TNT Diner

Grilled cheese lovers, here are the best restaurants for a sandwich-and-tomato-soup fix

The grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup combo at Cooks Tavern in Tacoma.
The grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup combo at Cooks Tavern in Tacoma. toverman@theolympian.com

When winter chills us, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as pairing grilled cheese with tomato soup.

I’ve never thought to look for the sandwich on menus because it’s so basic, I figured most people would make it at home.

Then a reader asked about it, and here we are.

I found eight versions I liked in three categories.

The first category is my favorite, fancy grilled cheese with tasty soups to match. Three restaurants push the flavor to something more interesting and employ fancy kitchen tricks to turn out the best versions of classic grilled cheese sandwiches and soups.

I also checked out Tacoma bars known for good sandwiches and a few cafes with economical choices that won’t blow your budget.

FANCY VERSIONS

Cooks Tavern sandwich 1
The exquisite grilled cheese and tomato soup at Cooks Tavern in the Proctor area. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Cook’s Tavern

Where: 3201 N. 26th St., Tacoma; 253-327-1777, cookstavern.com

This Proctor-area restaurant serves my favorite pairing of grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. That’s because the kitchen staff uses a few fancy tricks and chef touches.

The creamy, thick tomato soup adhered like a velvet tomato drape on the crunchy-edged sandwich constructed for dipping.

A shot of Pernod at the end of the soup’s cooking added a licorice note with herbal reinforcement from a finishing drizzle of basil olive oil. That soup also offered a small kick of heat from the addition of chili pepper flakes. The bowl was topped with a disc of fried Parmesan cheese. Nice touch, that.

Anthony Hubbard, executive chef for Cooks Tavern and its neighboring restaurant Brewers Row, said the sandwich’s exterior cheese reinforcement gives that exquisite crunch. The bread is slathered with butter and a sprinkle of pecorino on the outside, which created a crisp surface area that kept my sandwich crunchy even after a few soup dunks. A cheesy sandwich crust is my new favorite thing, thanks to Cooks Tavern.

As for the cheese, it’s equal parts gooey and stretchy, which hit all my check marks for a perfect grilled cheese.

“We always want something gooey and melty, and gruyere and cheddar scratch that itch, but you also wants salty, sharp bite and that’s where pecorino comes in,” said Hubbard.

Grilled cheese is served at lunch for $7.50. Add on tomato soup, offered daily, for $3.25.

Crocketts sandwich 1
The cheesey, gooey grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup from Crockett’s Public House. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Crockett’s Public House

Where: 118 E. Stewart Ave., Puyallup; 253-466-3075; crockettspublichouse.com

Crockett’s Public House in downtown Puyallup was another restaurant using a cheese crust on its sandwiches (Parmesan). The sandwich tasted rich, crunchy and gooey and so overloaded with cheese that it oozed onto the plate like a cheesy river.

Built on sourdough, the sandwich was cut into three big pieces and held a combination of cheeses. A delicious tug of cheesy goo came from white cheddar with flavor help from muenster and provolone. Crouton topped creamy tomato soup was garnished with fresh basil leaves, with a few chunks of tomato left in the soup. $11.99 at lunch or dinner.

Boathouse 19 sandwich 2
The smoky-flavored grilled cheese and chunky tomato soup at Boathouse 19. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Boathouse 19

Where: 9001 S. 19th St., Tacoma; 253-565-1919, boathouse19restaurant.com

I was wowed by the flavor of the grilled cheese sandwich at Boathouse 19 at the Narrows Marina. It seesawed between smoky and creamy and came layered with four cheeses. The flavor anchor was smoked mozzarella with cheddar, provolone and American for extra goo.

The tomato soup was less to my liking because of the texture. It was chunky like marinara with a striking sharp flavor. With grilled cheese, I prefer creamy to chunky, but I’m pretty sure I’d love that soup with mozzarella sticks. $12.50 at lunch or dinner.

BAR VERSIONS

For adult diners, 21 and older.

Eleven sandwich 1
The grilled cheese and tomato soup combo at Peterson Bros./Eleven Eleven in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Peterson Bros/Eleven Eleven

Where: 1111 S. 11th St., Tacoma; 253-284-1111; elevenelevenbar.com

Robbie and Justin Peterson’s Hilltop bar, Eleven Eleven/Peterson Bros., is known for making some of the best bar sandwiches in Tacoma and their grilled cheese was no exception.

Built on sourdough brushed with garlic butter, it held the glorious trifecta of American, cheddar and provolone. Creamy tomato soup complemented the huge sandwich because of its extra dose of garlic. $9.99, served lunch or dinner.

Hank's grilled cheese 3
Grilled cheese and tomato soup is a Monday-only special at Hank’s Corner Bar. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Hank’s Bar and Pizza (Hank’s Corner Bar)

Where: 524 N. K St., Tacoma; 253-627-3480, hankstacoma.com

Diners get a choice of cheese on grilled cheese Mondays at Hank’s Corner Bar. Choices include pepperjack, provolone, cheddar or Swiss. I stuck with the classic cheddar and was rewarded with a buttered, grilled sandwich with a creamy tomato soup fortified with small chunks of tomato.

$5 at lunch or dinner only on Mondays.

Doyles sandwich 1
A grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup combo from Doyle’s Public House. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Doyle’s Public House

Where: 208 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma; 253-272-7468, doylespublichouse.com

Here’s another restaurant that pushes the flavor. At Doyle’s Public House, a bar in the St. Helens neighborhood, the sandwich is built with Dubliner cheese, paying homage to the bar’s Irish/European theme, plus Swiss and cheddar. Sourdough lovers, this one’s for you. It was built on extra tangy, thick-cut sourdough. The tomato soup came with a tiny kick of heat and a silky bisque texture. $9 at lunch or dinner.

ECONOMICAL VERSIONS

Red Elm sandwich 1
A grilled cheese sandwich from Red Elm Cafe. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Red Elm Cafe

Where: 1114 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Tacoma; 253-327-1791, redelmcafe.com

The tomato soup at this Hilltop neighborhood coffee house was creamy and tasty, and the crunchy edges on the grilled cheese were made for dunking. It came old-school, with cheddar cheese and a bonus of potato chips.

Grilled cheese is $3.50 and a cup of soup is $2.50, served daily.

Black Kettle sandwich 1
The grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup at Black Kettle Bites and Brew. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Black Kettle Bites and Brew

Where: 744 Market St., Tacoma; 253-383-2233, blackkettlebitesandbrew.com

This bargain soup-and-sandwich combo is served at a downtown Tacoma sandwich cafe with an excellent beer selection. Cheesy bonus: You can get any two combinations of cheese with a choice of cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella or pepperjack. I went with cheddar and mozzarella. The basil-heavy soup was pro-level creamy for dunking. $5.50 at lunch or dinner.

ALSO TRY

While there is no regular day for tomato soup on the menu, Gordon Naccarato’s kitchen crew at Pacific Grill makes a grilled cheese sandwich paired with a daily-changing soup ($12.95). The sandwich, served only at lunch, is made with gruyere, white cheddar and fontina cheese on sourdough (1502 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253-627-3535).

At Over the Moon Cafe, chef-owner Deanna Harris Bender makes one of my favorite versions of a grilled cheese sandwich in the city, a wine-soaked gruyere grilled cheese ($12). When she does make tomato soup to go with it, it’s usually on Tuesdays, but call first to check (709 Opera Alley, Tacoma; 253-284-3722).

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