Grand Lake Kitchen's grilled cheddar cheese sandwich on sourdough is simple yet satisfying.

Grand Lake Kitchen's grilled cheddar cheese sandwich on sourdough is simple yet satisfying. (Jenny Oh)

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Fall is upon us and the first chill of winter is slowly creeping into the Bay Area, which means it’s time for wool sweaters, umbrellas (if we’re lucky) and warm comfort food. While one can appreciate soups, stews and sandwiches filled with melty goodness at any time of the year, these meals taste even better when we’re curled up inside the toasty confines of one of our favorite restaurants. Lucky for us Oakland residents, there’s plenty of places to find grilled cheese sandwiches — like at the five suggested spots listed below. Let us know your favorites in the comments (and stay tuned for a follow-up post featuring melts.)

Come for the Grilled Cheese, Be Rewarded by All the Housemade Extras

Cowgirl Creamery's Wagon Wheel cheese is the pungent foundation of gives Hog's Apothecary hefty sandwich.
Cowgirl Creamery’s Wagon Wheel cheese is the pungent foundation of gives Hog’s Apothecary hefty sandwich. (Jenny Oh)

I’ve sung the praises of Hog’s Apothecary in a previous “5 Bites” post; it’s one of my go-to places for hearty, seasonal cuisine and local craft beers (there’s 25+ on tap.) If you’re in the neighborhood around lunchtime, pop in to try their excellent “Say Cheese” grilled cheese sandwich. Cowgirl Creamery’s semi-pungent Wagon Wheel cheese is melted onto thick slabs of toasted levain bread spread with Dijon mustard. For an added $2, you can pile on slices of their savory ham (it’s made in-house from the whole hog that’s delivered weekly and butchered on the premises.) Skip the mixed side salad and go for their housemade, lard-fried Kennebec potato chips and pickled vegetables; they’re worth every calorie-laden bite.

Hog’s Apothecary
375 40th Street [Map]
Oakland, CA 94609
Ph: (510) 338-3847
Hours: Wed-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm (Lunch)
Facebook: The Hog’s Apothecary
Twitter: @HogsApothecary
Price range: $ Sandwiches ($10 and under)

A Tasty Riff on a Classic Comfort Food Combo

A classic combo: Sacred Wheel's "Trinity Sandwich" with tomato PBR soup.
A classic combo: Sacred Wheel’s “Trinity Sandwich” with tomato PBR soup. (Jenny Oh)

There’s far too many temptations packed into The Sacred Wheel, a cozy specialty cheese shop located in Temescal. If you manage to tear yourself away from the gleaming refrigerated cases displaying dozens of local and imported cheeses (and the homey wooden shelves stocked with other gourmet foodstuffs), make your way to the back of the shop to peruse their blackboard menu. They feature several daily sandwich specials, but their “Trinity Sandwich” is one of their staples. Made with a rotating selection of three cheeses, you can choose from sourdough, rye, Texas Toast or Grease Box’s gluten-free bread for your crispy, buttery sandwich. Highly recommended is their twist on the classic comfort food combo: a fresh, housemade tomato soup prepared with Pabst Blue Ribbon beer that gives it an extra twang of tangy flavor.

The Sacred Wheel
4935 Shattuck Avenue [Map]
Oakland, CA 94609
Ph: (510) 653-1353
Hours: Mon-Thu 11am-8pm; Sun 12-6pm
Facebook: SacredWheelOak
Twitter: @SacredWheelOak
Price range: $ Sandwiches ($10 and under)

For When You Want a Cocktail With Your Grilled Cheese

The Lodge's signature grilled cheese sandwich with bacon chutney and their "Black Rider" cocktail.
The Lodge’s signature grilled cheese sandwich with bacon chutney and their “Black Rider” cocktail. (Jenny Oh)

The Lodge rounds out Alexeis Filipello’s Americana-themed trifecta (which includes Stag’s Lunchette and Bar Dogwood) that opened up in September on Piedmont Avenue. All three carry its signature grilled cheese sandwich made with Berkeley’s Belfiore mozzarella and Belton Farms white cheddar on sizable slices of buttery levain. Stellar spreadable add-ons — bacon chutney, tomato jam and caramelized onion jam, to name a few — are also available at each spot. Sip one of their house cocktails (the “Black Rider” mixed with Rittenhouse rye, Amaro Nardini orange bitters and walnut bitters is a fine concoction that’s similar to an Old-Fashioned.) In winter months, it’ll probably be too cold to relax outdoors, so try and snag a warm seat by the fireplace.

