For every person who has gone online to spread love for the tuna melts that deserve recognition, this one's for you. And for those scrolling through reviews in search of places that get this sandwich right, we've got you covered. A tuna melt is one of those love-it-or-hate-it foods, toeing the line between retro-cool and oh-no-not-again. We love tuna melts. To help you find the tastiest ones in the U.S., we've entrusted the help of real customer reviews. We'll go into more detail about our methodology at the end of the article.
What makes a tuna melt stand out? Quality ingredients and some technique. The consensus is that the toasted bread and melted cheese should warm the tuna salad ever so gently. Too hot? It could throw off the tuna's consistency. Too cold? The sandwich's ingredients lack unity. Additions like veggies and herbs can propel a tuna melt into gourmet territory, but they aren't a requirement.
We'd also like to address the fact that tuna melts have become expensive. It's not uncommon to see them sold for $17 to $20 — and not just in the big city. Those kinds of prices happen in lesser-known areas, too. If the tuna comes from a can, these price points can be a turnoff, but we're willing to shell out if restaurants are putting an upscale spin on the situation. Ultimately, an eatery's tuna melt reputation comes down to public opinion, and the customer reviews are telling. These are some of the nation's best.
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Earl Of Sandwich In Multiple Locations
It's admirable when a large-scale chain's sandwiches compete alongside smaller, foodie-centric eateries that emphasize an artisan touch to tuna melts. Yet, Earl of Sandwich has gained a following for its tuna melt ... and the proof is in the words of the people. Customer reviews point out that Earl of Sandwich tastes fresher than Subway or Quiznos, and ample applause is given to the tuna melt in particular.
Reviewers describe the chain's tuna melt, made with albacore tuna and Swiss cheese, as being creamy and just the right amount of simple. One Redditor went as far as to suggest that the "tuna (the mayo must be laced with crack) is the best." Earl of Sandwich is a franchise with 35 locations scattered throughout the U.S. and is founded by the 11th Earl of Sandwich, Lord John Montagu, and his son in 2004 — yes, the guy who brought this chain to the U.S. is a direct descendant of the Earl of Sandwich, who is credited with bringing the sandwich mainstream in 1762.
Earl of Sandwich calls itself "The World's Greatest Hot Sandwich" and focuses on fresh-baked bread, quality ingredients, and craftsmanship. The locations most commonly referenced in customer reviews are in Orlando, Florida's Disney Springs, and Las Vegas' Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. Many Earl of Sandwich reviews on Tripadvisor are quick to highlight the tuna melt as "delicious" and their "favorite" sandwich on the menu.
Lit'l Pepper Gourmet In San Diego, California
Being voted the No. 1 sandwich spot in San Diego is no small feat, and Lit'l Pepper Gourmet takes this honor to heart. Lit'l Pepper knows how to make a mean tuna salad and offers several sandwiches that incorporate tuna in eclectic ways. There's a tuna artichoke wrap, a tuna salad sandwich with jalapeños, and a tuna with Swiss cheese and sliced almonds, but Lit'l Pepper's customers agree that the tuna melt is where it's at.
Tuna melts are popular in southern California; knowing which places are a cut above the rest can be tough to discern. This is why customer reviews are so informative and can help point you in the right direction. The ones for Lit'l Pepper Gourmet are solid. There are plenty of Yelp reviews that mention the prowess of Lit'l Pepper's tuna melt, including one that reads, "The tuna melt is to DIE for! I get cravings for it often now! The sandwich itself is huge, I usually keep eating the second half even after I'm full because it's SO good."Lit'l Pepper opened in 1994, and in addition to supplying the city of San Diego with fresh gourmet eats, the eatery boasts catering and delivery among its customer conveniences. That said, the place only operates between the hours of 6 a.m. and 2 p.m., so be sure to stop by while it's open.
8911 Complex Dr, Ste. C, San Diego, CA 92123
Golden Diner In New York City, New York
In New York City, the best tuna melts are traditionally found at delis and diners, so if you walk into a place with counter-style dining, that's likely a good sign. And the one at Golden Diner in Chinatown, helmed by Momofuku Ko veteran Sam Yoo, is one of the best.
