April 12 is always a happy day for me because it honors my favorite sandwich since little kid time. Grilled cheese is a nostalgic comfort food — it was my daily home lunch when I was 8 years old — and to this day I love discovering creative renditions of it.
Here are three grilled cheese standouts well worth seeking out: one each on the islands of Maui, Oahu and Kauai.
Maui: Down the Hatch
At $22, this is the priciest grilled cheese I’ve had to date, but with generous amounts of fresh lump crab and lobster in each bite, I'm not complaining. Oh, and that lava lava sauce? It’s the restaurant’s signature tangy aioli and it delivers the perfect amount of heat.
The sandwich comes with a side of shoestring fries, but upgrade to Mermaid style — fries smothered in bacon, ranch, lava lava sauce, green onions and truffle cheese — for an additional $2.50. You’re already going all out with the $22 grilled cheese, so you might as well.
Down the Hatch
658 Front St.
Oahu: M.A.C. 24/7
M.A.C. 24/7’s double decker grilled mac and cheese sandwich ($15) takes the American classic to the next level. Each half is so massive it’s a struggle to keep all the contents from tumbling out.
Inside this grilled cheese sanwdwich, seven cheeses in the mac and cheese make each bite a molten explosion: 1) skim mozzarella, 2) whole white mozzarella, 3) Velveeta, 4) parmiggiano reggiano, 5) Jack, 6) smoked Gouda and 7) swiss. It's easy to achieve the perfect cheesepull, and the Velveeta, swiss and smoked Gouda especially stand out. The accompanying tomato dipping sauce is a thicker version of the restaurant’s tomato bisque. It's good for dunking a cheesy behemoth that's hard to stop eating, no matter how big.
If you miss this on National Grilled Cheese Day, don't worry — the sandwich is available until summer.
Hilton Waikiki Beach
2500 Kuhio Ave.
Kauai: Porky’s Cart
The menu at Porky’s Cart has only three items, and I have a hard time not getting all three. While the cart is known for hot dogs loaded with slow-roasted kalua pork, the grilled cheese sammie is calling my name.
You can choose between spicy or sweet for the signature barbecue sauce that comes on the side. I’m told the sweeter sauce goes well with the grilled cheese, so I opt for that (the spicy sauce is better with the pineapple sausage and beef hot dogs). Each item includes a drink and costs $9.
The grilled cheese sandwich is so worth the wait. Gooey Muenster and Havarti cheeses, savory kalua pork and subtly sweet onions slide down my throat. When I dip my sandwich into the sweet sauce, the balance of flavors is perfect.
Waimea: 9630 Kaumualii Hwy., Tues-Sat (11 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Kapaa: 4-1638 Kuhio Hwy., Tues-Thurs (11 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Hanapepe: 3893 Hanapepe Rd., Fridays (5:30-9 p.m.)