Taste-Tested: Our Guide To D.C.'s Gotta-Have-'Em Grilled Cheeses

UPDATE: Just because Grilled Cheese Month is over, doesn't mean that our love for the melty snack isn't. This story was originally published on April 23.
As die-hard grilled-cheese fanatics surely know, April 12 was National Grilled Cheese Day — and April is National Grilled Cheese Month. But just because the month is nearly over doesn't mean we're going to stop celebrating this absurdly decadent childhood classic. There's plenty of comfort food we won't turn down — pizza, ice cream, mac 'n' cheese, the list goes on…but none of those compare to a perfect, tummy-warming, ooey-gooey grilled cheese.
When you're a kid, you think white bread and American cheese are the only way to play the game. But then, you grow up and learn there's a whole world of gourmet ways to switch things up—fig jam and goat cheese on thin and crispy bread? Manchego with pickles on challah? Prosciutto with mozzarella on Texas toast? Go ahead, let your imagination run wild. And since taste testing all the options can be overwhelming — and, uh, fattening — we did the work for you (it's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it) and discovered the eight most jaw-droppingly delicious grilled cheeses in town. Click through to see the winners — and don't even bother trying to exercise that self-restraint.
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In keeping with the restaurant's Spanish menu, Jaleo's grilled cheese ($9.50) employs straight-from-Spain Manchego, Murcia, Valdeón, and goat cheese with truffle oil on rustic bread, and is served with honey alioli for a genius touch of sweetness.

Where: 480 7th Street NW, 202-628-7949; 7271 Woodmont Avenue, Bethesda, 301-913-0003; 2250 A Crystal Drive, Arlington; 703-413-8181.

Courtesy of Jaleo/Greg Powers
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For the ultimate in refined grilled cheeses, Alexandria's Cheesetique is your spot. Three of the cheeses used are types we'd never heard of before — and when you can't pronounce a cheeses's name, that's usually a good thing. Fontina, Etorki, Stracchino, Manchego, and Parrano are topped with tomato and fresh basil ($9) for an exotic combo not oft found this side of town.

Where: 2411 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria; 703-706-5300.

Photo: Courtesy of Cheesetique
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Sometimes simplicity wins, and such is the case with chef Kyle Bailey's grilled cheese ($7) at Churchkey. He didn't want to fuss with the classic, so he uses fontina on ciabatta with a dash of truffle salt, plus a tomato soup shooter on the side. It's the ideal lazy Sunday meal with a cold mug of craft beer.

Where: 1137 14th Street NW; 202-567-2576.

Photographed by Holly E. Thomas
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Big Bear

The grilled cheese ($7) at Big Bear starts with a traditional combo of French white bread and aged cheddar cheese, but brings a welcome kick with a splash of Sriracha and handful of fresh arugula. It's not a revolutionary list of ingredients, but something about this sammie is mind-blowing.

Where: 1700 1st Street NW.

Photographed by Tahirah Hairston
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Fireworks Pizza

Most people head to Fireworks for its pizza (as the name would imply), but the savvy grilled-cheese lover knows this spot boasts one of the best in the city. The 3 G's Grilled Cheese ($8) is made with —you guessed it — gouda, gruyere, and goat cheese, and comes on sourdough bread with tomato jam (plus the option for prosciutto).

Where: 2350 Clarendon Boulevard, Arlington; 703- 527-8700.

Photo: Courtesy of Fireworks Pizza
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Pound The Hill

Pound's grilled cheese ($6.95) is the gastronomic embodiment of mouth-watering goodness. Aged provolone, aged cheddar, and creamy boursin cheese are melted together for an ooey-gooey blend that you'll crave for days afterward. There's also a balanced portion of arugula thrown into the cheese mixture, so you don't feel quite so indulgent.

Where: 621 Pennsylvania Avenue SE; 202-621-6765.

Photographed by Shira Karsen
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Blue 44

We love stopping into Blue 44 and testing our luck with the grilled cheese of the day ($10). The restaurant focuses on American classics with foreign, local, and seasonal influences to yield super-creative results, like a blackened chicken grilled cheese with fontina, pico de gallo, and guacamole. The chef aims to tie together the grilled cheese flavor du jour with the soup du jour, so a Mexican-style grilled cheese is served with tortilla soup. Since opening, the venue has debuted several dozen varieties of grilled cheeses, from caramelized apples and cheddar to bacon-and-brown-sugar jam. Each one is served with a choice of house-cut fries or arugula salad, or you can opt for the half grilled cheese and half tomato soup combo.

Where: 5507 Connecticut Avenue NW; 202-362-2583.

Photographed by Shira Karsen
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We'll say it: Stoney's Super Grilled Cheese ($7.50) was made for the drunken munchies — that moment when you're so hungry, you could eat anything — and for your hangover the morning after. It's a serious hunk of a sandwich, with a whole lotta bread, butter, and thick, gooey cheese — plus a heap of bacon, red onions, and sliced tomato.

Where: 1433 P Street NW; 202-234-1818.

Photographed by Holly E. Thomas