Golden Diner's hallmark is putting a twist on classic diner food in a way that feels modern and necessary. The tuna melt — or Sam's Tuna Melt as it's called -- is a prime example. Buttery, toasted rye bread and American cheese perfectly complement the creaminess of the tuna salad, but it's the addition of salt and vinegar kettle chips inside the sandwich that gives it next-level status. The chips' tanginess and crunchy texture create a great depth of flavor while still allowing the sandwich's ingredients to shine.
Chef Danielle Sepsy's TikTok contains a multi-part quest for the best tuna melt in N.Y.C. She taste-tests tuna melts from some of Manhattan's most popular spots and declares Golden Diner the winner. Sepsy noted that the buttery bread and melty cheese made this tuna melt a standout, but it was the chips that " ... just added a crunch I didn't even know that I wanted but I loved." Foursquare reviews echo the sentiment, with one customer saying, "Tuna melt, breakfast sandwich, and pancakes all insanely inventive and tasty. Momofuku alum elevating the diner."
123 Madison Street New York, NY 10002
Pom Pom's Teahouse And Sandwicheria In Orlando, Florida
Something delicious borne out of culinary creativity is the ultimate triumph, and the proof is between the bread at Pom Pom's Teahouse and Sandwicheria. Owner Pom Moongauklang opened the eatery in 2005, bringing a quirky coolness to Orlando's Milk District back when the now trendy area was still up and coming.
Pom Pom's menu is comprehensive, and the pressed sandwich selection doesn't shy away from untraditional ingredient combinations, like smoked brisket with blue cheese and strawberry jelly. The tuna melt sandwich plays it more straight-laced with capers, celery, red onions, lemon zest, and a choice of domestic cheese. If straight-laced isn't how you roll, Pom Pom's encourages you to up the ante with the addition of spicy turkey mac and cheese.
Pom Pom's tuna melt doesn't require a pasta topping to be scrumptious, yet if you're in the mood for something unexpected, this is it. Customers who prefer their noodles on the side give rave reviews to Pom Pom's tuna melt anyway. One Yelp entry mentioned, "The food was delicious, tuna melt was a 10/10." Another Yelper got reflective, asking, "Who knew a tuna sandwich could be so good? This place is where all sandwiches desire to be made."
67 N Bumby Ave, Orlando, FL 32803
Norton's Pastrami And Deli In Santa Barbara, California
If your tuna melt craving is rooted in visions of old-school sandwich counters where a guy with a Brooklyn accent slides a freshly made tuna melt in your direction, Norton's Pastrami and Deli is your kind of place. Okay, it opened in 2004 and is in Santa Barbara, but those vintage N.Y.C. deli vibes are alive and well at this hole-in-the-wall deli. As the name suggests, the pastrami is the main attraction — Guy Fieri featured Norton's on his reality show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" in 2012 — but the tuna melt is also a pretty big deal.
"I had the tuna melt and it is my all time favorite tuna melt I've ever had" is the kind of review you'll encounter on Yelp for Norton's. The menu has a standard tuna melt with Swiss cheese and sourdough, and a Cali version, which adds sliced avocado. One Tripadvisor reviewer noted that a half-size melt is a sufficient portion and that the bread was "some of the best sourdough I have tasted."
A 2020 post on Norton's Instagram calls the tuna melt a "local favorite." It also indicates that the homemade tuna salad uses pole and line-caught tuna, meaning that ethically sourced fish is important not just to Norton's but to its customers as well. One comment below the post reads, "Your tuna sandwich is the best!!"
18 W Figueroa St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Yum! Kitchen And Bakery In Minnesota, Multiple Locations
Minnesota's yum! Kitchen and Bakery has become a staple in the Twin Cities metro area, building itself into a small, four-location chain since starting back in 2005. What sets yum! apart from other fast-casual restaurants is its commitment to making everything from scratch. It's paid off. As for the tuna melt, well, it's a yum! favorite.
The tuna melt is made with the yum! Signature Fancy Schmancy tuna salad, which is made with albacore tuna and served open-faced on an English muffin with Muenster cheese dreamily melted over three large slices of tomato. What are the customers saying? Good things.
