Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Big Cheesy

“It’s salty. Gooey. Crispy. Crunchy. And when it’s served at the uber-hip Openhouse Gallery in Nolita… well, it just tastes that much better.”  Gilt City was right.  “The Big Cheesy”, a competition for the title of Best Grilled Cheese amongst some of the city’s top chefs was a delicious afternoon inside this Mulberry Street popup shop event space.  Gilt City members purchased advanced tickets at only $25 a pop, to enjoy tastings of cheesy goodness from seven restaurants and two beers from Sixpoint craft ales.  As a serious cheese lover, I was waiting all week in anticipation to get my hands on these creamy sandwiches.   With an empty stomach, a slight hangover, my camera, and my always hungry friend Jared in tow, we were ready to vote on just who makes the very best grilled cheese in NYC.
After getting our first beer, we headed to Milk Truck’s station.   And what a way to start!  Their cheddar, aged gruyere, creamy bleu, onions and mushroom on rosemary foccacia concoction was no joke.  This Brooklyn-based stand, found at the Brooklyn Flea is serious competition to the larger restaurants putting up a fight.  Such a delicious start to an hour of stuffing our faces.
Next, we headed over to Artisanal, serving the appropriately named “The Frenchie” with brie, wild mushroom, red onion and truffle oil.  This tasting was tiny, but packed a rich flavor.  Heavy (and full of fat) brie is one of my favorite indulgences.
The Plaza Food Hall by Todd English served up bite-sized smoked truffle, pecorino, and provolone with a spicy tomato jam on home-baked focaccia.  This grilled cheese earned Jared’s seal of approval as his vote for his favorite.
Alice's Tea Cup served a sandwich made from lapsang souchong smoked chicken breast, gruyere cheese, mustard and mayo on raisin fennel semolina bread.  This sandwich was a nice change from the traditional notion of grilled cheese.  I adore this tea shop for a girls’ weekend tea date after shopping at Saks.
Upon entering the second room in the gallery, we came upon an East Village favorite, Barnyard.  I may be biased, as this cheese shop is just a few blocks from my apartment, but every sandwich I’ve ever tried there has been delicious.  With a crusty bread display from Grandaisy Bakery, I was already drooling as I approached their table.  These buttery sandwiches with aged cheddar among other cheeses had bacon and caramelized balsamic onions.  The chef from Barnyard carried a giant block of aged cheddar for guests to sample slices.  Umm this was seriously my version of heaven.  I gave Barnyard my vote for the best grilled cheese. 
The least diet-friendly sandwich came from Big Daddy's.  This diner served a parmesan encrusted American, jack and cheddar cheese sandwich topped with sugar-coated bacon and stuffed with macaroni and cheese.  How could that ever be wrong?
The last station was Bua, an East Village bar favorite of mine.  They served two Pullman bread grilled cheese options: Taleggio from Northern Italy and Cheddar from Dublin, Ireland.  Jared I and shared both of these basic, yet flavorful bread, butter, and cheese sandwiches.  Just like at the bar, they were served with spicy mustard and pickles on the side. 
After our second beer, we grabbed a bag of Herr’s Grilled Cheese Flavored Curls (which I was very thankful to discover in my purse hours later after Saturday night boozing).  Gilt City put on such a great tasting afternoon.  I’m looking forward to more of their foodie events in the future!  The winner will be posted on the Openhouse Facebook Page and will have their recipe published in Edible Manhattan.
Where do you get the best grilled cheese in NYC? xo  


  1. If you had asked me this 6 years ago i would have said Hooters. Extra sharp cheddar cheese melted between two thick greasy slabs of texas toast. Whew. artery clogging and delicious.
    But now? I would have to say the Breslin makes a mighty fine grilled cheese. They use a combination of cheeses for a sharp melty bite on a crusty bread with micro greens. its delicious.
    And if you ever need an eater... ::raises both hands:: pick me! pick me!

  2. OK - I would like each and every one of these!! I would LOVE to try the pecorino one b/c pecorino is my fav. cheese! :) Sarah - the only sandwich you're missing is a grilled jesus!! Glee reference anyone?

  3. Destination Soups in New Bedford, MA. Three different cheeses on thick sourdough bread; I like to dip the sandwich into their creamy tomato basil soup.

    It's pretty amazing.

  4. I've got to get to Destination Soups! New Bedford is my old hunting ground!!

  5. I'm sooooo mad i didnt know about a GRILLED CHEESE event....unreal. My fave food ever. There used to be a grilled cheese restaurant in the city...forgot the name. They only served grilled cheeses! I am mad I missed this!


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