A specialty of Kentucky, the habit-forming beer cheese is a creamy mix of cheddar and suds, souped up with herbs and spices like cayenne and mustard powder. Down in the Bluegrass State—where it possibly arrived by way of the region’s German immigrant population—it’s slathered on everything from crackers to crudités. No matter its provenance, the decidedly lowbrow but eminently delicious spread is cropping up on menus around New York City. Sink your teeth into the down-home snack at these three joints.
Sriracha is the secret ingredient in the beer cheese at this uptown indie hot spot. This kicked-up version—a thick, smooth puree of extra-sharp cheddar and mellow old-school Schaefer lager—is served alongside slices of rustic pugliese toast from Grandaisy Bakery. As a bonus, Earl’s throws in a couple of raw garlic cloves to rub on the bread, resulting in a piquant and fiery nosh that’s full of soul. Regular $7, jumbo $12.
The pastel-orange cheese at this East Village comfort-food joint may seem innocent, but it packs a tangy punch thanks to a blend of sautéed garlic and shallots, and a hit of spicy Cajun seasoning. Chef Meg Grace Larcom presses the base of Grafton white cheddar and Abita Amber lager through a chinois sieve to achieve a velvety texture. Smeared on two chubby, salt-dusted soft pretzels, it’s one of the menu’s simplest homages to the American South. $9.
Weary of the ubiquitous artisanal cheese board at other plaid-shirt-and-mason-jar Brooklyn bars, co-owners Justin Olsen and Patrick Britton set out to create a low-key cheese dish to serve at this laid-back tavern. Their variant displays a coarse texture, studded with nubby bits of pulverized cheddar (farmhouse white and yellow) and bound by a savory combo of Worcestershire sauce, roasted garlic and a pour of IPA. It’s tasty eaten straight up with a half sleeve of Ritz Crackers, but best pressed in the deliciously junky grilled cheese sandwich, zipped up with hot sauce and half-sour pickle slices. Dip $5, sandwich $6.
Cornerstone Café may be one of the best deals in the East Village. Perhaps it’s because the restaurant is cash only. Perhaps it’s thanks to the no frills atmosphere—exposed brick painted in jewel tones is the only decoration. Regardless, it’s a welcome change to see an $8 cocktail menu in NYC—the restaurant even offers a two for $12 deal. You get what you pay for, though—both the gin martini and the prohibition-inspired The Last Word are merely serviceable. It might be a safer bet to order off the extensive beer and wine list. If the page-long beer list overwhelmed you, the dinner menu might be a tough sell. Largely Italian in its influence, it offers everything from penne vodka ($4—no, that’s not a typo) to burgers ($10) a roasted lamb shank in red wine sauce ($26). Though some of the more elegant dishes fall flat—the salmon fillet ($24) arrives overcooked and oily and the tiramisu ($9) overly bitter—the elevated bar food is more successful. Pungent gruyere adds big flavor to the creamy oven-baked mac and cheese ($16), and the chef batters and fries fresh cheese for the breaded mozzarella appetizer ($9). What Cornerstone Café lacks in execution, it makes up for in friendly, attentive service. Water glasses remain constantly full, and servers always seem ready to offer a recommendation or refill the bread basket. Though it’s not particularly fancy, perhaps that’s not the point. It’s a corner café, as the name suggests—and a charming one, at that. BY COMMUNITY REVIEWER: ANN
Venue says: “Need dinner plans? Think no further. Come try our mouth watering Duck Breast. HAPPY HOUR-Half priced bottles of wine & 2 for 1 cocktails”