By Michelle Slade
In the olden days (aka before Y2K), cheese was only ever used in two ways: gloopily on top of hearty food (pizza, burgers, pasta) or as slithers to be nibbled daintily in expensive bars and restaurants. But today, cheese has been renaissanced! If you want to try different cheeses and appreciate them as food in their own right (rather than as a “topping”), you can - even if you’re not in banker-level territories of wealth.
Murray’s Cheese Bar
Murray’s Cheese on Bleeker Street has been a Greenwich Village institution since 1940 - selling a huge selection of cheeses that have been sourced from around the world, as well as meats, paninis, olive oil and a whole range of other great-with-cheese items. And now, finally, after all these years, Murray’s Cheese has a sidekick: Murray’s Cheese Bar, just a few doors down. Which means you can sit down and enjoy some cheesy delights right away. The menu is predictably cheese-based - you can order individual cheeses from a vast selection, or you can ask the cheesemonger to select a few for you instead. You can also get fondue, pastas, gooey pressed sandwiches, spreads and desserts - all for prices that aren’t half-bad considering the miles travelled to get this stuff to your plate.
Earl’s Beer and Cheese
By pairing up beer with cheese in the name of this tiny East Harlem joint, you know you’re going to have a fun and delicious time here. At Earl’s, you order at the bar, eat cheese, drink beer (lots of both), have fun and chill out. There’s a small selection of beers on tap which changes each month, and a menu to satisfy anyone who approves of cheese. The “Beer-Cheese” is adored among many regulars; it’s a spreadable cheese made from Cheddar and house lager, and served with fresh garlic and toast. Another favorite is the incredible grilled cheese sourdough sandwich containing pork belly, kimchi and a fried egg.
Great name, great grilled cheese sandwiches. Little Muenster’s sandwiches are on a whole different level from those run-of-the-mill grease bombs you wish you hadn’t ordered in a 24-hour diner after a night out. These sandwiches deserve much more sobriety and appreciation. (And to be honest, good luck ordering the “Oaxaca/Cotija/CornPuree/Tomatillo” or the “Taleggio/Fontina/Crimini & Shitake Mushroom” after a few beers.) Admittedly, the shop is on the Lower East Side and it’s open until the early hours on the weekend, so if you’re after a particularly classy sort of alcohol soaker-upper, this is the place to go. Just please try to savour it a little bit.
Gorilla Cheese is a food truck that moves around a lot... so be sure to check out the website before you venture back for your second portion of grilled cheese deliciousness. Just because it’s a food truck, it doesn’t mean the cheese options are limited or the quality is poor. Somehow they manage to find room for a ton of different meats, cheeses and breads that make up a variety of sandwich options, as well as dipping sauces, soups and desserts.
Bedford Cheese Shop
And if you want to get a classic education in cheese, check out the Prohibition-Style Cocktail & Cheese Party at Bedford Cheese Shop. Get gussied up in 1920s attire, sip drinks and nom on cheese like our great-grandparents did it in the swingin' 20s. Get your tickets here and prepare yourself for the classiest cheese soiree this side of Gloucestershire.
Michelle Slade is a freelance writer, editor and proofreader. She writes for a number of fun and wacky websites and publications, and is also the author of If I’m Not Mistaken, That’s Bacon: Kosher Guidance for Confused Jews and Haggadah Good Feeling About This: Passover Guidance for Confused Jews. She blogs with her husband at www.makingitanywhere.com.