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The Best 1-Ingredient Upgrade for Grilled Cheese (You Already Have It)

It comes from the parking lot of Grateful Dead concerts.

<p>Dotdash Meredith Food Studios</p>

Dotdash Meredith Food Studios

A job here at Allrecipes leads us to look for tips, tricks, and techniques in some unexpected places. Of course, we turn to social media like TikTok and Instagram for what's new and notable, and to look to the past for nostalgic and time-honored traditions, but we also turn to some fairly surprising places for inspiration. Because a good tip is a good tip, regardless of its origins.

The latest one on my radar promises the most delicious, amped-up grilled cheese. Its source? The parking lots of jam band concerts like the Grateful Dead and Phish.

How to Make the Best Grilled Cheese

There are a million tips on the internet for how and what makes the platonic ideal of a grilled cheese. While most focus on the best types of cheese to hit that ooey-gooey, cheese-pull sweet spot, or the buttery ways to ensure a crispy crust, not many focus on the flavor. This ingredient, however, is all about the flavor. Let's take a step back.


I first learned about this tip in a 2018 Food52 article, but upon consulting a few Grateful Dead fans—or Deadheads, as they're known—in my life, it seems this tip is legit. It all started in the tailgates of Grateful Dead and other jam band concerts, where there are frequently areas of vendors selling food and clothes called Shakedown Street (named after a Grateful Dead song). One of the most popular items being sold was a grilled cheese.

Over the years, these grilled cheese sandwiches have become a Shakedown Street staple, with a following of their own. And, according to some Reddit threads, it's all thanks to a sprinkling of one secret ingredient. Before you get ahead of yourself—it's nothing illegal. It's just garlic salt.

Why Garlic Salt Makes the Best Grilled Cheese

According to many concert-goers, some form of garlic—whether garlic salt, powder, or butter—was added to the grilled cheeses to give them that little something special. Of course, there may have been other external factors influencing people and their pre- and post-concert munchies, I can safely say this tip works outside of Shakedown Street, too.

In the aforementioned article, the author's husband talked to a grilled cheese vendor who disclosed that they put garlic salt on the outside of the grilled cheese, along with mayo, to get a perfectly crispy, crunchy crust. Others on Reddit claim it was garlic powder all along, while some claim they skip the mayo altogether and opt for garlic butter on the outside of their grilled cheeses.

However, garlic salt gives a 1-2 punch of flavor and extra seasoning, and when combined with the griddled mayo-covered bread, it's a winning combo. There's no need to get fancy with the cheeses—these sandwiches are typically sold for $1 or $2, so we have to assume they're going with something melty and cheap like American.

To make your very own Shakedown Street-style grilled cheese, just take two pieces of bread and a few slices of your preferred cheese (I like a slice of American for melting and a slice of Cheddar for flavor). Spread the outsides of your sandwich with a thin layer of mayonnaise and sprinkle with garlic salt, or garlic powder and a little salt. Then griddle on medium-low heat until the bread is GDB (golden brown and delicious). This grilled cheese is best enjoyed after a late night listening to your favorite band play, but it tastes pretty darn good for lunch any old day of the week, too.

Read the original article on All Recipes.