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.

  • The front of the Fisherman's Market building. It's wooden and painted a light grey/brownish color. There's a red neon sign atop an awning with the restaurant's name. There's a sculpture of a fish to the right of it. Parked in front is a red SUV.
  • The front counter inside of Fisherman's Market. Above on the wall, and hanging next to a couple signs, are the menu for the restaurant. Below them is a row of different beers and ciders that are available. An employee is standing in the middle, separating the left side of the counter from the right where there is a soda fountain.
  • A photograph of the Grilled Lobster Mac n' Cheese Sandwich. The sandwich, laying on a tray with black-and-white checkered paper, has a light-colored bread. Cheesy noodles and little bits of lobster can be seen on the inside of one slice that is open towards the viewer. In front of the sandwich are criss-cut french fries that are golden brown.

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

  • Cheese Bliss' sign is on a white board with handwritten black-outlined letters. It's framed and on a yellow-painted door.
  • A grilled cheese sandwich sitting in the center of a brown paper take-out box. It's cut diagonally and looks toasted to perfection. In the top left corner is a small container with sliced tomatoes and lemon.
  • A grilled cheese sandwich sitting in the center of a brown paper take-out box. It's cut diagonally and looks toasted to perfection. In the top left corner is a small container with sliced tomatoes and lemon.

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 exterior of Provisions South. To the left and back a ways is a seating area. There are a few people seated throughout. To the right, and much more in the forefront of the photo, is the "front" of Provisions South. Inside can be seen a counter and a menu on the wall above. On the top of the window is a large sign split between three panes that reads "Provisions" and "South" below it in slightly smaller size.
  • An open-faced sandwich with a layer of yellowish-brown cheese and a sunny-side up egg on top. Next to it on the plate is an assortment of sliced green and purple leafy vegetables.
  • An open-faced sandwich with a layer of yellowish-brown cheese and a sunny-side up egg on top. Next to it on the plate is an assortment of sliced green and purple leafy vegetables. In this photo, the egg has been cut through. The yolk is running down the middle.

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.

  • The front exterior of The Sandwich League. It's the darker shop in between two others on either side of the building. Above the door is the name of the restaurant in white letters and the shop's trim is painted a vibrant red which contrasts well with the otherwise dark brown paint. There are a few metal tables outside and a promotional sign that is standing in the sidewalk.
  • An interior shot looking at the front counter of The Sandwich League. The counter, partially obscured by a person standing in front of it, is metal and has neon red lights on it's face where the logo is. Up above on the wall and off to the side is the restaurant's menu on lit-up boards.
  • The photo is of their grilled cheese sandwich that has been diagonally cut in half. It's on well-toasted bread and the inside shows poblanos, mushrooms, and onions with melted cheese. There's a side of bright yellow french fries, too, all on a black-and-white checkered paper tray.

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.

  • Looking into the Pig & Turnip from the outside in this photograph. It's lit up in side and there's a counter along the longer wall with several white and wood-colored signs/menus hanging from the ceiling.
  • A photo of a grilled cheese sandwich on a black-and-white checkered paper tray. The bread is lightly toasted and mostly white in color. Thin slices of Granny Smith apples can be seen inside the sandwich with gouda cheese.

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.

  • Looking down at the grilled cheese sandwich. The bread is toasted and has dark brown grill marks. Not much can be seen of it's contents. It's resting on a black-and-white checkered paper tray along with a cup of reddish-brown Manhattan Clam Chowder.
  • A side view of the grilled cheese sandwich shows fresh green arugula and pepperoncincis with what appears to be mozzarella oozing over.

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.

  • A photograph of the Mandy's Family Restaurant sign in the dark. Not much is visible around it but "Mandy's" is lit-up in neon blue and "24 hours" in red.
  • A photograph of a breakfast-inspired grilled cheese sandwich. The bread is actually french toast, looks soft and brown and has been drizzled in hot, white maple syrup. Next to the sandwich is a side of what appears to be county-style potatoes.
  • A photograph of a breakfast-inspired grilled cheese sandwich. The bread is actually french toast, looks soft and brown and has been drizzled in hot, white maple syrup. Next to the sandwich is a side of what appears to be county-style potatoes.

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.

  • A photograph of the front of Northwest Burgers. It's on the side of a building and is painted white with bright red doors and black trim. Above two sets of doors and tables/chairs is the Northwest Burgers logo.
  • A photograph of a hamburger that's laying on a black-and-white checkered paper tray. The thick beef patty, green lettuce, and violet onions are sandwiched between two fluffy slices of bun.
  • A picture of the "Cheesy Saucy Goodness" that's in a little plastic cup. It's kinda yellow, kinda brown. Next to it is the corner of the black-and-white checkered tray that the food is sitting in.

