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8 Fast-Food Chains That Serve the Best Grilled Cheese

These spots all have excellent takes on this classic American sandwich.
FACT CHECKED BY Meaghan Cameron

According to NPR, there is archeological evidence of human beings making bread as many as 14,000 years ago. And according to the National Historic Cheesemaking Center, we have evidence of cheese being made more than 4,000 years ago in Ancient Egypt. It's entirely likely, given those thousands of years during which humankind was producing both bread and cheese, that someone long ago placed cheese between pieces of bread and applied heat, therefore effectively creating a grilled cheese sandwich.

But per How Stuff Works, we can't really trace the history of the classic grilled cheese sandwich as we know it today back further than the 1920s. It was in that "roaring" decade that a man named Otto Frederick Rohwedder invented an automatic bread-slicing machine that made sliced bread mass market available. Said sliced bread was quickly paired with processed cheese, which had hit the market in 1914 care of the J.L. Kraft & Brothers company, and from then on, the grilled cheese grew into ubiquity.

While a mainstay quick lunch of households across the nation and around the globe, the grilled cheese sandwich is also on the menu at many fast-food chains. And at some of them, it's well worth your order. Here are the eight fast-food chains with the best versions of grilled cheese.

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Tom & Chee

Tom & Chee grilled cheese
Tom & Chee / Facebook

No surprise that a restaurant that is primarily devoted to the grilled cheese sandwich makes one fine grilled cheese sandwich. Or actually, make that two, really: the Basic Chee, which is toasted bread with white cheese, cheddar, and mozzarella, or the Bacon Mac & Chee, which is those cheeses plus—you guessed it—bacon and mac and cheese.

At the time of this writing, there are about a dozen Tom & Chee locations in America, per the chain's FAQ information. The chain got its start in 2009 and then got a major boost after a 2013 appearance on the show Shark Tank, growing to some 35 locations. But soon units were closing down, largely because they were just too large, as in the actual restaurants were overbuilt at between 2,500 and 3,300 square feet, per the chain's site.

Tom & Chee was acquired and revived and though it is now a much smaller concern, it's growing again. This isn't surprising, because the restaurant serves some fine sandwiches and some fine soups to go with them.

Sonic Drive-In

sonic grilled cheese
Sonic Drive-In / Facebook

Sonic Drive-In has one of the finest fast-food grilled cheese sandwiches precisely because the chain sticks to that simplicity we talked about before. In the "What's On It" explainer of the restaurant's online menu, you'll see precisely two ingredients: Texas toast and a cheese slice.

And that's all you need, really. But if you want, you can add a condiment like ketchup, mayo, or mustard, or something more substantial, like bacon, diced onions, jalapeños, lettuce, pickles, and tomatoes.

Now, if you were lucky enough to try Sonic's Steak and Bacon Grilled Cheese Sandwiches while they were around, then good on you—they were a major hit when they came out in late 2022, but they have since been pulled from the menu, per Reddit. But keep an eye out for the chain's limited time grilled cheese offerings, because they are worth it.

Five Guys

five guys grilled cheese
Five Guys/Facebook

Come to Five Guys for the famed never-frozen burgers, but stay for the grilled cheese sandwich, a surprisingly large and filling item for those who don't want a burger. The chain's grilled cheese sandwich consists of an inside-out sesame seed bun and multiple slices of American cheese—you may get as many as five—and you can add unlimited toppings, including condiments, sauces, and veggies. Bacon costs extra, of course.

In a Reddit thread where someone posted a shout-out to the sandwich, it quickly became clear how many fans this vegetarian-friendly menu option has. One commenter called it, "the nicest grilled cheese I've seen from a fast food chain." Another said, "My favorite is to add mushrooms, bacon, and a hamburger patty. It's the best grilled cheese ever." Though to be fair, that second person had transformed the basic grilled cheese sandwich into a fancy patty melt, which isn't a bad idea!

Shake Shack

shake shack grilled cheese
Courtesy of Shake Shack

Shake Shack's grilled cheese sandwich is a thing of beauty and an object of high praise. We'll share an example of that momentarily, but first to opine on why it's so good: it's simple. Yep, that's the big secret.

The Grilled Cheese from Shake Shack consists of American cheese melted in a grilled potato bun. A great bread paired with a basic cheese in hearty portions—that's all it takes. Though you can make it better by adding bacon, of course.

On Tripadvisor, one person left review a of the chain's take on the grilled cheese reading in part: "My kids don't eat burgers yet and they always have… plain grilled cheese. I ordered [grilled cheese sandwiches] here for them and here comes a grilled cheese sandwich in between two pancakes! OMG! Brilliant. I had to order 2 more."


Zaxby's grilled cheese

Sure, Zaxby's may call its grilled cheese sandwich the Kiddie Cheese and it may be on the kids' menu, but no one is fooled. This "kid's" sandwich meal packs in between 730 and 840 calories depending on the beverage and side options, and that's a very adult-sized portion.

And what's more, it's a sandwich many adults order in a larger size by going off the menu. Just note that, about two years back, many Zaxby's locations switched from using three slices of cheese to two slices, per Reddit comments. That said, you can usually ask for the sandwich to be made "the old way" and get the full three slices of cheese at no extra charge.


Culver's grilled cheese
Courtesy of Culver's

Culver's is known for great custard, rich root beer, seafood, chicken sandwiches, and great burgers. The humble grilled cheese sandwich they offer may not get much fanfare, but it deserves it: This is yet another fast-food grilled cheese sandwich that's a winner because it is kept simple.

The chain's sandwich starts with American Cheese made in Wisconsin that is layered and melted on buttered and grilled sourdough bread. What more could you need? Well, maybe a side of Wisconsin Cheese Curds, if you haven't yet hit your cheese quota.

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in n out grilled cheese
Christie L. / Yelp

What's that you say? There's no grilled cheese sandwich on the In-n-Out menu? Well, that's technically true, because you have to go to the chain's "Not So Secret Menu." There, among burgers piled high with beef patties, is the famed In-n-Out Grilled Cheese.

A departure from simplicity, it is described as: "Two slices of melted American cheese, hand-leafed lettuce, tomato, spread, with or without onions, on a freshly baked bun."

Yes, we know we have said simple is best, but maybe instead we should have said is usually best, because this sandwich is a triumph.


Panera classic grilled cheese on white miche
Panera Bread

While Panera leans more into the fast-casual realm, it certainly qualifies as a grilled cheese on the go—and a good one at that. The chain uses its fresh-baked white miche bread and sandwiches American cheese between them before grilling. The best part about this grilled cheese is that you can get it with a cup of warm tomato soup on the side as part of the chain's Value Duets menu. Plus, the half grilled cheese comes on two smaller slices of bread, it isn't cut, so it feels like a whole sandwich.

Steven John
Steven John is a freelancer writer for Eat This, Not That! based just outside New York City. Read more about Steven