Murray’s Cheese Bar

264 Bleecker StNew York, NY 10014 • (646) 476-8882 • murrayscheesebar.com

Murray’s has been a New York icon for more years than the aged cheddar in their cheese cases. But more recently they decided to take that expertise and run with it, opening up a restaurant just a few doors down where the cheese flows like wine, or rather in tandem with it.

Our story begins with a robust, spicy blend of Grenache and Syrah by the glass. It was perfect for the cheesy tour de force that lied ahead, starting with the grilled artichokes, which wasn’t all that cheesy to be honest, but holy cow was it good, drizzled with an alici aioli (alici is an Italian fish sauce made from anchovies, in case you were thinking of googling it like I just did).

Equally impressive, and much cheesier, were the stuffed zucchini blossoms filled with spiced cream cheese, roasted corn and placed over a light yogurt sauce. Just killer.

But speaking of deadly, the Mac & Cheese was the real showstopper, making my Ultimate list with flying colors… and cheeses. My daughter technically ordered it, but I got all Daniel Day Lewis (circa There Will be Blood) on her and I “drank her milkshake.”

The sliders were also a solid yum, leading me to believe that the burgers are most likely awesome as well. And speaking of the A-word, the charcuterie and cheese plate is all that and then some. Obviously a lot rides on which meats and cheeses you choose, but you can never go wrong with the sweet San Daniele or the milky double cream. Also adding to the awesome are the inspired accouterments like the maple shavings. A stroke of delicousness!

Another worthy get is the grilled cheese, although I must admit I found the sandwich itself to be shockingly boring. What makes up for it in spades, however, is the kickass, sharp-ass tomato soup. Just dip the mediocre sammy in that red fountain of youth and your taste buds will feel like they’re twenty-one again, unless you’re younger than 21, in which case I’m not sure what the math would be?

Lastly, for dessert, while I appreciate the attempt to recreate iconic dishes with cheese, the Ch-mores fall miserably short and lack the contrast of flavors and textures that make S’mores so wonderful. Instead, the Ch’mores wind both looking and tasting like a cheesy blob. It was the biggest miss of the night and the primary reason I am docking a knife. Apart from that, I’d say it is a perfect stop amidst a Bleeker shopping spree, or for an early dinner with kids that doesn’t compromise for the adults.

Meltkraft

151 E 43rd St. New York, NY 10017 (212) 380-1735meltkraft.com

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Self proclaimed as an artisan grilled cheese sandwich shop with farm-sourced everything, Meltkraft sounds like a cheesy paradise waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately, if you listen closer you can also hear the sounds of wind leaving your sails, because their craft needs a little work based on the two sandwiches I tried.

The first was the Melter Skelter. I mean ya gotta love a sandwich named after a Beetles song and a movie about Charles Manson. It’s made with 3 month aged reclette, pickled green tomatoes, jalapenos, BBQ potato chips and watercress (pictured). Which sounds off the charts by description alone, and while it is certainly good, I was hard-pressed to actually taste much more than the cheese and jalapenos.

That said, at least it was far superior to the Brielle, made with Brie (obviously), as well as cranberry chutney, caramelized onions and toasted pine nuts. Again, delicious in theory, but quite bland in execution.

And so along with the ho-hum performance comes a knife count with matching syllables. For better melts just a stone’s throw away, I suggest heading down to Beecher’s in the Flatiron.

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Mario by Mary

2 Pennsylvania Plaza New York, NY 10121 (917) 475-1830thepennsy.nyc/mario-by-mary

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I have to admit I’ve become a bit of a Pennsy groupie, eating from there roughly three or more times a week. But as life-saving as it is to have this treasure trove just a stone’s throw away from my office, the Pennsy is unfortunately not the Solla Sollew I once thought it to be.

But shockers of all shockers, the weak link isn’t either of the two “healthy” options, as Cinnamon Snail and Little Beet both carry their weight like a champion sumo wrestler. No, the disappointment comes from the prodigal son, Mario Batali and his partner in blah, Mary.

