There are few two-ingredient dishes as simple and satisfying as a grilled cheese. NYC chefs have developed a few tweaks here and there—melting aged curds and toasting oven-fresh buns from some of the city’s best bakeries —to help rank this classic childhood favorite among Gotham’s leading comfort food dishes. From a fried fowl counter dishing out pimento sammies with collard greens to a plancha-seared two-cheese kicker from one of the best Queens restaurants, these are the essential fromage-on-bread combos in New York City.
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Best grilled cheese in NYC
You guessed it: Cheese is the main attraction at this sit-down extension of the nearly 80-year-old Bleecker Street fromagerie. The namesake Murray’s Melt sandwiches a secret blend of three curds—some fresh from Murray’s cheese caves in Long Island City—on a pan-baked pullman loaf.
This beer hall's inventive girlled cheese is a piece of art. It’s essence is made of two glazed doughnuts that are grilled with generous amounts of mozzarella cheese in the middle. The ozzing sammy is then served over a steamy bowl of tomato soup. Alright, we'll just come out and say it: It's a masterpiece!
This 20-seat shop—from artisanal-cheese maker Valley Shepherd Creamery in New Jersey—slings a munchable griller loaded with its year-aged Gruyere-style Somerset cheese plus cured ham and cornichons, along with more gussied-up varieties like a brisket-and-macaroni number and an autumnal brie selection with cranberry chutney and pine nuts.
Celebrated Seattle cheese-maker Beecher's operates this 3,000-square-foot complex where you can watch vats of local milk being converted into artisan curds for the retail and restaurant arms of the operation. Its Flagship (cheddar, Gruyère) and Just Jack cheese get sandwiched between unbuttered, whole wheat bread on a panini grill for its house grilled cheese.
Six varieties of fancy grilled cheeses, rotating on a weekly basis, are available from this grilled-cheese truck. Owner Michael Jacober's experience at locavore haven Franny's comes through: The menu features produce from Queens County Farm; curds from Saxelby and Murray's; and bread from Balthazar, Grandaisy and Orwasher Bakery. Melts include gussied-up versions, like Gouda with smoked guanciale and spring garlic butter on white bread. Soups (gazpacho, tomato) and sauces (garlic chili oil, smoked chipotle) are also on offer.
There's no shortage of brown-spirits peddlers in Williamsburg (Post Office, the Whiskey Brooklyn). But at this serious watering hole, whiskey joins forces with another tempting epicurean darling—locavore grilled cheeses. Studious boozers can choose from more than 225 selections, including George Dickel Old No. 8 Tennessee Whisky, Johnnie Walker Blue Label and Old Potrero 19th Century Straight Rye Whiskey. Pair yours with one of seven melted-cheese sammies, like the Karen (New York sharp cheddar, havarti and gruyere on sourdough) or the Maefred (brie, local mushrooms and rosemary on ciabatta), made with Orwasher's bread.
At this New York City neighborhood restaurant where family-style dining is encouraged, chef Ned Baldwin meticulously sourcse vibrant ingredients to create unfussy, crowd-pleasing dishes that range from the familiar to the unexpected. The jaw-dropping French onion sandwich manages to span both categories: a monster sammie stuffed with half-melted cheese curds and a heap of sweet, sticky caramelized onions, it's deeply familiar yet totally surprising all at once.
As the name suggests, American spirits are the emphasis at this dark, sultry bar. Along with a selection of bourbons and ryes, there are gins, vodkas and rums, all distilled in the States. And while the focus is clearly on drinking, there’s excellent upscale pub grub: we adore the oozy truffle grilled cheese, stuffed with creamy goat gouda and fontina cheeses and served alongside an earthy tangle of mushroom and arugula salad.
The experience at Lucy’s Whey varies on what neighborhood you’re in. At the teeny-tiny Chelsea Market outpost, there are enough tourists crowded around the small case waiting for samples or an oversize—and totally worth the wait—pressed grilled cheese to give you a heart attack, while at the spacious Upper East Side location you can enjoy the monster sandwich in peace. Either way, the first bite will have you forgetting all about your surroundings, commodious or not: the toasty sammy, filled to brimming with the shop's nutty Prairie Breeze cheddar, is delicious, and is finished with a sweet swipe of fig jam.