Top 5 Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

How can April be the cruelest month? It's National Grilled Cheese Month, which means I have an excuse to gorge on toasty cheese sammiches at least once a week. Here are five Houston establishments that offer some damn fine grilled cheese.

5. Black Walnut Café.The Rustic Grilled Cheese stands apart from Black Walnut's other menu items, and for good reason. The combination of cheddar, mozzarella, and tomatoes on pesto "La-chac-la" bread makes this sandwich a wonderful hybrid of traditional American and Italian flavors; add bacon, ham, or sausage for a hearty boost of protein.

4. Houston Dairy Maids. Almost as thin as traditional diner grilled cheeses, the Dairy Maids' grilled cheese sandwiches (several varieties) nevertheless pack quite a punch in terms of flavor. No bells and whistles in terms of additional ingredients: just high-quality specialty cheeses like Sand Greek Gouda and Veldhuizen Green's Creek Gruyere on toasted artisan breads.

3. The Yardhouse. Sniff all you want at its chain restaurant status: The Yardhouse still makes a terrific, albeit overwhelming, grilled cheese sandwich. Large and in-charge both in taste and in girth, the Yardhouse grilled cheese layers fontina, gorgonzola, swiss, cheddar and roasted roma tomatoes in between two slices of crusty butter-soaked bread. A side of rich tomato bisque adds extra creaminess to this grilled cheese, which can be made even more decadent (if you dare) with the addition of bacon and/or avocado.

2. Tiny Boxwood's. Sliced into three parallel pieces, Tiny Boxwood's tripartite Grilled Cheese and Pesto Sandwich comes stacked alongside a large bowl of roasted tomato dipping spread. A perfect amount of pesto on the light and crunchy pagnotta bread provides a nutty flavor that works well with the richer melted gouda.

1. Max's Wine Dive. Even the extra-thick pieces of buttery Texas toast can barely hold together this sandwich, loaded with three types of cheese including a particularly decadent pimento variety. Gloopy and delicious, Max's grilled cheese is my favorite meal on "chilly" January Houston nights. An accompanying shooter of spicy tomato soup for dipping mitigates the risk of dairy overload.

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Joanna O'Leary