ShareThis Page
Gooey goodness: Eateries put unique twists on grilled cheese |
Food & Drink

Gooey goodness: Eateries put unique twists on grilled cheese

Joyce Hanz
| Wednesday, January 16, 2019 12:00 a.m


The Ancient Romans did it. Ate cheese on toasted bread, that is.

For centuries, the grilled cheese sandwich has satisfied appetites.

During the 1920s, America embraced the classic grilled cheese, thanks to a readily available supply of inexpensive sliced bread and American cheese.

The Armed Forces cooked thousands of grilled cheeses for troops during World War II. These days, Pittsburgh has food trucks, like Oh My Grill, dedicated to serving the gooey, comforting staple in the greater Pittsburgh area.

Forget your momma’s standard grilled cheese recipe — these area restaurants are putting their own culinary twist on grilled cheese sandwiches to ramp up the flavor factor.

Cycle Diner

139 E. Sixth Ave., Tarentum

“Frozen” is considered a bad word at Cycle Diner.

Operator Tommy Scanga doesn’t have a freezer in the historic 1940s O’Mahoney railroad-style diner that was relocated to Tarentum.

Everything is cooked fresh to order, with homemade ground sausage done on site — after all, Scanga, an Italian from Vandergrift, hails from a family of butchers.

Dining in a historic train car makes for a fun meal, and customers are all aboard for the six specialty grilled cheese sandwiches.

“Our top-seller is the Lumber Jack Gone Wild grilled cheese,” Scanga says. “And yes, people do finish it.”

The Lumber Jack features 13 of a pound of Angus burger and sausage, lettuce, tomato and cheese, all between two full-sized grilled cheese sandwiches.

There is a $2 sharing charge on the $10.95 lumber jack.

Other grilled cheese variations include a Brie and Apple grilled cheese ($5.99) and Southern grilled cheese ($6.99), featuring homemade pimento cheese, slab bacon, fried green tomatoes and hot pepper jelly.

Scanga only buys sourdough bread from Cellone’s Italian Bread Co. in Pittsburgh for his cheesy creations.

“It’s a very thick and hearty bread, and you want something a little heavier for a grilled cheese — it brings it all together nicely,” Scanga says.


CoCo Coffeehouse

163 Market St., Leechburg

Made-from-scratch lunches are the draw at this local cafe in downtown Leechburg.

Owner Nikki Saxion bakes the desserts daily and recently began adding unique grilled cheese combinations to her lunch menu.

“A grilled cheese with soup is just the perfect winter delicious duo,” Saxion says. “The customers always want to try new flavor combinations, and a grilled cheese allows for that.”

Her latest Mexican-influenced grilled cheese, the Chicken Fajita ($8.25), features seared fresh corn, jalapenos, pulled chicken and Mexican cheeses served in flatbread grilled cheesy-style, with a side of sour cream.

Another popular grilled cheese goes Italian, with a Caprese sandwich ($7.50) featuring bruschetta, fresh basil, garlic, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, served with homemade honey balsamic dressing.

Saxion serves a daily homemade soup, the perfect pairing with a grilled cheese — and the soup usually sells out, so get there early.

She said the secret to a perfect grilled cheese is simple: “Lots of love and cheese.”

Details: CoCo Coffeehouse on Facebook

Lupi & Leo

201 West Drive, Hempfield

A daily tricked-out grilled cheese sandwich awaits customers here — but only during lunch hours Tuesday through Saturday.

Posts to the restaurant’s Facebook and Instagram accounts promote the daily grilled cheese special ($9.99) served with house-made tomato soup.

Their most recent posting showed off a grilled cheese with roasted chicken, roasted red peppers and onions with provolone, cheddar and chipotle ranch dressing.

Other grilled cheese specials have included the Mac ‘n’ Cheese grilled cheese; a vegetarian mushroom, cheddar and garlic aioli; and a BBQ chicken, pickles and colby jack grilled cheese.

“We get our inspiration from everywhere,” says chef Jeff Campbell, who cooks with sous chef Kevin Bobich. “We like to mix a lot of flavors together and do things different.”

A grilled cheese from Lupi & Leo boasts a signature look.

“We cook them with a panini press, instead of a traditional flat-top griddle, ” Bobich says. “It gives the grilled cheese a unique crunch and distinct markings on the bread.”


Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

Joyce Hanz | For the Tribune-Review
Lupi and Leo in Greensburg offers a daily specialty grilled cheese sandwich during lunch only, Monday through Friday.
Joyce Hanz | For the Tribune-Review
The Mac ‘n’ Cheese grilled cheese sandwich at Lupi & Leo.
Joyce Hanz For the Tribune-Review
The top-seller at Cycle Diner in Tarentum is the Lumberjack Gone Wild ($10.95), which features a cheeseburger and 1⁄3 pound of freshly ground sausage, lettuce, tomato and onion, all between two full-sized grilled cheese sandwiches.
Joyce Hanz For the Tribune-Review
Cycle Diner in Tarentum offers six specialty grilled cheese sandwiches like this Southern Grilled Cheese ($6.99) which features homemade pimento cheese, hot pepper jelly, fried green tomatoes and slab bacon served on toasted sourdough bread.
Joyce Hanz For the Tribune-Review
CoCo Coffeehouse in Leechburg serves specialty homemade grilled cheese sandwiches, like the Chicken Fajita ($8.25) with pulled chicken, jalapenos, fried corn, Mexican cheeses and served with sour cream.
Joyce Hanz For the Tribune-Review
CoCo Coffeehouse owner Nikki Saxion serves up specialty grilled cheese sandwiches with a twist at her popular Market Street eatery in Leechburg.
Categories: Features | Food Drink
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.