Chain Restaurant Grilled Cheeses Ranked Worst To Best

What comes to mind when you think of the ultimate comfort food? Maybe it's a soothing, warm bowl of tomato soup, or a plate of crispy, fried chicken. Well we think the ultimate comfort food in America is a nice and toasty grilled cheese — you know, the sandwich you'd beg your parents to make you as a kid. There's just something about the simple combo of bread, butter, and cheese, that sends our tastes buds to comfort heaven. While in its most basic form it's already near perfection, you can instantly elevate it with the addition of say, a creamy Brie or a sharp cheddar cheese. There's seemingly endless varieties, and likely the reason for gourmet grilled cheese shops to be opening up all across the United States.

When money was tight in the early 20th century, toasted cheese sandwiches were becoming all the rage thanks to the accessibility and cheapness of its ingredients. Now, over a hundred years later, we're still reaching for the grilled cheese, and even celebrating in it all its glory with an entire month (Happy National Grilled Cheese Month, by the way) dedicated to the combination of carbs and cheese. While a standout grilled cheese is inherently simple to make, sometimes were all about the convenience factor, so let's explore the grilled cheese offerings from our favorite fast food and fast casual spots. Here's our list of chain restaurant grilled cheese, ranked from worst to best.

Dairy Queen's grilled cheese on Texas Toast is a secret for a reason

So, you're probably hitting Dairy Queen for a taste of their legendary fries, classic burgers, or ice cream in the form of those addictive Blizzards. But, we're privy to a little thing called: their secret menu. 

This insider knowledge will expand your horizons to entirely new items from DQ, like the peanut butter and jelly shake as well as a slushy frozen hot chocolate. You can also order a grilled cheese, which isn't really a shocker since we know they have bread and cheese laying around in copious amounts.

For the Dairy Queen secret menu grilled cheese they actually use the Texas Toast that usually accompanies many of the restaurant's basket meals, like their chicken strips. The Texas Toast is loaded with cheese and then cooked, and while this sounds all well and dandy, what we've seen is nothing shortage of cheese blasphemy. The toast, in most cases, was far from crisp (actually soggy) and the cheese was only halfway melted through. This lackluster sandwich also packs an unwanted 14 grams of fat and 1,230 mg of sodium. Yikes! Stick to what you know, DQ.

Five Guys' grilled cheese sandwich is a gooey mess

Okay, so this next one is pretty much just as bad as Diary Queen's failed attempt at the grilled cheese. Five Guys does dish out some pretty incredible burgers (not to mention their amazing hand-cut French fries) in a fast causal setting. They've gotten so popular they've grown to over 1,500 locations around the globe since opening the first restaurant in 1986.

For a worthless 420 calories (and between $5 and $6) bucks, you could literally throw your money away on their version of the grilled cheese. Five Guys takes a hamburger bun and loads it with 5 (YES, FIVE) slices of American Cheese (Are you cringing yet?) before it hits the grill. The cheese is barely melted and quite frankly, we were disgusted. They also use this processed monstrosity as a literal bun for an off-menu burger that's akin to a patty melt, but most certainly not worthy of the name. But please, whatever you do, we beg you, do not order this thing.

Panera Bread's grilled cheese just isn't worth it

We sure hope our first few entries didn't swear you off of grilled cheeses forever. It gets better, you guys. We promise. Panera Bread has made a name for itself for offering visitors a little something of everything — from sandwiches to soups and even pastries — all served quick and to order in a fast casual manner. Their sandwiches are a big draw here and include everything from the bacon turkey bravo to the fan favorite chipotle chicken avocado melt. You also can't go wrong with any number of their soups (we have a soft spot for their classic chicken noodle). But if your tastes are more vanilla, you could opt for a grilled cheese instead.

Fun fact: St one time, Panera Bread did offer a more interesting take on the classic sandwich that featured Fontina, Sharp. Cheddar, Monteau, and smoked Gouda cheese, but that's since been discontinued. These days, you'll have to settle for a classic version that features American cheese on thick-sliced classic white bread, but — we sure hope you don't. 

Quite frankly, the price on Panera's grilled cheese is nothing short of offensive. This very, very basic sandwich, which also happens to be inconsistently served (something Panera is known for), will set you back over $7 and 860 calories. If you're "picking two," don't pick this.