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.

  • A photo of the front of Hop Valley Brewing in Eugene. It's dark outside and the building has a bit of a green glow because of two lights on either side of the front doors. In the foreground is an outdoor table with flames coming out of the middle of it. There's a couple of people off to the side enjoying their meal.
  • A dark photo of Hop Valley's grilled cheese sandwich. From the glow you can see the plate and what appears to be a cheesy, spinachy mess.
  • An above photo of the pretzel grill cheese sandwich. Everything is resting on a bright white plate. There's a small dish of what appears to be ketchup in the top left corner, a half-circle of onion rings covering the plate and then, in the foreground, the burger. There's a rich brown pretzel bun and what appears to be arugula hanging off the side.

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.

  • The outside front of Screamin' Jays is rather inconspicuous aside from a bright red door on a rather grey paneled building. The door has a slide-window with a couple of papers in front of it. Outside and off to the side are a couple of chairs and a sign resting against the side of the building.
  • A grilled cheese sandwich resting on top of brown paper. The bread is light brown and well toasted. On top of it is a brownish grain.
  • A side view of the first grilled cheese sandwich resting in brown paper shows a mostly brown inside.
  • The front door and window of Screamin' Jays is painted bright red. On the sheld in front of the window is a stand-up menu and tip jar. There's a rainbow-colored heart that says "Love" beside the window, too.
  • A top view of Screamin' Jays' second grilled cheese sandwich. It's resting on a light brown paper, has grill marks, and one slice is piled with brown sugary crumbs.
  • A top view of Screamin' Jays' second grilled cheese sandwich. It's resting on a light brown paper, has grill marks, and one slice is piled with brown sugary crumbs. The inside of one half shows gooey cheese.

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.

  • A photograph of the colorful menu on the side of the Bacon Nation food truck. It's a whiteboard with several items in alternating black and red text. There's a lot written here that's too small for me to Alt Text unfortunately.
  • A photograph of a grilled cheese sandwich resting in a styrofoam takeout box with black-and-white checkerd paper lining the bottom. The sandwich itself looks as though it's been deep fried and is very crispy. There's a slice of an orange and a separate container with a white-colored dipping sauce.
  • A side view of Bacon Nation's grilled cheese sandwich. The bread is extremely crispy, there's bacon and what appears to be a plethora of melted cheeses.

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.

  • The front of Lovely in Springfield. It's on the corner of a bluish-grey building with white trim. There's an outdoor patio area off to the left with a tree going through the metal roof. The corner cafe is painted in white and there's an American flag waving in the air above it.
  • A photo of the inside of Lovely. There's a lot going on here. There's an avocado-colored green countertop on a wood counter. There's various dishes and assorted cups on the counter. Standing outside the counter is a woman with grey hair wearing a purple top and a black vest. She's talking to the employee with long brown hair and a short-sleeved shirt behind the counter. Above the employee are a few shelves lined with glasses and, at the top, two abstract paintings. In teh background is another counter and/or rack that appears to have condiment boxes.
  • A side view of a grilled cheese sandwich resting on a bright white plate. The sandwich is lighter in color. The bread, panini style, looks lightly toasted the inside looks rather plain in color. Lots of beige and off-white and nothing really sticks out as noticeable.

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.

  • An above shot of a grilled cheese sandwich resting on a bright white dinner plate that is resting o a black and white "zebra print" fabric. The sandwich, itself, looks quite toasted with several evenly spaced grill marks on the bread.
  • A slightly profile shot of a grilled cheese sandwich resting on a bright white dinner plate that is resting o a black and white "zebra print" fabric. The sandwich, itself, looks quite toasted with several evenly spaced grill marks on the bread. The cutaway shows white, oozy cheese and red pepperoni.

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

  • A photo of the Hop Valley sign outside the building which is briefly shown to the left. There's a tree in the foreground a kinda off to the right side. The sign is black with the logo in green. The "o" in "hop" is shaped like a hop.
  • A photo of a grilled cheese sandwich resting in a white styrofoam takeout box. It's light colored with a bit of browning on the edges and middle of the toasted bread. Inside, a prominent layer of white and then a thinner layer of brown make up the sandwich.

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.

  • The front of Jack Sprats in Cottage Grove. It's a small brick building nestled in-between two others. There's a decal of the state of Oregon with a dinner plate in the middle of it on the window. A metal chair sits out front, too.
  • A quarter-side view of Jack Sprats' grilled cheese sandwich resting on a bright white dinner plate. The sandwich, laying on its side, is about the same color as the french fries besides it except for a toothpick piercing it.

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2 Responses

  1. David says:

    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.

  2. Heather says:

    Great read. I agree with most of your reviews. Kinda wish you had tried them all to see how my opinion varied. Maybe next year.

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