Bacon Jam Philly Fish Grilled Cheese by Fisherman’s Market (Only Available At 7Th Avenue Location).

Eat Cheese, Feed Local

FOOD For Lane County’s 10th Annual Grilled Cheese Experience

From poutine to strawberry habanero-inspired sandwiches, the 10th Annual Grilled Cheese Experience’s menu includes every crispy-crunchy, ooey-gooey grilled creation a cheese fantasy could encompass. With multiple restaurants offering gluten and dairy free options — and even pressed juice at Lovely in Springfield — there are no excuses for missing out on this unique taste of the Eugene area.

Last February, FOOD For Lane County, the second largest food bank in Oregon, raised more than $25,000 with the event, Dawn Marie Woodward, FFLC’s media relations coordinator and Grilled Cheese Experiences organizer, tells Eugene Weekly.

The nonprofit distributes donated and purchased food to 30 different food pantries in the county and assists about 85,000 people per year with its services. Those in need of healthy and nutritious foods can pick up a box at any of FFLC’s partner agencies.

“There are just so many factors why somebody needs extra help with food, and we just need to be there as a food bank, to be available. We’re a community resource that people can lean on,” Woodward says.

There are 31 restaurants participating in the Grilled Cheese Experience this year. They all took on the challenge of creating and serving different versions of the grilled cheese sandwich. Some concepts are more abstract, like O’ My Mini Donuts’ sweet and savory cheesy donuts, while others are creative additions to the prototype.Many restaurants have multiple options, and Hop Valley Brewing in Springfield is offering a different sandwich everyday until Feb. 24, when its “best sellers week” begins.

 For every sandwich sold, the restaurant donates $2 to FFLC, which it uses to produce four meals. While the event is focused around grilled sandwiches, O’ My Mini Donuts isn’t the only exception. Lovely is donating for each sale of pressed juice or any grilled sandwich on their menu, and Jazzy Sammies’ experience menu includes a breakfast wrap, chicken parm, fried mac and cheese balls and potato croquettes.

Fisherman’s Market has been a part of the GCE for the past 10 years because “giving back to the community through food” is what it does, Rob Keiser, the general manager says. This year, its sandwich is a parmesan-crusted variation of a bestseller with Philly fish on fresh sourdough bread complemented with caramelized onions and bacon jam.

With each sandwich purchase, there’s the option to collect one sticker to add to a “GCE Passport” for the chance to win prizes. The grand prize, valued at $250, is two VIP tickets to Chef’s Night Out on April 8, a FFLC-hosted event with mini bites and sips from restaurants around Eugene. Five stickers earn one entry into the prize drawing. Passports are not essential for grilled cheese eating, but it’s not too late to start a collection.

Be on the lookout for “cheesy royalty,” aka someone dressed up in a foam cheese crown and cheese slice costume. Location hints are on the GCE Facebook page. When found, they give out cheesy royalty stickers that come with the chance to win another set of prizes, including an “ultimate grilled cheese kit.”

The winner of last year’s Grilled Cheese Experience, Red Barn Deli, which is part of Red Barn Grocery, constructed “The Grown Up Grilled Cheese” packed with grilled onions, fresh tomato, provolone, cheddar and havarti cheeses, and either bacon or tempeh. It’s originally arranged between two slices of sourdough bread, but there’s an option for both gluten free breads and bagels. Red Barn can also make it dairy free or vegan.

“Red Barn is really interested in supporting the community that it’s in,” Sasha McArthur, one of its sandwich makers says. “That’s what we’re all about, getting good food to good people and allowing opportunities for connection.”

The Grilled Cheese Experience runs through Feb. 29; get all the info at