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MANHATTAN’S FINEST: A LOOK AT THE BIG CHEESY CONTESTANTS

T-19 days til the Big Cheesy competition! Seven grilled cheese sandwiches from seven different chefs made with an eye on creativity and pure deliciousness. This year we’ve got returning champ Melt Shop, 2011 champ Milk Truck, last year’s bronzed Lucy’s Whey, empire-expanding Murray’s Cheese Bar, a catering company gone rogue in Say Cheese, irreverent throwback Sons of Essex and Tom Colicchio’s ‘wichcraft. Plus, Sixpoint tallboys all around. In 2011, Village Voice writer Rebecca Marx wrote, “as with most food crazes, this one shall pass.”  We say it shant. And so do the rest of the city who’ve turned the grilled cheese sandwich into an NYC staple in the past few years. Openhouse has been there all along like a shephard heeding its flock of sheep, cow and goat into 201 Mulberry St. pasture to press the freshest sandwiches ever created. Let’s get cozy with the field. GET TICKETS

 

Lucy’s Whey
It’s fitting that Lucy’s Whey, an artisanal cheese shop, calls the cavelike Chelsea Market home. Founder Amy Thompson loves cheese craftsmanship and the way terroirs whisper sweet subtleties into their local cheese’s taste. Lucy’s Whey carries only American cheeses, but as Thompson said to Serious Eats, her influences are much broader than “the florescent orange square.” That means heading out to pastures throughout the US including an upstate Amish farm for her camembert, Wisconsin for Manchego-like Dante and aged Manchester goat cheese from Vermont’s Consider Bardwell Farm. This summer, Lucy’s Whey opens an Upper East Side branch that includes a coffee and wine bar, craft beers and catering. As for the Big Cheesy, expect Lucy’s Whey to serve up a minimalist take on the sandwich with little noise from meats and garnishes. “We consider them elegant, not gut-busting,” says Thompson. Get your Big Cheesy tickets

Lucy’s Whey
Chelsea Market 425 W 15th St. 212-463-9500
East Hampton: 80 North Main St. 631-324-4428

 

Melt Shop
The champ is back. Last year, Melt Shop served up three recipes including a grilled cheddar and blue cheese sandwich with maple bacon and cranberry jam that lives permanently on its menu as The Award Winner. Spencer Rubin’s shop got its start as a hole in the wall of “an arid business plaza” dishing out creations with surprising star players to hungry Citi bankers. There’s the Buttermilk Fried Chicken sandwich, The Dirty (potato chips and pickled jalapenos), a truffle melt and 24-hour pecan- and oak-smoked pork. Like Lucy’s Whey, Melt Shop is expanding. Past tense. Rubin secured a streetlevel spot at 26th and 6th in October where you can pair a Montauk Brewing Co. draught with Melt Shop classics on Orwasher’s bread. Get your Big Cheesy tickets

Melt Shop
601 Lexington Ave. at 53rd St.
55 W. 26th St. at 6th Ave.
212-759-6358

 

Milk Truck
In January 2010, West Coast Mad Man and French Culinary grad Keith Klein launched Milk Truck. Biding time before his truck application went through, Klein rode the name (and compelling logo) at Brooklyn Flea til he became a household name and then started roving. Later that year, New York Mag named his gruyere grilled cheese a top 50 sandwich in the city. Then in 2011, Milk Truck took home the first Big Cheesy championship with a bleu, cheddar and gruyere sandwich on rosemary focaccia topped with sauteed mushrooms and balsamic onions. With trademark humility, Klein told Daily News‘ David Yi, “Just being here was enough for me.” Here now includes Bowery Whole Foods x Smorgasburg project (for a month), Houston Hall, Brooklyn Flea at One Hanson and, of course, the truck. One of Klein’s secrets?, writes New York Times‘ Ligaya Mishan, is cultured butter made from fermented cream instead of regular ole butter. ”It is to butter what butter is to margarine: richer, fuller, more emphatic.” Expect this year’s sandwich to include ingredients that capture the zeitgeist of our tastebuds, whether we knew it or not. Get your Big Cheesy tickets

Keith Klein’s Milk Truck
Roving

 

Murray’s Cheese Bar
Hands down, Murray’s Cheese Shop is the best candy store in the city. Instead of jelly beans and sour straws, Murray’s offers pyramids of aged chabichou, clothbound cheddar wheels, a rainbow selection of olives and sliced meats. In July 2012, owner Rob Kaufelt opened Murray’s Cheese Bar next door and unofficially turned the Bleecker St. block between Morton and Leroy into New York’s cheese mecca. MCB offers up curated cheese flights, reams of a la cart choices (2 Sisters Isabella and Old Chatham Shaker Blue anyone?), Alpine fondue, grilled oysters with Parmigiano. And of course grilled cheese sandwiches, including the Bacon Bobsled cut with Nueske’s thick-sliced bacon and tomato. Get your Big Cheesy tickets

Murray’s Cheese Bar
264 Bleecker St. at Morton
646-476-8882

 

Say Cheese UWS
Cute. The Upper West Side’s Say Cheese is the ladies’ version of Melt Shop. Instead of fried chicken and pulled pork, Say Cheese mixes in apple compote, bacon marmalade and smoked gouda fig. The S’more sandwich includes Nutella, mascarpone and graham cracker dust! Created by Scoozi Events founders Stella and Gianluca Ballarini, Say Cheese is a delightful mix of old-school city drug store and a county fair booth. Expect Say Cheese to indulge your sweet tooth. Get your Big Cheesy tickets

Say Cheese
143 83rd St. between Amsterdam and Columbus

 

Sons of Essex
If great branding were a sin, Matt Levine’s idiosyncratic restaurants would host diners in hell. The new Cocktail Bodega’s littered with Pacman-style fruit logos and serves spiked drinks and smoothies. The Rowhouse Inn will pay homage to Shakespeare and house banks of Chesterfields. Sons of Essex is part deli, part restaurant, all rustic bar plus a dance pit. Levine says it’s an homage to the old-school Bowery Boys/Gangs of New York vibe and the menu has frequent shoutouts to NYC lore. Fittingly, Sons even has a Mulberry St. grilled cheese with beefsteak tomatoes, pesto-toasted brioche bread and fresh buffalo mozzarella. Get your Big Cheesy tickets

Sons of Essex
133 Essex St. btwn Stanton + Rivington
212-674-7100

 

‘wichcraft
It’s been almost a decade since the trio behind Gramercy Tavern and Craft opened a sandwich shop called ‘wichcraft. When it did, New York Times food critic Eric Asimov could only fault the new spot for a broken air conditioner. Since then, ‘wichcraft’s taken root in NYC, expanded and flourished here as well as in San Fran and Vegas. They source bread from Pain D’Avignon, produce from Eckerton Hill Farm and nourish a partnership with GrowNYC. The goat cheese, avocado, celery sandwich with walnut pesto and watercress is an unheard of, and delicious, creation. Expect something like this at Big Cheesy. Get your Big Cheesy tickets

‘wichcraft
All Over

 

Sixpoint
Sixpoint Craft Ales’ logo harkens back to the centuries-old code of brewing but they’re crafting daily from their Red Hook brewery. You know and love them, and we do too.

Vita Coco
Rihanna will be there! Just kidding: no she won’t. Well, she might? She probably will. She’ll be there for sure. In spirit. Who will be there? The refreshingly delicious, naturally hydrating Vita Coco. If you prefer a coconut water instead of a Sixpoint, be our guest :)