Yelp reviewers churn out accolades saying, "My favorite dish is the tuna melt. I don't know how they do it but it is so good! The place is clean and beautiful and the menu is fresh." Another Yelp review mentioned that "The tuna melt is also another go to item and is perfectly toasted with melted cheese and tomato." And let's not forget to shout out the sides. That's what cookbook author and former Minnesota Star Tribune restaurant critic Rick Nelson did on X, formerly known as Twitter, when he posted a photo of his takeout tuna melt and this playful plea to the public, "Can we please take a moment to sing the (considerable) praises due the kitchen's crunchy, wonderfully sour dill pickles? Yum, indeed. The potato chips are A-OK, too."
B&H Dairy In New York City, New York
Any New Yorker will tell you that spots like B&H Dairy hardly exist anymore. These are places where the ambiance, prices, and food truly embody an era gone by. B&H Dairy is a kosher dairy lunch counter, doing business since 1938 in a Manhattan neighborhood known as the Ukranian Village. There is a delightful absence of anything trendy — not even a company website. This is a straightforward situation, with classic Eastern European and Jewish fare, plus many vegetarian items. There's borscht, pierogies, blintzes, and smoked whitefish. There's the tuna melt that comes on challah bread.
It's B&H Dairy's thing to make sandwiches with handmade, fresh, fluffy challah, which makes the tuna melt feel special (so does its $8 price tag). Toasted golden and buttered, this tuna melt on challah seems like the most obvious thing you never thought of. When a restaurant's legacy is as substantial as what B&H Dairy has, customer reviews won't be without criticism, yet the glowing reviews of B&H's tuna melt far outweigh hints of complaint.
One Tripadvisor entry calls it the "best challah tuna melt in NYC," adding, "They fed me well in the early '70's ... 6 days per week ...Tuna on challah bread rocks !!!" Another wrote: "I couldn't wait to experience the Tuna Melt and Matzoh Ball soup! Simply the best." And to that we say, B&H Dairy, long may you live.
127 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003
Chula Seafood In Multiple Locations
We have respect for tuna melts made with quality canned tuna, but when flaked tuna confit is in the mix, we're intrigued. This is not something you encounter every day, and Chula Seafood is no ordinary place. Chula Seafood sells fresh fish in the landlocked Southwest region and makes tuna melts with fresh albacore. These melts are among America's best.
Chula Seafood is a family business that started in San Diego in 2009. The operation focuses on sustainably caught fish and has expanded into three Arizona locations: two in Scottsdale and one in Phoenix. Part fish market, part fast-casual restaurant, Chula Seafood has its products delivered by a fleet of refrigerated vans and put in the capable hands of chefs who let their imaginations run wild.
Chula's tuna melt has been crafted to include confit Albacore tuna, Hatch green chiles, and spiced Oaxaca cheese on noble bread with a side of chimichurri — a nod to the heritage of many Arizonians. It is decadent, a bit messy, and as more than one Yelp commenter put it, "to die for." Friendly service and cleanliness are also frequently mentioned in customer reviews, but in case you need extra convincing, consider another Yelper's quote: "For the record, I think the tuna melt with Hatch chilis is killer delicious. Every time."
The Apple Pan In Los Angeles, California
When a restaurant's motto is "Quality Forever," and it's been part of the West Los Angeles community since 1947, you know it's good. The Apple Pan is considered a culturally significant historical landmark by the Los Angeles Conservancy, and although it's renowned for homey foods like burgers and pie, the word on everyone's lips these days is tuna melt. The "secret" tuna melt isn't on the menu, yet with some help from social media, it has blown up big time. The Apple Pan promotes it on places like Instagram, making this the worst-kept secret menu item ... possibly ever.
To order The Apple Pan's tuna melt successfully (as opposed to the un-melty tuna salad sandwich with lettuce), order a grilled cheese and request to add tuna. Another tip from a customer on TikTok who calls it "the best tuna melt ever" is adding grilled onions (if you're into that kind of thing). Folks on Reddit had a lot to say about where to get the best tuna melt in L.A., and several votes went to The Apple Pan. "Apple Pan is the best tuna melt hands down. What's best is they keep the tuna cold and just grill the cheese on the bread. That way it isn't cooked." This review speaks to the popular opinion of online tuna melt connoisseurs that when the mayo-based salad is too warm, it's no longer appetizing.
