Hog Island Grilled Cheese

Hog Island grilled cheese is unlike any other you’ve had. Four kinds of cheese—fromage blanc, Gruyère, Havarti, and Cheddar piled blissfully high on hearty sourdough bread. What are you waiting for?

Two Hog Island grilled cheese sandwiches in a skillet with some cheese melting from them.

This grilled cheese sandwich is a favorite among San Franciscans. Never mind that it comes to hungry diners by way of an oyster bar. At Hog Island Oyster Bar, people line up for oysters as well as for this sandwich, the restaurant’s one concession to the fruits of the land. There, they use a northern California cheese called St. George, but because that’s not widely available I’ve substituted cheddar and Havarti, which together taste very similar to St. George. A word of caution: Keep plenty of napkins on hand for this!–Laura Werlin

What Wine Do I Serve With Grilled Cheese?

When we called the good folks at Hog Island and inquired what they recommended sipping with their masterpiece, a very decent guy named Bob explained, “I like to recommend drinking whatever wine you like with whatever food.” Amen to that. Still, he did offer a little more for those who don’t quite trust their instincts. “There’s not any pairing that makes it stand out more. If you care for a red, maybe a pinot. If you’d like a little acidity to cut the richness, maybe try a sauvignon blanc.” Thank you, Bob. We will.

Hog Island Grilled Cheese

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 10 M
  • 30 M
  • Makes 4 sandwiches
5/5 - 1 reviews
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Butter one side of each slice of bread, using all of the butter. Place 4 of the slices, buttered side down, on a parchment-lined counter or a cutting board. 

Spread 1/4 of the fromage blanc on the plain side of each of those 4 slices, then top each with 1/4 of the Gruyère, 1/4 of the Cheddar, and 1/4 of the Havarti. You may need to use your hand to squash the cheese a little to keep it from falling off the bread. Top each teetering tower of cheese with one of the remaining bread slices, buttered side up.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Place 1 or 2 sandwiches in the pan, cover, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the undersides are golden brown. Turn the sandwiches and press each one firmly with a spatula to flatten it slightly. Cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the undersides are well browned. Remove the lid, turn the sandwiches once more, and press firmly with the spatula once again. Cook for 1 minute, or until the cheese has melted completely into a quagmire of gooeyness.

Remove from the pan and let cool for 5 minutes while you repeat with the remaining sandwiches. Cut each in—either on the diagonal or right down the center—and serve immediately. With plenty of napkins. Originally published April 11, 2011.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

Want to give your grilled cheese a college education? Try this recipe. We really liked the flavors of the cheeses I chose (a good Swiss, sharp cheddar, and Havarti) on the sourdough bread. I omitted the fromage blanc because I couldn’t find it in our local market.

I’ve never grilled a sandwich with the cover on the pan, but I was pleased to find that the bread didn’t become soggy. Flattening the Hog Island grilled cheese with a spatula is the way my mom always made grilled cheese for us, so I was thrilled to see the technique used in this recipe.

Sometimes, all you need in life is a good grilled cheese sandwich—and this one is it. My favorite part of the recipe is the direction to let it sit before serving. It was the first time I didn’t burn my mouth because I was so excited to eat.

The nonstick pan is very important. I made the sandwich again in my favorite skillet, and it just wasn’t the same. The bread stuck to it, and the cheese oozing out didn’t develop into a golden crisp. Also, the built-up steam from covering the skillet helps melt the cheese nicely. One word of warning, though: my husband complained of palate fatigue about three-quarters of the way through his sandwich. Adding in a sweeter or creamier cheese, or maybe a less tangy bread may be the solution.


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  1. I have had the experience of this transforming sandwich at Hog Island in the Ferry Building. We laughed when my daughter-in-law (not a seafood fan) ordered it years ago the first time. We thought: who comes to an Oyster/Seafood restaurant and orders grilled cheese? Then we all had a bite…I really mean transformative; nothing will ever come close. The problem with this recipe is unless you live in SF, you can’t get Acme Bread or Cowgirl Creamery cheese. Luckily, a local bread bakery will have just the perfect bread and I love searching for cheese!

    1. Hi Mary, Cowgirl Creamery’s cheeses are actually available at most Whole Foods markets across the country. And if you can’t find it locally, Cowgirl offers overnight shipping on their cheese collections so you can order your favorite wheels and wedges to your doorstep. Here’s the link.

    2. Laughs. Mary, I understand your response to your d-i-l’s order. Sorta like ordering seafood at a steak restaurant, yes?! Many thanks for sharing your experience with us. Sometimes the simplest of things are the most profound. And yes, it’s incredibly fortunate that you like hunting proper cheeses! (If you have any cheese connections in Phoenix, kindly let me know!) Looking forward to hearing which recipe on our site you try next, whether grilled cheese or otherwise…

  2. That does sound like a lot of cheese. I can’t get Fromage Blanc locally. What could I substitute for it? I adore a good grilled cheese.

    1. It IS a lot of cheese, RisaG, though intentionally so. There’s not an exact stand-in for this ingredient, and honestly, if you’re worried about there being too much fromage, you could probably leave it out. The result would be melty, not quite so creamy. That said, a schmear of fresh goat cheese would be quite lovely in its place and lend the sandwich a slight tang to sort of offset all the richness. Let us know what you decide…

  3. Hog Island serves this sandwich with a side of house cured pickled vegetables. Epicurious.com has a quick and easy recipe for curing your own (and it really is easier than it sounds). Or, stop by your local grocer and pick up a jar of ready made — I recommend picking up any brand that looks a little more home-made than the average Vlassics.

    Otherwise serve with a fresh butter leaf salad with a light mustard vineagarette to help cut the fat in the sandwich.

    I like to sip a crisp Sancerre or dry Muscadet.

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