Maybe you make an incredible cheese sandwich. Maybe you make a sandwich so good, with melty, gooey cheese and ham, that no other sandwich can compare. Perhaps you add relish, or a little smear of mustard for a nose-tingling kick. Perhaps you hold strong opinions about whether ketchup belongs in a cheese sandwich (it doesn’t). Maybe you’re all cheese-sandwiched out: From the pimento sandwich and the steamed cheeseburger to the artisanal sandwich with chèvre, guanciale, and fig jam, you’ve had them all.
Until you haven’t. By the grace of the sandwich gods and some venturous hot dog joints in Fall River, Massachusetts, meet the hot cheese sandwich, an enigma wrapped in a hamburger bun that’s creamy yet granular, cheesy but also saucy, and, all things considered, like no cheese sandwich you’ve ever had.
It all started at the now-closed Nite Owl Diner, a local greasy spoon selling hot dogs, hot breakfast, and the hot cheese sandwich. The tradition continues at Fall River joints such as J.J.’s Coney Island Hot Dogs, Graham’s Hot Dogs, and Nick’s Coney Island Hot Dogs. At J.J.’s, melted cheddar cheese is stirred in a hot water bath for hours, and then scooped onto a hamburger bun. It bears a marked resemblance to mashed potatoes. A healthy slather of Coney Island–style meat sauce and other typical sandwich condiments are optional. At Graham’s, the hot cheese patty takes the consistency of a buttery, scrambled egg. Nick’s uses slabs of cheddar, melted to a magical, just-right consistency that doesn’t drip when you bite into the bun. Pillowy or crumbly, always, the taste that lingers on the tongue is of sharp cheddar cheese. And always, the recipe is top secret (whistleblowers claim the addition of milk keeps the warm cheese from solidifying or getting glutinous).
Next time you’re in a hot dog joint in Fall River, look further down the menu for the hot cheese sandwich, a beautiful celebration of cheddar.
Where to Try It
J.J.'s Coney Island Hot Dogs571 S Main St, Fall River, Massachusetts, 02721, United States
Both cheese sandwiches and hot dogs can come with a topping of Coney Island–style meat sauce at this joint.
Graham’s Hot Dogs931 Bedford St, Fall River, Massachusetts, 02723, United States
Another beloved hot cheese sandwich institution.