Cook Out's grilled cheese sandwich is a bit underwhelming

If you're not familiar, Cook Out is a fast food chain that is predominantly in the Southeast region. Their menu is large and extensive, and there to meet your every need. From a spicy crispy chicken sandwich and corn dog to a quesadilla and hushpuppies, they've got it all, including over 40 flavors of milkshakes to choose from. If you're feeling cheesy, you could have your pick from white cheddar cheese bites or a cheddar cheese loaded char-grilled chicken sandwich. You could also get a grilled cheese.

Available by itself or as a side to any tray meal, their grilled cheese actually uses their hamburger buns. At the end of the day, it's just fine if you're visiting a Cook Out and the craving hits, but it's nothing special or remarkable. We say, stick to their fresh char-grilled cheeseburgers or a classic hot dog with some cheese fries and a big ole Cheerwine.

In-N-Out grilled cheese is fresh, but forgettable

In-N-Out is the stuff of legends. With so much fan-faire and hype surrounding it, it has left many East coasters in the dark scratching their heads when it comes to understanding just what's going on with the predominantly West coast chain. In our opinion, it is worth the hype. You won't get it until you've had a Double Double and some animal style fries. It's a lifestyle. They also happen to boost a not-so-secret, secret menu.

It's not secret in the fact that it's become so popular they went ahead and listed it right there on their website for the whole world to see. As part of this menu, you could have your burger prepared "animal style" — a term in which they trademarked—or serve protein style, which means served on a hand-leafed lettuce in lieu of the bun (How California...). Also, on this menu, you'll find In-N-Out's version of the grilled cheese sandwich. 

On one of their freshly baked buns, they load two slices of melted American Cheese, hand-leafed lettuce, tomato, their signature mayo-based spread, and onions. But it's not grilled in butter like a traditional grilled cheese and reminds us of a burger that's, well, missing the burger patty. However, they do use fresh ingredients, which has awarded it this spot on a list — but their grilled cheese sandwich is pretty forgettable, especially if making the West coast pilgrimage to this coveted spot. Bottom line, if you're at In-N-Out , there's plenty of other things you should be ordered.

Here's some Chick-fil-A grilled cheese secrets

If you're hitting that epically long Chick-fil-A drive-thru line, you've probably got their signature crispy fried chicken on the brain. The popular chain shows little signs of slowing down, with Chick-fil-A averaging more sales than McDonald's, Starbucks, and Subway combined, despite being closed on Sundays. With over 2,300 restaurants throughout the United States, Chick-fil-A also has its very own secret menu. If you're in the know, you could indulge in everything from a spicy chicken, egg and cheese breakfast bagel sandwich to a fried chicken club. 

The secret menu grilled cheese uses the standard Chick-fil-A bun and toasts it with the addition of sliced cheese. If you're looking to jazz it up, you could order the Chick-fil-A Deluxe sans the chicken to have a grilled cheese with a little more gusto in the form of pickle chips, lettuce and tomato. According to Reddit users, it's usually up to the manager and kitchen to decide if they want to create this special-to-order item for you, and warning: You may be waiting a bit.

Shake Shack's grilled cheese on a potato bun is a buttery treat

Now we're getting to the real meat and potatoes of our list, AKA the good stuff. Our top six offers some pretty solid versions of the American favorite.

 Shake Shack is taking the nation by storm. What started as a literal shack in New York City has expanded rapidly across the United States, to cities big and small. This new age, millennial version of the roadside food stand offers some of the best fast-casual versions of burgers and fries, as well as incredible frozen custard. It's not surprised that this hip, counter-service spot also has an in-the-know, secret menu. The ravenously hungry can take the challenge with their four-layered Shake Shack Quad Burger, while fans of their 'sauce' can tempt themselves with shack sauced cheese fries. There's something for everyone people — including a grilled cheese.

Their secret menu grilled cheese takes the burger's potato bun but uses them inside-out and grills them until they're golden brown with just the right amount of crispiness. Sandwiched inside is layers of melty cheese. It's buttery just like the classic, but unique enough earning its rightful position towards the top of our list.

Zaxby's grilled cheese is like Mom's own, but only better

We've now made it to the Top 5, so buckle your seatbelts!

Zaxby's is quickly gaining attention for their solid interpretations of classic, American fast food served in a family-friendly, casual setting: In fact, they even recently topped our list for the best fast food spicy crispy chicken sandwich. Zaxby's seems to be able to do no wrong, and with everything from boneless wings to fried white cheddar bites, it's become a favorite.

