Flatiron Lunch: Beecher’s is A Cheesy Oasis
Every Friday our man UltraClay goes south of the ML boundaries in search of a delicious lunch. Sometimes it’s Murray Hill south or the Flatiron District, sometimes Gramercy and everything in between- but we just like to call it Flatiron Lunch. He’s still out of the country this week, so Brian has stepped in to take over.
In July, Clay got a first look at Seattle import Beecher’s, the Eataly of cheese shops. Most of the food world was buzzing and I for one was very excited since I had a tasty visit to their original store in Pike’s Place Market a few summers ago. I particularly couldn’t wait to get another sample of their world famous mac and cheese.
This location is bigger than the one in Seattle, with the retail space and cafe centered around their cheesemaking room- where you can watch the curds being separated from the whey by men in white coats hard at work. There’s also a more formal restaurant downstairs called The Cellar that serves cheese plates, charcuterie, and intriguing cocktails. I will most definitely have to come back here to try their potentially disgusting Grilled Cheese Martini.
The cafe is just past the retail section, which always seems to offer free samples of both their Flagship cheese and their amazing cheese curds. I almost stayed up front, as if it was a cocktail party, feasting on these free samples, but I didn’t want to put the company out of business (the squeaky curds are seriously that good.) By the cafe, they offered more free samples of their homemade drinks, like Apricot Citrus Iced Tea, and their self-proclaimed “World’s Best Mac & Cheese.” It’s very possible to have the ultimate Midtown Lunch here and not pay for a thing.
But you would miss out on some delicious sandwiches and salads. I did get an order of the aforementioned mac and cheese. It was too good to resist (they hook you with those free samples) and at $5.25 for a small, it made an affordable side portion, or you could just blow all your calories for the week and have it as a main course for $9.50. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say it’s the world’s best or even the best in New York, but it’s totally delicious. It doesn’t have a top layer of stretchy cheese or bread crumbs because it doesn’t need any of that. It looks like penne tossed in an Alfredo sauce, but the Flagship cheese gives it a nutty, sharp flavor that cuts the richness. The pasta is perfectly al dente and holds all that gooey cheese with finesse.
On two separate visits, I tried some of their sandwiches and one of their gourmet salads. The salads are not your typical greens with dressing (although they offer those as well). These veer on the side of healthy, but tasty mixes of vegetables, pasta, and beans. And they cost $5 for a small or $9 for a large. I truly enjoyed the Aztec Trinity salad, which featured nice chunks of sweet potatoes mixed with corn, black beans, and some sort of mild pickled peppers. The tangy flavors worked well together and the light pop of the ingredients was refreshing.
I was nervous about their grilled cheese sandwiches, since we’ve not had much luck in Midtown with bread and cheese of late. Most of the trendy new grilled cheese outposts skimp on size and add on the dollar signs. For the most part, I think Beecher’s portion to price ratio is are fair.
The Ham and Cheese was $8, but the sandwich was made on large slices of bread and was pretty filling. I loved the smoky chipotle sauce and the sweet and tender slices of ham. And they use that homemade Flagship cheese, which gives it a rich intense flavor that’s miles away from American cheese. I think Beecher’s is the only grilled cheese cafe in Manhattan that can claim their cheese is made in house.
The Big Deal sandwich was pushing the limits at $11. I’m not quite sure it was worth that price, but they did load on the toppings. It was the grilled cheese version of an Italian sub, with smoked turkey, slices of finocchiona, pickled sweet red onions, and roasted fennel. There was a lot going on and it was one of the thickest grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve ever had. The anise flavors were surprisingly subtle but I was hoping for a bit more smokiness from both the turkey and the smoked Flagship cheese. In fact, I think the turkey got overwhelmed by everything else going on. The bread could also have been a little more toasty, although I did enjoy some of the dark charred bits throughout. It was filling and unique, but might have been slightly too much.
It wasn’t too crowded on either of my visits and service was very friendly. They even offered me a taste of their other hot offering – Strata, which is like a savory bread pudding with either veggies or meat (short rib, FTW!). I recommend Beecher’s as a quick lunch if you work in the area. The offerings are all solid and the free samples will fill you up even if you decide to just get a side salad. Although I don’t know why you’d want to do that.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Free samples of almost everything
- Cheese is made before your eyes
- Not too crowded, service is friendly
- Amazing mac and cheese
- Grilled cheese is a good value compared to other grilled cheese places
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Food is very heavy
- This is still too expensive for a grilled cheese sandwich
- Not much protein on offer here
Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, 900 Broadway (btw. 19+20th), 212-466-3340