A Cheese Lover’s Guide to NYC

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Most of my diet is some variation on white bread and cheese. I might be dead by 50, but I’m living in a city full of gooey cheesy goodness—it would be crazy to not eat mac n’ cheese at least once a day. With more than 25,000 restaurants in New York City, there’s a lot of cheese to be grilled, pulled, dipped, fried, and eaten by the pound. My top top favorite cheesy dishes in the City, off a very long list…

Cheese Grille: Well-priced and generous grilled cheese on the Lower East Side. They do various other cheesey foods, but I always always go for the grilled cheese. They’ve got a selection of twelve twists on the classic, and every one of them has the perfect ratio of cheese to other fillings, sandwiched between two perfect slices of bread from Balthazar Bakery. There are gluten-free and dairy free options, and they serve wine and beer. They’re also open until 3AM. Literally the perfect place to stop in when the drunchies hit.

Cheese Grille

S’mac: Sarita’s Mac—basically Chipotle for macaroni and cheese. You can choose your own everything, from type of cheese to mix-ins to condiments. If you’re indecisive, go with one of Sarita’s recommendations. Napoletana and La Mancha are particularly great. They have gluten-free, low-carb, and whole grain options, and you can even buy their mac frozen to cook at home. They also have a community fridge, which is pretty cool. Owners Sarita and Caesar Ekya have carefully, purposefully engineered the perfect bowl (or skillet) of macaroni and cheese.

Sarita’s Mac and Cheese S’mac

Raclette: Raclette’s specialty is (🥁……) raclette! I actually didn’t know what raclette was before happening upon this marvelous place, so for those who aren’t familiar—it’s basically the best thing on the planet. Cheese is heated and melted straight off the wheel, then poured over various foods, usually meat and potatoes. It’s like fondue except instead of dipping into the cheese, they just pour it all over the fucking place. Raclette has a full brunch, lunch, and dinner menu with plenty of non-raclette options, and the restaurant is very highly rated in general; but I can’t in good conscience go here and not order the dish that gives the place its name (simple and to the point). The raclette burger is absolutely out of this world. Cheese is scraped tableside, so it’s incredibly fresh, and the whole thing feels like an *experience*. Very good vibes, very good cheese.

Raclette East Village

Beecher’s: I first discovered Beecher’s in Seattle, and they’ve since opened a restaurant in the Flatiron district. It’s as fabulous as the original if not better. Their mac n’ cheese and grilled cheese are both phenomenal, and available on Goldbelly if you’re not in the area. But one of the best parts of Beecher’s New York is the Cellar, which is unique to the NYC location. Here you can pair your cheese with the perfect wine (the staff is very helpful with recommendations), sample Beecher’s cheese, and watch the cheese be made. It feels like you’re hanging out in a wine cellar.

Beecher’s Cheese NYC

Cheeseboat: This Georgian bistro specializes in cheese breads of all varieties. Their traditional khachapuri is great, but they also have a variety of signature “cheeseboats”, which are literally boat shaped breads filled with cheese, and various other toppings. Their dumplings are also really good, but only to pair with some cheesy bread, because to go to Cheeseboat and not actually order a cheeseboat (or comparable cheese bread) is pretty reprehensible. Decently priced, low-ley but very Williamsburg ambiance. I read one review of this place saying that the food was actually too cheesy, but as that isn’t really a term that makes sense to me, I’ll recommend this place without any reservations whatsoever. Lastly, because I’m immature, I would like to point out that their logo totally looks like a vagina.

Cheeseboat

Murray’s Bagels: The bagels are great in and of themselves, but I’m EXTREMELY partial to their egg and cheese sandwich. I ask for extra cheese, and they’re already very cheesy, so I end up with an overflowing monstrosity. I’ve searched bodegas and diners all over the city for the perfect breakfast sandwich for years, and as far as I’m concerned, this is it.

Murray’s Bagels

Big Mozz: So Big Mozz is apparently not open right now, but I still had to include them because they might be my favorite place on this list. Like wine and coffee, I can almost never tell good mozzarella sticks from bad ones. Because even the bad ones are still fried cheese. But Big Mozz has, hands down, the best mozzarella sticks I’ve ever had. I once made the mistake of going here high (twice in one night…the lady at the register totally remembered me), and finished like twenty of them by myself. They’re greasy but not overly so, and the cheese strikes a perfect balance between chewy and oozy. Usually they’re located in Chelsea Market, but as of now are still waiting to open up. Virtual cheese making classes are, however, available online. I’m assuming it won’t be much longer before they open.

Big Mozz

Jacob’s Pickles: BEST MAC AND CHEESE I’VE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE. 🥇 I think a lot of people would agree with me on this, because this UWS southern restaurant has a massive following, and their mac n’ cheese is one of the most heavily Instagrammed dishes in the city. Seriously, look at that cheese pull. It tastes even better than it looks. It’s rich and incredibly creamy, but not so heavy you get full after three bites. Although I can usually get two meals out of this—portions at Jacob’s Pickles are quite big. Macaroni and cheese isn’t even their specialty, but IMO it’s definitely the best thing on the menu. Buffalo chicken mac does not disappoint, although I still prefer the classic. Warning—because this place has a huge following, there’s often a long wait, so it’s a good idea to make reservations.

Jacob’s Pickles

Murray’s Cheese: Totally different from Murray’s Bagels, but just as delicious. Like Beecher’s, Murray’s does cheese in a variety of formats. But Murray’s is a much bigger brand than Beecher’s as far as what they do—it’s kind of a cheese empire. They have a ton of products for sale online, monthly subscriptions, cheese making classes, and a stylish cheese bar in Long Island City in addition to their shop on Bleecker Street. As far as what to get for lunch / dinner / second dinner at the original location—my usual order is a grilled cheese, but the mac and cheese is a close second, and the cheese fries a close third.

Murray’s Cheese

The Ainsworth: Including the Ainsworth for one menu item, which had a hand in my decision to stop keeping kosher—a burger (a really good, juicy burger) topped with macaroni and cheese. The Ainsworth is a slightly upscale take on the traditional sports bar. It doesn’t sound terribly special on paper, but everything from the food to the service is reliably good. And the mac and cheese burger is reliably out-of-this-world delicious. Also, they have chicken wings glazed in 24K gold.

Ainsworth Mac and Cheese Burger

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