21. Best Macaroni and Cheese: The all-American wonderfood seems to get more decadent from year to year. Lobster, truffles, prosciutto, crème fraiche…but my all-time favorite remains the relatively simple, smoked gouda-and-optional-bacon version dished out by Westville as an “appetizer”. Rich but not overpowering, creamy and delicately smoky from the cheese, it’s the perfect plate to share with friends. And Westville’s original West Village location could not be more adorable, from its seaside theme to its tucked-away, cozy location on West 10th Street. On a summer evening, it’s the perfect dish in the perfect spot.
Locations*: 210 West 10th Street (between Bleecker and West 4th Streets), Manhattan
*173 Avenue A (at 11th Street), Manhattan
*246 West 18th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues)
Hours: West 10th: Mon-Fri 11:30am-11pm, Sat-Sun 10am-4pm, 4:30pm-11pm; Avenue A and West 18th:: Mon-Fri 10am-11pm, Sat-Sun 10am-4pm, 4:30pm-11pm
22. Best Late-Night Post-Booze Pre-Hangover Food Cure: Not that this ever happens to me, but I happen to know that the best thing to eat to cure (or avoid) a hangover is fried food. They’ve even done scientific studies on this. I also know that when it’s 12am and I’m tipsy and starving, what I crave is a deep fried ham and cheese calzone from Ben’s Pizzeria. There’s no ambiance after midnight (or at any hour), but after a long night, a hot plate of mozzarella-filled dough and a side of sweet tomato sauce provides all the romance I need.
Location: 177 Spring Street (at Thompson Street), Manhattan
Hours: Mon-Thu 11am-11:30pm, Fri-Sat 11am-12:30am, Sun 12pm-10:30pm
23. Best Cheese (atop a Cheeseburger): There are plenty of good cheeseburgers in this town, and not all of them of the high-end variety. Corner Bistro’s luscious juice bomb sports a Kraft-esque topper, and when playing a round of “cheddar, provolone or blue cheese?”, one rarely knows what’s really being applied. ABC Kitchen takes their sourcing seriously, and has topped their new Akaushi (a Wagyu breed) burger with Cato Corner Bloomsday, a pairing with which my mouth could not be happier. For extra points, there are pickled jalapeños as well.
Location: 35 East 18th Street (between Broadway and Park Avenue), Manhattan
Hours: Mon-Thu 12pm-3pm, 5:30pm-10:30pm; Fri 12pm-3pm, 5:30pm-11:30pm; Sat 11am-3:30pm, 5:30pm-11:30pm; Sun 11am-3:30pm, 5:30pm-10:30pm
24. Best Cheese-Centric Panino: Whatever your panino preference, ‘ino did it first. And like most inventors or popularizers of a genre, they also do it best. When I want a crisp pressed sandwich that’s crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside, and packed full of flavor, I go for the prosciutto, bel paese and sweet onion at one of their cozy little tables on Bedford Street. In a neighborhood full of imitators, ‘ino is one of a kind.
Location: 21 Bedford Street (between 6th Avenue and Downing Street), Manhattan
Hours: Daily 9am-2am
25. Best Cheese Overdose: I’ve said it before: For a cheese lover, there’s really no place like Casellula for a decadent, cheese-centric meal that doesn’t condescend. From lavish cheese plates to cheese-centric sandwiches, dairy-bedecked desserts and a superb wine list, it’s the perfect place to indulge. Start with a washed-rind cheese plate, mac & cheese, and a Pig’s Ass sandwich, and finish with a mascarpone custard tart. Not for the lactose intolerant.
Location: 401 West 52nd Street (near 9th Avenue), Manhattan
Hours: Daily 5pm-2am
26. Best Cheese to Knock your Socks Off: There are cheeses and then there are cheeses. Subtlety has its place, but so on occasion does a near-radioactive level of pungency. When I first read the description of Brie de Meaux at Greene Grape Provisions, I was somewhat prepared for its taste, but not maybe for its smell: On the subway ride home, as everyone gradually moved away from me and my bag, I obliviously blamed the stink on something (or someone) else. It’s worth it, though, and this deceptively innocent-looking and butter soft brie hides all the sharpness you need to, well, knock someone’s socks off. In a good way.
Location: 753 Fulton Street (near South Portland Avenue), Brooklyn
Hours: Daily 8am-9pm
27. Best Cheesecake: I have to admit: I don’t really like cheesecake. That is, New York cheesecake, often served mushy and oversweetened, buried under sticky globs of unrecognizable fruit. The Italian variety, meanwhile, made with ricotta and usually flavored with almonds and orange zest, I love. The apricot version I’ve had at Paola’s on the Upper East Side is meltingly sweet and lovely, and makes the perfect not-too-heavy end to a meal. How could you want it any other way?
Location: 1295 Madison Avenue (between 92nd and 93rd Streets), Manhattan
Hours: Tue-Fri 12:30pm-10pm; Sat 12:30pm-11pm; Sun 12:30pm-10pm; Closed Mon
28. Best Burrata: One of the hardest cheeses to find, burrata is a buffalo’s milk mozzarella whose center is decadently filled with cream. It’s also only made in the south of Italy, and its extreme delicacy means that it must be shipped cold and eaten within a day or so of its arrival on our shores. I had an incredible burrata with prosciutto at Aria recently, and the saltiness of the ham perfectly offset the sweet, fresh cheese. Take a seat at their gorgeous bar, have a glass of rosé and toast to the miracles of transatlantic shipping.
Location: 117 Perry Street (between Hudson and Greenwich Streets), Manhattan
Hours: Mon-Sun 4:30pm-12am
29. Best Illicit Cheese: It’s no longer a secret, but it still isn’t easy to find. To get your bootleg kicks, try the grilled cheese from Bread. Butter. Cheese., an underground cheese dealer operating out of the East Village. Daily selections vary, and you’ll have to text your order early and pick up the sandwich yourself (no delivery service). Is it good, or too good to be true? Well, what do you think?
Location: An East Village park
Hours: Get your order in early, before they run out
30. Best Fondue: Fondue gets a bad rap. Either it’s an über-kitschy concoction ladled in front of drooling tourists on a middle-western European jaunt, a 1970s retro-chic regurgitation, or it’s the object of a soulless chain of downtown restaurants up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Can’t it just be about the cheese? And can’t it just be fun? Truth is, fondue is one of the simplest meals to prepare, satisfies a crowd, and is far more than the sum of its parts. For my recipe for Vermont-style fondue with cheddar and hard cider, click here. Because the best fondue is always at home, with friends, and plenty of fresh bread.
Location: Your apartment
Hours: Any time the mood strikes