The Lodge
3758 Piedmont Avenue [Map]
Oakland, CA 94611
Ph: (510) 350-8470
Hours: Mon-Fri 4pm-12am; Sat-Sun 12am-12pm
Facebook: The Lodge on Piedmont
Price range: $ Sandwiches ($10 and under)

A Most Exquisite Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The self-proclaimed "best-ever, slow-cooked grilled cheese" sandwich from The Cook and Her Farmer.
The self-proclaimed “best-ever, slow-cooked grilled cheese” sandwich from The Cook and Her Farmer. (Jenny Oh)

When a restaurant touts one of its dishes as the “best-ever” of its kind, it better live up to the promised hype of being at the top of its game. And certainly The Cook and Her Farmer’s creation is one of those photogenic sandwiches that will regularly pop up in your Instagram feed via aspiring food pornographers. Dusted with dreamy clouds of grated pecorino Romano cheese, its elegant presentation definitely earns it quite a few points in the eye candy department. Fat slices of Acme levain are stuffed with generous helpings of shredded aged Gruyère and dry Jack cheeses. (On a recent visit, however, it was disappointing to find that some of the cheese hadn’t quite melted all the way down to its core despite their slow cooking process.) A seasonal, housemade mostarda di fruitta adds a sweet note to the sandwich (which was cranberry in a nod to the holidays) with some fresh arugula to balance out its rich flavors. It’s a substantial sandwich that needs no additional sides to fill you up at lunch, although you do have the option to add avocado, heirloom tomatoes or even an egg if you’re wanting to take it to the next level of decadence.

The Cook and Her Farmer
907 Washington Street [Map]
Oakland, CA 94607
Ph: (510) 285-6140
Hours: Mon 9am-4pm; Tue-Thu 9am-9pm; Fri-Sat 9am-10pm
Facebook: The Cook and Her Farmer
Price range: $$ Sandwiches ($11-$17)

Simple and Satisfyingly Delicious

The whole grain mustard pairs well with the sharp cheddar on Grand Lake Kitchen's simple yet satisfying grilled cheese sandwich.
The whole grain mustard pairs well with the sharp cheddar on Grand Lake Kitchen’s simple yet satisfying grilled cheese sandwich. (Jenny Oh)

Grand Lake Kitchen’s grilled cheese sandwich is a no-frills affair: melted sharp cheddar oozes from two soft slices of sourdough bread spread with whole grain mustard. It’s the affordable, adult-version of the grilled cheese you grew up eating as a kid, but this one’s made with quality ingredients (local and seasonal) and pairs well with an optional side salad like baby kale greens. There’s always a housemade soup of day, so feel free to splurge a little if you want a liquid sidekick with your sandwich. And they have a small deli that carries select grocery items, beer and wine for sale if you’d like to pick up some gourmet items to take home.

Grand Lake Kitchen
576 Grand Avenue [Map]
Oakland, CA 94610
Ph: (510) 922-9582
Hours: 9am-9:30pm everyday; closed on Tuesdays
Facebook: Grand Lake Kitchen
Twitter: @GrandLakeKitch
Price range: $ (Entrees $10 and under)

5 Bites: Gratifying Grilled Cheese Sandwiches in Oakland 1 December,2015Jenny Oh


Jenny Oh

Jenny is a long-time contributor to Bay Area Bites, KQED's popular food blog. She formerly worked as an Interactive Producer for the Science & Environment unit. Jenny graduated with honors from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Film and Television program and has worked for WNET/PBS, The Learning Channel, Sundance Channel, HBO and the University of California.