Having now had not one, but two different grilled cheeses there, I walked away very unsatisfied both times. The first time going with the honey and truffle sandwich and the second time rolling the dice on the eggplant. As a backhanded compliment, I will say that the pickled veggie salad they give you on the side is actually pretty nice though. But not good enough to make up for the fact that you’d be better off heading a few blocks over to No. 7 Sub. So be warned Mario and Mary, I’m gonna give you one last shot, because I have my eye on that Cubano (pictured), but this is make it or break it time, so if you don’t bring it like a cheerleader on Adderall,  you could very easily slide to a one.

2 teeth

The Lobster Press

2 Penn Plz New York, NY 10121(646) 776-3700 thelobsterpress.com

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Are you sitting down? If not, I’ll wait… Okay, here it goes. There is a really great place to eat in Penn Station. All right, stop laughing. I’m trying to be serious here. It’s called The Pennsy and it is quite literally the answer to my foodie prayers, single-handedly making me happy to be close to Penn Station, which is no small feat.

So what is the Pennsy? The Pennsy is a high end food court dressed with a modern, industrial vibe and loaded with some pretty kick ass options ranging from Batali grilled cheese sammies, to Cinnamon Snail (which you already know how I feel about), to a Marc Forgione lobster hut.

Now, if you haven’t already read my review of Marc Forgione, you should go do that so that you can appreciate the unbridled joy that I am about to spew effusively.

The very same magical chili sauce you’ll find in Marc’s transcendent lobster appetizer at his signature restaurant is transformed into a dipping jus for a hot pressed lobster and cheese sandwich served on a blissfully crunchy ciabatta. Oh. Daddy. Yes!

Then wash that puppy down with some spicy Maine Root Ginger Ale and- Fuck it. I just heart the Pennsy. ‘Nuff said.

3 teeth

Foodlab

7253 Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90046(323) 851-7120foodlab-la.com

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Having only ordered from here, I think it’s safe to say that things are still in the clinical trial phase, because not much was nailed. The iced tea was bitter and basic. And the grilled cheese (pictured), while made with gruyere, tallegio and gorgonzola on 5 grain with glazed onions and grain mustard, proved to be a bit too much of one note. Granted it’s a good note, but not as interesting as one would hope after reading that epic list of lovable ingredients.

The best thing for me was the prosciutto and fig sandwich on a baguette with ricotta and honey, then drizzled with a balsamic reduction. However, do not be fooled by the menu description, because it is NOT served on raisin walnut bread. Also, do not be fooled into thinking this sandwich is SO good that I am recommending the Lab on the whole. All I’m saying is, if you’re going to have to eat here, this is my suggestion.

2 teeth

The Ultimate Grilled Cheese

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Greens – San Francisco, CA

As vegetarian places go, Greens is way up there for me. And a huge part of the reason behind that is this sandwich alone. It is so damn good we bought the cookbook right there on the spot, just so we could replicate it at home. It’s fontina with marinated cremini mushrooms and harissa on a bread that knows how to be the man behind the man.

Beecher’s – New York, NY

Figs, honey and cheese are like the Three Musketeers of deliciousness. And Beecher’s puts them together in proportionate perfection on a raisin walnut bread that only adds to the party. I know it sounds so stupidly simple that you could even make it home, but as I have said more times than you would probably care to hear, simplicity is the root of greatness.

Melts – Armonk, NY

Similar to Beecher’s, this place is a treasure trove of grilled cheese greatness. But once you sift through all of the treasure you will come upon the Hope Diamond of grilled cheeses, The Heat. Made with home pickled jalapenos to get that perfect level of spiciness, cherry peppers, Sriracha and muenster. It will melt your heart, along with your tongue.

Greens

Fort Mason Bldg. A San Francisco, CA 94123(415) 771-6222greensrestaurant.com

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It’s not the easiest place to find in the world, but seldom do the best things in life come easy, and Greens is easily one of the best vegetarian eateries on God’s green Earth. So, now that I’ve fully conjugated the word “easy” and slid a blasphemous pun in there for good measure, let me top things off with a twist on a dated phrase – Yes, Greens is all that and a bucket of chicken, without the chicken. From the earth-sourced decor with tables that look more like trees to the stunning view of the bay and Golden Gate beyond, you can see that this place takes the whole au naturale thing pretty serious, not that you have to dine in the nude or anything, although an intriguing restaurant concept for certain.