You've probably spotted the grilled cheese, also known as the kiddie cheese, on Zaxby's children's menu. Lucky for the big kids at heart, they also serve an adult grilled cheese meal. It's just like the kids version, but spoiler alert: It's bigger. This is everything we love about the classic grilled cheese our Mom made us as kids. The bread is perfectly grilled in butter and the cheese does that ooey, gooey thing that pulls you in bite after bite. If you're not getting chicken when at Zaxby's, get this. It's solid and a wonderful interpretation in classic form. 

Culver's grilled cheese on sourdough is an American classic

Culver's may not be nationwide yet, but they are certainly on the right track. Founded in Wisconsin in the mid 1980s, Culver's has become a family favorite in the casual fast-food sector thanks to their standout service and quality food items. Their restaurants also feature clean and welcoming dining rooms that are more akin to a standard, table-service restaurant. We'll never turn away from one of their signature ButterBurgers or their fresh frozen custard. While they do have standout burgers, they also have an equally show-worthy grilled cheese.

Their classic take on the favorite uses American cheese that's made in the land of the best cheese, Wisconsin (Duh!), and this spectacular cheese is layered and melted onto buttered and grilled sourdough bread. It is on the kid's menu, but we've been known to partake in it from time to time — no shame. Pair it with cheese curds, and we'd call it an all-around stellar meal. 

Thanks to that Midwestern hospitality they are known for, you can kindly ask for whatever modification you'd like for your grilled cheese. Go ahead, go nuts, add condiments, sauces, even a burger patty. You name it.

At Wawa, the grilled cheese possibilities are endless

Apologies in advance if you're geographically located nowhere near this next one. Oh, Wawa — how we love thee! You can do no wrong in our eyes. As the saying goes (or does it), if you're lucky enough to live by a Wawa, you're lucky enough.

There's nothing to joke about when it comes to the East coast chain that is Wawa. The convenience store meets market meets gas station (it's confusing, we know!) has a cult following, thanks to their standout freshly prepared and priced food items, like hoagies, stuffed pretzels, and the morning start-you-up that are their Sizzlis. If you know, you know, and most certainly, don't @ us or call this gas station food.

When stepping up to that magical screen where opportunity awaits to delight your taste buds, you could also feast your fancies with a build your own sourdough melt. Their perfect sourdough can be layered to your preference with a variety of cheeses and even see the addition of bacon or roasted chicken. If you're really looking to go all out, how about a Pepperoni-grilled cheese sourdough melt? The opportunities are endless, divine, and just a few clicks away.

At Sonic Drive-In, grilled cheese is a true delight

Sonic Drive-In is an experience in of itself. A celebration and homage to the classic days of the American drive-in, this fast-food chain has blown up in recent times, with nearly 3,500 locations across most of the United States. From the comfort of your own car, you can sip on their signature Cherry Limeade or take a bite into American classics like a corn dog or chili cheese fries. The menu is expansive, and you'll also be happy to know that it includes a grilled cheese sandwich.

The ultimate expression of modesty, Sonic Drive-In's grilled cheese features just the right amount of American cheese, in all of its melty glory, on buttery Texas Toast. The toast is perfectly grilled on the exterior, while maintaining a nice give and chewiness to it. No pomp and circumstance here — just a classic grilled cheese cooked to perfection. If you close your eyes, we swear you'll be transported back to your childhood. It's also one of the more reasonably priced on our list, since it is part of their value menu and can often be found on promotions, like 50-cent Grilled Cheese Day.

Head to Steak 'N Shake for grilled cheese perfection

We've made it our dear, cheese loving friends. The mac daddy of all grilled cheeses can be found at Steak 'N Shake. Sure, grilled cheese is nowhere to be found in the title of this fast casual chain, but there's immense joy to be found and it is beyond their classic Steakburger or homemade milkshakes. 

Steak 'N Shake's version of the grilled cheese is an ode to the original. It has no frills (not like it would need it). Cheese, bread, and butter have come together in perfect harmony. Found on their kids' menu, melted American cheese is enveloped by classic white toast that is then grilled to perfection. We probably have the grease from their wonderful burgers to thank for the perfect, golden brown exterior, but you won't find us complaining. It's buttery and flavorful, and paired with their solid shoestring style fries, an excellent meal. Humankind's greatest invention in its most perfect presentation. You're welcome.