Best tuna melt sandwiches in Los Angeles and Orange County

The tuna melt combines two of America‘s most glorious diner sandwiches: the grilled cheese and the tuna salad. According to legend, its origins trace to a lunch counter at a Woolworth’s department store in Charleston, S.C. In 1960, a cook accidentally spilled some tuna salad on a grilled cheese sandwich, inadvertently discovering a beloved combination.

A traditional tuna melt features griddled bread, tuna salad, melted cheese and, more often than not, a side of bread and butter pickles. The tuna salad should be creamy and the cheese should be gooey, all pressed together with crispy, buttery bread.

There are countless variations on the tuna melt. Some versions call for Swiss cheese, while others add sharp cheddar. The sandwich can be served open-faced or closed, with rye bread, sourdough or in some cases, an English muffin.

In the last few years, the tinned fish that’s often used in tuna melts has experienced a sort of renaissance thanks to brands like Fishwife, a woman-owned, premium tinned fish company with an emphasis on ethically sourced seafood. Now, in addition to albacore, brands like Fishwife are canning slow-smoked mackerel, rainbow trout, Cantabrian anchovies and more.

Local restaurants are also offering modern, sustainably-minded takes on the classic tuna melt. Some of the most coveted melts don’t even use tuna, like the elusive smoked white fish melt that makes seasonal appearances on the menu at Silver Lake’s All Day Baby restaurant. Whether you are looking for a diner classic or an elevated take, there are plenty of places to grab a great tuna melt in L.A. and Orange County, with some served up right at the lunch counter for peak nostalgia.