When my friends reminisce about college, one thing that always comes up is the giant block of Seriously Sharp Hunter’s Cheddar that was a permanent resident in my mini-fridge. In my first Facebook profile, I listed “Cheese” as one of my interests. I could spend hours discussing the variety of ways I like to eat it – sweet, savory, hot, cold. I have never met a cheese I didn’t like.
There is something about the warm, melted ooey-goeyness that just makes my tummy happy. You too? Then these are the absolute best things to eat in New York City.
1. Khachapuri at Oda House or Cheeseboat
For someone who has never encountered this Georgian delicacy, it is best described as a buttery bread-bowl filled with cheese, baked, and topped with an egg. Then, right before your very eyes, it’s mixed around until the egg is cooked into creamy, fluffy perfection.
The walls of the bowl are designed to be torn off, dunked in the deliciousness, and eaten until not a tiny morsel remains. Think fondue if you could consume the pot at the end.
2. Cacio e Pepe at Cacio e Pepe
First off, I’ll just say that you can never go wrong by ordering an establishment’s namesake dish. There is usually a good reason they are calling themselves that.
I first discovered pasta served in a giant cheese wheel when Chrissy Teigen received one as a gift from her husband, John Legend, and immediately set about finding it and trying it myself.
Only a few weeks later, I found myself being served pasta, like tableside guacamole, brought steaming from the kitchen and tossed in a hollowed-out parmesan rind until it was thoroughly coated in a thick sauce of gooey cheese.
3. Savoyarde Raclette at Raclette
In its most classic form, a plate of potatoes, tiny pickles, and white pearl onions is brought to your seat. A wheel of Alpine cheese with one end lopped off is pressed against a hot rack until its very edge is liquefying. Then, it is carried to your meal, and scraped over the dish with a blade.
There are several varieties – including a filet mignon for two – but start with the original and work your way from there.
4. Big Mozz at Smorgasburg
Sure, you’ve had mozzeralla sticks before. And, you’ve probably been disappointed – by their slightly damp, flavorless breading, the stringiness of the cheese, or the near-choking experience you had trying to swallow a too-large bite.
Until, that is, you try these golden-brown sticks of beauty. I encountered them first in a food stand at Boston Calling, and have eaten them at every opportunity since. They are perfectly crunchy, bigger than the average finger size, and have just the right level of melt. The only problem is you’ll never want to get them anywhere else again.
5. Artichoke Slice from Artichoke
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This NYC institution is best described as a bowl of creamy spinach-artichoke dip, poured over a thick, sturdy pizza crust that is made for tearing off and mopping up any spilled sauce.
There are several locations around the city for you to get your fix. My favorite pairing is a walk on the High Line followed by an Artichoke pie, served to order (not reheated) and shared with a few friends.
6. Cheese Fries (or Tots) from Crif Dogs
The best cheese fries, in my opinion, are the ones so drenched in liquid gold they require a fork to eat them. At Crif Dogs, this is exactly what they will deliver. You’ll open a foil packet of waffle fries – thick enough to stand up to the cheese without becoming soggy – that is simply swimming in hot, melty orange cheese.
7. The 3 Cheese from Cheese Grille
For some, the only proper classic grilled cheese is made with American slices sandwiched between white bread. If that’s your style, skip it here and go for the 3 Cheese. It’s a delicious blend of flavors on Pullman bread that is not-too-thick and has just the right crisp.
8. Fondue at Après-Ski in Café Select
So you ran out of time to schedule a ski vacation this winter. Or, the temperatures have gotten so hot that all you can dream of is snow. You’re in luck.
At Après-Ski, you sneak through the kitchen of Café Select and find yourself in a tiny, kitschy winter palace where the only thing to do is dip bread and veggies into a bowl of steaming cheese blends.
9. Mac and Cheese at Westville
While best-known for its selection of inventive veggie side dishes, my order at Westville is always chicken tenders and smoky mac and cheese. The sauce has the perfect richness of Gouda, and the kitchen staff knows the true secret to a good baked dish: a nice brown crisp on top. There is an option to add bacon, but you’re just throwing away a dollar on something that is already delicious.
10. Queso Fundido at Cascabel
As a life-long lover of tacos and cheese, I somehow never tried queso fundido (read: a bowl of melty cheese served with tortillas) until adulthood. I had it first at Cascabel, and though I have tried it many places since, I have never looked back. Though, if you don’t want to make a trip to the Upper East Side, Avenida Cantina is a close second.