rd., Eugene
https://www.restaurantji.com/or/eugene/wheels-cafe-/

Pizza Grilled Cheese
“Three cheeses with pepperoni on garlic buttered Sourdough bread. Served with a side of marinara sauce for dipping. $10”

I walked into the Kendall Honda café fully expecting to be let down but it wasn’t horrible. There’s was a standard grilled cheese with some pepperoni and a styrofoam cup filled with marinara sauce. Gonna remember this next time I get the munchies.

Hop Valley Brewing Springfield
980 Kruse Way, Springfield
hopvalleybrewing.com

The Grilled Brieese
“Melted brie cheese, fresh apple slices, topped with oven roasted ham on garlic sourdough toast. Served with a side of our Tomato Bacon Glaze and a side of your choice. $13”

I was excited to go to the Hop Valley in Springfield as I really liked the pretzel grilled cheese sandwich at their Eugene location. This one, sadly, wasn’t quite as good. The cheese was too saucy and the apples didn’t have any bite to them. It wasn’t bad but paled in comparison to their sister location

Jack Sprats
510 E Main St., Cottage Grove
jackspratsbrats.com

Ham and Gouda
“Grilled Cheese featuring ham and Gouda with Marionberry Bacon Jam on rye bread. Served with a side. $14”

Jack Sprats was a little out of the way down in Cottage Grove. I’ve eaten there a couple times before and I knew they would have a solid contribution. Their grilled cheese was among the top three. Everything was perfect. The caramelized onions were sweet and dicing up the bacon makes it much easier to eat than gnawing on a whole bacon strip. The cheese was generous, quality and chewy. Definitely worth the trip.

2 replies »

  1. Cheese Bliss is one of my favorite places to eat. Robert, and everyone else for that matter, you should try the Avocado Toast made at Cheese Bliss. It’s to die for.

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