WEST GLOVER, VERMONT
THE SPOT: The Parker Pie Company (161 County Road, 802-525-3366)smacks of rustic charm. Locals pack the place (situated across the street from a dairy farm) on Thursday evenings, when folk and bluegrass bands often perform.
THE SPECS: The beloved Bayley, Bartlett and Bacon Sandwich ($6.50) is made from ingredients produced within 40 miles of the restaurant: Jasper Hill Farm's artisanal Bayley Hazen blue cheese is melted with Vermont smoked and cured bacon, topped with sweet pear and caramelized onions, and served between thick slices of homemade oatmeal whole wheat bread.
THE SPOT: Though it's the namesake of a much beloved, now defunct dive in nearby Lincoln, there's nothing funky about fast-food joint Don & Millies (14321 Harrison St., 402-991-9112). The vast dining room is filled with shiny red booths and white tables, and '50s music plays on the stereo.
THE SPECS: Order the infamous Cheese Frenchee ($3.70), Nebraska's version of grilled cheese. The white-bread-and-American-cheese number is cut into triangles, coated in batter, rolled in cracker crumbs and cheese tang and deep-fried. Might as well go whole hog and have a 10-ounce margarita for a dollar more.
WISCONSIN DELLS, WISCONSIN
THE SPOT: For a place called The Cheese Factory Restaurant (521 Wisconsin Dells Pkwy. S., 608-253-6065), this eatery is remarkably elegant, both in look (flowering vines cover the exterior) and menu (quinoa-heavy vegetarian). It stands out in the meat-and-potatoes stronghold of Wisconsin Dells, home of 20-plus water parks.
THE SPECS: Travelers from near and far line up for the Big Cheese ($10), a double-decker sourdough sandwich layered with four-year-aged Wisconsin sharp cheddar and baby Swiss, a pinch of grated romano, tomatoes and Italian herbs.
THE SPOT: Matt Breslow, a newcomer on Portland's bustling food-cart scene, operates The Grilled Cheese Grill (1027 N.E. Alberta Ave., 503-206-8959) out of a 1968 travel trailer. Carry one of 16 melted sandwiches to the adjacent school bus fitted with booths and a counter. And show respect for those who seek to conquer the Cheesus: a cheeseburger bound by two grilled cheese sandwiches.
THE SPECS: Crowds line up for a double dose of crunch and heat: The Jalapeño Popper ($5) on sourdough bread melds roasted jalapeños, colby jack cheese, cream cheese and crumbled tortilla chips.
*Prices and other details were accurate when we published this article in November 2009.