When Slashfood first announced the new value meal lineup at Denny's several weeks ago, we had already started planning a field trip to taste test the most extraordinary addition to their menu -- the Fried Cheese Melt, what Denny's refers to as "a grilled cheese with a twist." Here's what it is: Take the classic grilled cheese with sourdough bread and American cheese, then stuff it with four fried mozzarella sticks and serve it with a side of marinara sauce. The $4 value meal is rounded out with a choice of soup or salad and served with a side of French fries.
This sandwich is just the latest addition to the extreme sandwich craze, which has been hitting all kinds of fast-food and restaurant chain outlets. First there was the Double Down from KFC, then the Grilled Cheese Burger Melt from Friendly's, then the foot-long cheeseburger from Carl's Jr. and now this. Due to the extreme nature of this sandwich, we invited Erik Trinidad, Slashfood contributor and creator of Fancy Fast Food, as well as Jake Goodrich, from Asylum.com, along to weigh in and we caught it all on tape.
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Since we drove 30 miles from Manhattan to Avenel, N.J. to try this, we were slightly panicked when we noticed the new value meal options were not on their menu. We asked the waitress about it, and she assured us, "Yes, we're serving them -- we just don't have the new menus yet." She didn't seem to know much about them, however. Not only did we not get fries with our orders, we had to ask for the side of marinara. After all, if we're going to eat this thing, we wanted to make sure we factored in all the elements.
Fried Cheese Melt
Nutritional Information: See below*
Quality of American cheese (1-5): 2
Quality of mozzarella sticks (1-5): 5
Crispy-ness of bread (1-5): 5
Here's my two cents: I thought the mozzarella sticks were amazing. I was concerned that the breading around the sticks would either get lost or soggy because of the other cheese surrounding it, but it held up well. While the American cheese tasted fine, we decided on the "2" rating above because there just wasn't enough -- there was maybe one full slice on each side and they did resemble Kraft singles. However, the sourdough bread was fresh, crispy and had just the right amount of butter on it to make this grilled cheese sandwich one of the best I've ever had.
Erik said, "If you're a lover of salt, you'll love this sandwich. I also believe that if Denny's made a pizza, it would taste just like this, which isn't a bad thing. The breading on the mozzarella sticks was also well seasoned."
Jake added, "This sandwich did not lack in sodium or grease and that really came through in the flavor, yet when combined with the marinara sauce, it helped balance out all that salt."
We all agreed that the marinara sauce was delicious. It had just the right seasoning with an incredible amount of basil in it. When asked whether the sandwich was better on its own or dipped into the sauce, we all agreed that we'd be happy to have it either way. In fact, the optimal solution would be to eat one half plain and the other half dipped in the sauce. While it was salty, compared to the Double Down, I didn't feel the need to drink several gallons of water afterward.
Read all of Slashfood's fast-food reviews.
Dennys New Fried Cheese Melt
Fried Cheese Melt - 790 calories, 38 grams fat, 2670 mg sodium
Fried Cheese Melt with Marinara Sauce - 830 calories, 40 grams fat, 2920 mg sodium
Fried Cheese Melt with Fries - 1220 calories, 61 grams fat, 2770 mg sodium
Fried Cheese Melt with Fries and Marinara Sauce - 1260 calories, 63 grams fat, 3010 mg sodium