Speaking of intrigue, it is astounding how quickly this place will make you forget all about meat. Just one bite of their grilled cheese sammy with cremini mushrooms, harissa and fontina and you will understand why the Earth is worth saving, apart from the obvious reasons like living here and mankind ceasing to exist.

The side of couscous salad with peppers and raisins had the spicy-sweet thing going on and only served to make things even more irresistible. Their other salads are fantastic as well. In fact, we were so impressed by Greens we purchased their cookbook on the spot. Not something we often do, which should speak volumes about this place. But please don’t go based on the food mentioned above. The menu is always changing, but in such capable hands, I doubt you’ll go wrong. And if you do, it’s probably your fault.

4 teeth

The Fat Radish

17 Orchard St. New York, NY 10002 • (212) 300-4053 • thefatradishnyc.com
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I heard about this place from the same person who recommended Vinegar Hill House to me, and considering how much I LOVED VHH, I figured I had to try Fat Radish.

As you can see from the number of knives below, it is no VHH. There is quite unfortunately nothing on the menu that I would rave about and only two things on the menu I would consider “good.” Those two being the sweet pea pot pie and the Kale Caesar Salad. That’s it.

The amuse bouche was amuse blah. Basically some radishes with olive oil and herbs. The tomato and avocado squash salad was inventive, but unfortunately that didn’t translate into a yum.

The grilled cheese and pickles was okay, but nothing you couldn’t make at home in 5 minutes- so I’m not sure why you’d ever order it out at a restaurant. Also not sure why people raved about it. It’s just whatevs. The Vodka Lemonade was also just eh.

And the cookie plate was a joke. They could’ve just put a bag of Oreo Cookies on the table and it would’ve been better.

I did like the decor however. Very cool inside. Service was also good. But the neighborhood leaves something to be desired, making it definitely not worth the trip, out of your way, with so many other great places in more desirable areas of the city.

2 teeth

Greensquare Tavern

5 W 21st St. New York, NY 10010 • (212) 929-2468 • greensquaretavern.com
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To say that this place is “amazing,” as many people state, is a bit of a reach. It is, however, very solid. Probably worth 3.5 kinves in truth. Mostly for the blondie, which is the best I’ve ever had, but that’s leap-frogging straight to dessert, so let’s back up and talk a few other dishes first.

The veggie burger is strong. Hearty. Not the kind that makes you feel like you are compromising. Not quite at the level of Cinnamon Snail’s, but definitely in the upper stratosphere of veggie burger glory.

Unfortunately, the grilled cheese (pictured) doesn’t reach the same heights. In fact, there’s a very good chance that you make a better one at home. And as for the Iced tea, it’s a tad too floral for my tastes, but if you like drinking bouquets, your ship just came in.

As for my ship, the blondie, as previous stated is a moral imperative. Basically a giant, moist chocolate chip cookie in brick form. And an Ultimate as you may have guessed.

As for other factors, Greensquare has a nice, quaint, simple decor and service is okay.

So all in, I’m always happy to go back, but I’m also not rushing.

3 teeth

Polpettina

102 Fisher Ave. Eastchester, NY 10707(914) 961-0061 • polpettina.com

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Now I haven’t had that thing in the picture above, but man does it look hella good. Fortunately, it’s not alone. Polpettina does a lot of things well from their pizzas to their meatballs to their sandwiches- all the way to dessert.

Of the pies, we had the fig and prosciutto pizza which was great. The pork meatball with broccoli rabe was solid. And the grilled cheese with caramelized onions and bacon jam was also quite good. Sadly a touch overcooked (aka burnt) but the flavors were still on point (a minimum 1/10th deduction).

And as for dessert, the warm chocolate cake was excellent, although, the ice cream they serve with it is better on its own, as is the cake. Somehow, together, they seemed to cancel each other out. But as separates, they are amazing.

The only so-so thing we had was the arugula salad with burrata, beets and walnuts. Jusk okay. Nothing to write home about- but apparently worth blogging.

Service was great, place is charming, and there is a nice market next door where you can buy the sauce, jams, etc… that they use in the restaurant.

We definitely plan on returning. So many other great looking things on other tables and on the menu. The eggplant parm looks sick!

3 teeth