It’s considered an American classic. Simple, yet offered in different varieties. The grilled cheese sandwich. My love affair with grilled cheese has been an ongoing pursuit for about 12 years now. As my family would drive around Omaha, I would point at various restaurants stating which had grilled cheese worth my time and which ones did not.
Curious to officially see what restaurant in Omaha had the best grilled cheese, this summer I set out on a mission that no woman nor man has ever gone on before. I ventured all across town, visiting ten local diners and restaurants eating and analyzing their grilled cheeses. Much to my surprise, this took me almost all of summer. Not wanting to get sick of my beloved grilled cheese sandwich, I visited the restaurants mostly spontaneously or when I was in the area. I met some really neat people along the way, found some hidden gems of Omaha, got comfortable eating alone at restaurants and ate enough grilled cheese to last a lifetime.
Although I visited ten different restaurants, here are the top five.
5. Harold’s Koffee House 8327 N 30th St (about 30th & State in downtown Florence)
I had BIG expectations for this place. Typical diner feel, and an Omaha classic. It open up in 1968 by Harold Halstead and has been family owned ever since. They are notorious for their breakfast and donuts, but apparently not their grilled cheese. The homemade pies in the case were taunting me, so I indulged in a Blueberry Cream slice – and it was quite delicious. Anyways, onto the grilled cheese.
“Ooze” Factor: 3/5 (high rating, yet is was deceiving)
Cheese/Bread Ratio: 1/5
First Bite Impression: 1/5
Overall Rating: 2/5
I had high hopes for Harold’s Koffee house, but I suppose it just wasn’t in the cards. Many bites were just bread and no cheese, and was the only restaurant that I went to that the grilled cheese was slightly burnt. Although I don’t condone the whole restaurant itself, the service was good and the pie was delish. (I’ve also heard they have great breakfast) But if you are looking for a great grilled cheese, I would pass on Harold’s Koffee House.
4. Petrow’s Restaurant 5914 Center Street (60th & Center)
To many, Petrow’s is considered an Omaha staple. Even their slogan is “An Omaha Tradition.” Again, just like many other restaurants I went to it has the classic diner feel to it. They have what I assume to be the original diner area, with the customer favorite Soda Fountain station directly across from the bar. Their grilled cheese is on the kids menu, so I wasn’t expecting much. And I was right.
“Ooze” Factor: 2/5
Cheese/Bread Ratio: 2.5/5
First Bite Impression: 2/5
Overall Rating: 2.5/5
Although I do enjoy other items on Petrow’s menu, the grilled cheese is not their strong suit. When I take the first bite of a grilled cheese sandwich, I can instantly tell how the rest of the sandwich is going to be. When I took the first bite of this grilled cheese, there were no fireworks. As Princess Mia would say, “This wasn’t a foot poppin’ bite.” The cheese was a little tough. I’m not sure if this is due to the fact that the cheese wasn’t as fresh as it could be, or the type of cheese they used (which was American, so I’m not sure about that part.) Overall, this grilled cheese was pretty mediocre. But, I would recommend their onion rings and maybe a strawberry milkshake!
3. B & G Tasty Foods 79th & Dodge
B & G has always been my go-to diner in Omaha. In fact, before I did this “project” it was just about the only diner I knew about in Omaha. Having a family friend who works there may have been an incentive to stop in frequently, but surprisingly I had never tried their grilled cheese. Being open since 1953, B & G still has a great retro feel on the inside. Old-school bikes hanging from the walls, bar stools made in 1926, the window giving you a small peak into the kitchen, and of course, their famous “loose meat sandwich” (which I highly recommend.)
“Ooze” Factor: 4/5
Cheese/Bread Ratio: 4/5
First Bite Impression: 3.75/5
Overall Rating: 3.8/5
I must admit, there was almost going to be a tie between B & G and the restaurant with the number two spot. The bread was buttered perfectly, just enough crisp but still soft. Every bite had just the right amount of cheese, and according to the cook, “it was made with love.” I enjoyed every aspect of B & G Tasty Foods; the atmosphere, the employees and of course, the grilled cheese.
2. Nite Hawkes Cafe 4825 N 16th St (16th & Carter Blvd.)
I had never heard of Nite Hawkes Cafe until I found a great review of it on UrbanSpoon. After making the trek out to 16th and Carter Blvd from West Omaha, I had pretty good intuition about this place. Except when we pulled up, there were one or two cars in the parking lot. We had arrived about five minutes before close but they gladly made us a grilled cheese and said we were the easiest order of the day. Nite Hawkes opened in 1942 and has been family owned ever since. Their service was absolutely great, probably the best out of the ten restaurants I went to. It was pretty basic on the inside, reminded me of a small town restaurant Even one of the employees asked me I was from here, I replied yes but then realized she meant from their neighborhood.
“Ooze” Factor: 4/5
Cheese/Bread ratio: 4/5
First Bite Impression: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4825 N 16th St 4/5
Fireworks. Fireworks in my mouth. For the little amount of time they had to make our grilled cheeses, they were delicious. The bread was very crispy, but buttered SO evenly. Not a missed grilled spot to be seen. The sandwich was a tad too greasy, but the cheese made up for it. Every single bite had a delicious, fulfilling amount of cheese to go along with it. I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone without even trying anything else on the menu. Judging by their hospitality and grilled cheese, I’m sure everything else is just as great.
1. 11-Worth Cafe 2419 Leavenworth St.
According to their menu, 11-Worth Cafe has the best grilled cheese in Omaha. And boy, were they right about that. I stopped in because I was in the area and almost every table was full. They are mostly known for their breakfast but everything I saw come out of the kitchen looked delicious. My server, Casey, said “Honey, I’ve been working here for 25 years and could still eat here everyday.” Opening in 1976, they have had the same owners the entire time (Omaha known, the Canigilia family).
“Ooze” Factor: 5/5
Cheese/Bread Ratio: 5/5
First Bite Impression: 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5
Out of all ten restaurants I went to, 11-Worth Cafe was by far the best. They use Omaha-based Rotella’s Texas Toast with a cheese mix of Swiss and American. The first bite – oh my. Flakey, but so cheesey and gooey. They bread was grilled to perfection giving it the ultimate ‘fluffyness’ possible. Each bite was crispy but was soft enough to make you want five more bites. For how thick the bread was, there was an ample amount of cheese to satisfy every bite. So my friends, readers, grilled cheese enthusiasts; if you are looking for the best grilled cheese sandwich in Omaha, Nebraska; 11-Worth Cafe is THE place to go.
All in all, I am a little disappointed that my grilled cheese adventure has come to an end. It gave me a little something to look forward to on Mondays when class got out, and kept my creative juices flowing as I was working on this all throughout the summer. But I have learned a few things along the way; that pickles are a typical side with grilled cheese, everyone wonders why I write for a blog, and what made me want find the best grilled cheese in Omaha. Hopefully at some point I can find another “Best of Omaha; via Stay Young, Stay Foolish.”