Ever wondered where to get the best Grilled Cheese in America? It’s in San Francisco. OK, so just a little north of San Francisco actually, but if I had just said Muir Woods & you’d never been there before you would have had no clue what state it was even in.
It was one of those weird moments in life. I was in a hotel room in New York watching the Food Network. I only watch the Food Network when I am staying in a hotel. Why? Well…because I don’t have a TV at home, so it gets a bit tricky to watch it there. Anyway, there I was languishing in a ridiculously huge & cloud-like bed watching Tyler Florence waxing lyrical about the best grilled cheese in America when he divulged the location: Muir Woods. Muir Woods? Are you kidding me? The Muir Woods just north of San Francisco? Well I’ll be darned. In 3 days time I would be in San Francisco for the first time…and wouldn’t you know it, but Muir Woods was already on my list of things to photograph. Weird. Coincidence? Nah, I don’t believe in those. Clearly I was meant to eat the best Grilled Cheese in America.
Who knew just how difficult that would turn out to be!
I approached San Francisco from the north, having driven down Highway 1 from Eureka that day. Wow, what a drive! Driving nirvana can certainly be found in Northern California. I literally had to drive right by Muir Woods to get from Highway 1 to San Francisco, so I figured I’d just zoom right on in, grab my Grilled Cheese for lunch, “do” Muir Woods & then finish up my day by driving into downtown San Francisco – my home for the next week. Things didn’t work out quite to my plan.
Muir Woods, Take 1. Sunday. Once I had turned off Highway 1 onto the road to Muir Woods I quickly came across hordes of folks parking their cars in the ditch along the side of the road. How odd, I thought. They must all be going hiking. I drove for another couple of miles, bumper-to-bumper cars parked in the ditches to each side. Weird. Then, after another mile I came to the entrance to Muir Woods. Yes, you guessed it. All those people all those miles back were parking for Muir Woods. Wild. I, for one, was not walking 6 miles round trip to park. I’d come back to Muir Woods tomorrow. It must just be crazy on the weekends.
Muir Woods, Take 2. Monday…I know! I’ll get there just in time for lunch. Perfect! Rolled up…parking lot full, people everywhere, overflow parking lot full, people in droves down the road, 3 miles away bumper-to-bumper cars parked down both sides of the road & a bevy of cops dishing out parking tickets like candy. You have got to be kidding me.
And if Grilled Cheese isn’t your thing, here’s why else you need to go visit Muir Woods. It’s incredibly beautiful & peaceful (early in the morning anyway). I was real glad that I got there real early…not just because of the parking situation, but also because of the people situation. I really wanted to get some shots of the woods sans tourist. Actually, sans people, period. Had I arrived any later, my image making would have been a bust too. I sped on in, unimpeded by small children, strollers, grandparents &/or tour guides & managed to make quite a few images before the merry throng descended upon the unsuspecting solitude. I am not sure what time of year you need to go to San Francisco to get to see Muir Woods in relative peace, but it certainly isn’t August.
After my jaunt around the woods, breathing in all that fresh, woodsy air I was truly ready to take a grilled cheese sandwich for a spin. When I got back to the Café it was teaming with people although since it was still early, most of them were just there to garner their last caffeine buzz before the hike off into the woods. Of course, a lot of them had already had to walk 2 miles just to get to the entrance. When are the parks people going to do something about the parking?
Anyway, turns out my journey to Grilled Cheese Heaven was still a lot further off than I thought. The bread man had not yet arrived. In fact, the bread man was already half-an-hour late. This was starting to feel like a bit of a conspiracy. The delightful lady who runs the joint was already well aware of my intentions to do away with one of her infamous sarnies, so I found a little spot in the corner & curled up to watch the ebb & flow of life in the Muir Woods Café, while waiting for the bread man to arrive. After watching for half-an-hour the urge to just put on an apron & give everyone a hand was almost overwhelming. Hey I can knock up a few quick parfaits or refill the hot chocolate urn. And then, as if by magic, the bread man appeared. Hurrah!
It was another solid half-an-hour before my long-awaited Grilled Cheese was finally delivered to my eager paws. When it did arrive it was accompanied by a rather splendid looking home-made brownie as a gift for having had to wait so long. But you know, I didn’t really mind the wait. I mean, hey, I’d driven 818 miles from Seattle (it feels a lot further than 818 miles, probably because I came down the wibbly-wobbly coast road) & had then come to Muir Woods 3 days in a row, so an extra hour or so wait really didn’t seem a struggle. And anyway, people watching is always fun.
So. I feel like we need a drum roll at this point.
This is a mighty fine Grilled Cheese. The BEST in America? I confess: Grilled Cheese is not such a big thing in England so I am no Grilled Cheese connoisseur, & I haven’t eaten that many here in the US either. I can tell you that it was the meltiest & most flavourful Grilled Cheese I have ever eaten. I can also tell you that the bread was a tad on the dry side…but then you are supposed to eat this with a bowl of tomato soup alongside to dip it in, so that may just have been my bad. I can also tell you that it was worth the wait. And that the staff at the Café are simply wonderful. However, I am certain that they opened up the Café JUST for Tyler Florence when they filmed there, and maybe, had they opened up just for me & the bread man hadn’t been hours late I may have felt even warmer & fuzzier about this Grilled Cheese than I already did. Who knows.
And just in case you needed a close up to inspect that ooey-gooey wonderfulness, here it is:
If you are in the San Francisco area & Muir Woods is on your list (which it should be, it’s an absolute treasure) then swing by the Café & order up a Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup. You won’t be disappointed. Even if you don’t get a free brownie for your trouble :-)