10801 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Kitsch'n On Roscoe In Chicago, Illinois
Open-faced tuna melts were quite possibly the avocado toast of the 1960s, and we love to see them still being served in restaurants throughout the United States. At Kitsch'n On Roscoe, the funky and colorful brunch spot in Chicago's charming Roscoe Village, the open-faced tuna melt is right at home with the throwback decor and comfort food vibes. This version emphasizes comfort.
The pepper jack cheese atop Kitsch'n On Roscoe's tuna melt isn't your average melty cheese. It's caramelized with a deep toastiness that suggests this is supposed to be the hangover food many brunch places have become known for. And even if you're not hung over, it's okay to indulge sometimes. Just ask Chicago food blogger Hungry Hungry Hinden. He says, "Now I've probably dined at Kitch'n just over a dozen times. I've ordered the tuna melt every single time. Really. ... It's just that when you have a sandwich I enjoy that much, and they happen to serve the best variation ... how can I not order it -– every time?" A Google review summed up their thoughts, saying, "tuna melt left me feeling things i've never felt before 10/10 experience." The $15 tuna melt also comes with a side of either french fries or a mixed green salad. We're guessing that the hungover people probably get the fries.
2005 W Roscoe St, Chicago, IL 60618
Bardenay In Idaho, Multiple Locations
We came across many places in New York City and California that make tuna melts that customers love, but that doesn't mean people in other parts of the U.S. are shut out. Bardenay is one such place, proudly serving the people of Idaho. What started as a 60-square-foot distillery in Boise back in December 1999 has become a bustling restaurant/distillery combo (the first permitted in the U.S.) with three locations in the state. As for the tuna melt? It's a hit with customers.
A reviewer on Tripadvisor gave Bardenay the green light, commenting, "My tuna melt was perfectly toasted and was exactly what I was hoping for." They were a big fan of the distillery concept as well. Bardenay's awesome tuna salad incorporates lemon zest (rather than the more typical lemon juice) that provides a brightness to the flavor of the fish. Sandwiched between melted Tillamook cheddar cheese, sliced tomato, and grilled sourdough, this is a tuna melt you'll be inspired to recreate at home. The We Know Boise website named Bardenay as one of the top eateries in the city and hailed the tuna melt as one of the best bites on the menu, sweetly calling it "reminiscent of late lunches with Mom."
Modigliani Cafe In Oakland, California
How does a Bay Area eatery that's cash-only and social media shy thrive in the 21st century? By having great food. Sandwiches at Modigliani Cafe earn rave reviews, and the tuna melt is a signature item. Damian Costello, who goes by The Sandwich Saint on Instagram, profiles dozens of Bay Area sandwich shops and names Modigliani Cafe's tuna melt as one of his all-time favorites. Costello told SF Gate, "I'm not a massive tuna fish guy but I get strong visceral cravings for that sandwich." He's even written a poem about Modigliani's tuna melt, ascribing it to "perfection on a paper plate."
It's not just Costello giving high praise to the expertly crafted tuna melt at Modigliani Cafe. Customers consistently claim that Modigliani's $14 tuna melt is a true beauty ... the best they've ever tried. It's made panini-style, with cheddar cheese and flaky, flavorful tuna salad made with light mayonnaise, red onions, celery, pepper, and lemon juice. Something else consistently noted in Modigliani's customer reviews is the kindness of owner Gerry Mogg and his staff. Customers can enjoy free coffee and chips with their purchase, and free samples are mentioned in many of the cafe's glowing reviews. One Yelper wrote: "Tuna melt is off the hook! Very fresh. Very tasty. Highly recommend this. At some point I will try something new, just haven't gotten around to breaking away from the tuna! It's perfect!"
3208-3210 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610
To narrow down our selection, we browsed hundreds of customer reviews about the best tuna melts in the U.S. on places like Tripadvisor, Yelp, Foursquare, Google Reviews, and all major social media channels. Reddit threads also provided a lot of insight as did posts from food bloggers sharing their personal experiences with tuna melt tastings. We probably could have done a whole article on awesome tuna melts in California or New York City, but this list aims to include eateries all over the nation, in cities big and small.
Read the original article on Mashed.