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An open top cheese cooler filled with wedges, each with a sign naming and explaining it.
A selection of cheeses at Murray’s Cheese in Greenwich Village
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Eater Critic Robert Sietsema’s Top Gooey, Cheese-Filled Dishes in NYC

From warm, melty fondue to bouncy Brazilian cheese balls

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A selection of cheeses at Murray’s Cheese in Greenwich Village
| Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Years ago, a friend told me, “Never trust someone who doesn’t like cheese.” And decades of eating with all types of people — the lactose intolerant being the exception — have proven this to be true. It takes a person of obdurate disposition and questionable taste to dislike the meltable bounty of cow, sheep, and goat: whether it be toasted cheese with the gruyere rolling out the sides, freshly made paneer with its fluffy cheerfulness, or Brazilian cheese balls so bouncy they might jump off the plate. Here are a dozen savory dishes I have loved, as I demolished them in short order — plus one bonus dessert.

NYC restaurants can now offer indoor dining along with outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery. However, this should not be taken as endorsement for dining out, as there are still safety concerns. For updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the NYC Health Department’s website. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Cheese slice at Gio's pizza and restaurant

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308 E 141st St
Bronx, NY 10454
(718) 993-1952
Visit Website

Pizza-grade mozzarella is a thing unto itself, nothing like the scintillatingly fresh cheese one might use to make a caprese salad. And at most pizzerias — where the plain cheese slice is the most fundamental product — either the crust, tomato sauce, or cheese is allowed to dominate. At Gio’s, a cave of a pizza parlor in Mott Haven, the cheese dominates, spread across the pie so there’s a fun mix of ingredients in every bite.

A slice on a marble counter turned so one edge is parallel to the bottom of the photo.
A plain cheese slice
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

2. Chopped cheese at Harlem Taste (Hajji’s)

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2135 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10029
(646) 682-7488

The exact story of how the chopped cheese sandwich was invented and prospered in Harlem and the Bronx (and now in Brooklyn) is murky, though some claim the sandwich was invented at Haijji’s by Carlos Soto. Suffice to say, the delightful concoction is a union of ground beef, onions, and lots of American cheese, which melts into the beef to create an entirely new food group. Shall we call it beese? Or cheef?

A sandwich on a roll with ground beef, lettuce, and tomatoes visible.
Chopped cheese
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

3. Sesame bagel with plain cream cheese at Ess-a-Bagel

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831 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10022
(212) 980-1010
Visit Website

What is a bagel but an overgrown spare tire of dough and seed, before it receives its consecration of a thick schmear of cream cheese? And nowadays, those cream cheeses come in a wild variety of flavors, including — during a recent inspection of Ess-a-Bagel’s glass refrigerated case — scallion, olive, jalapeno, herb, raisin walnut, avocado garlic, blackberry, oreo, sundried tomato, vegetable, lox, and a dozen others.

A seeded bagel cut open and smeared with white cream cheese.
Sesame bagel with plain cream cheese
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

4. Vito's Deli

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806 Washington St A
Hoboken, NJ 07030
(201) 792-4944
Visit Website

Hoboken is known for several Italian delis that make their own fresh mozzarella daily, and all present a series of wonderful sandwiches in which the sleek white cheese is the star of the show, no matter what other ingredients are included. Founded in 1986, Vito’s assembles a hero called The Hoboken, which matches its mozzarella with roasted peppers, grilled eggplant, pickled artichokes, and pesto, for a magnificent vegetarian tour-de-force.

A glistening hero with white cheese and red peppers poking out.
The Hoboken
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

5. Romanian Garden

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43-06 43rd Ave
Queens, NY 11104
(718) 786-7894
Visit Website

After you’ve finished your giant dinner of steaks and polenta, it may be too late to save room for papanasi at Romanian Garden in Sunnyside. This incredible dessert consists of fist-size, newly fried globular doughnuts filled with branza de vaci, a fresh cheese. As if that weren’t enough, they’re served still warm and thickly coated in sour cream and with jam on the side. 

Two white coated orbs and a small dish of dark red jam on the side.
Papanasi
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

6. Roast beef and arugula grilled cheese at Beecher's Handmade Cheese

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900 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
(212) 466-3340
Visit Website

This Flatiron cheese store has roots in the Pike Place Market from a Seattle cheesemonger. A great selection of cheeses is sourced from all over but some varieties are manufactured on the premises. It also boasts a cheese cave, wine bar, and cafe, and it is in the cafe that one can order a range of great grilled cheese sandwiches. Many are made with Flagship, the company’s white cow’s milk cheese, aged 15 months and tasting like a cross between cheddar and gruyere. The sandwich I like best features a thin slice of beef, a few leaves of arugula used as an herb, and a slice of tomato, the flavors of which are dominated by the cheese.

Two halves of a grilled cheese sandwich, one angled over the top of the other, and a tomato slice is visible.
Grilled cheese with roast beef and arugula
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

7. Cheese enchiladas at El Cantinero

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86 University Pl
New York, NY 10003
(212) 255-9378
Visit Website

The yellow cheese flows like a mellow river over the cheese enchiladas at El Cantinero, a Village old-timer that slings the Mexican-American fare that was most common here before southern Mexican cuisine arrived in the last decades of the 20th century. There’s cheese inside, too, making this one of the cheesiest (and most delicious) dishes on this map.

A plate of rice, tortillas, and melted cheese flowing over everything.
Cheese enchiladas
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

8. Penovani khachapuri at Cafe Delia

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59 E 8th St
New York, NY 10003
(347) 897-6764
Visit Website

By now, it seems everyone has tried the khachapuri, the Georgian boats filled with molten cheese, a raw egg yolk, and melting butter, more properly known as adjaruli khachapuri. But did you know there are all sorts of other cheese breads scattered across the transcaucasian state, many associated with certain locales? Penovani khachapuri is an estimable one, hand-held turnovers served warm that you can eat with one hand standing up, its imeruli cheese filling soft and salty inside.

Four flaky brown pies oozing cheese haphazardly stacked on top of each other.
Penovani khachapuri
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

9. Pão de queijo at Brigadeiro Bakery

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156 Sullivan St
New York, NY 10012
(917) 740-5772
Visit Website

Pão de queijo is the iconic cheese ball of Brazil, using tapioca flour instead of wheat flour and oodles of cheese to achieve a texture like a soft rubber ball. Soho’s Brigadeiro Bakery produces some of the best in town (you’d probably have to go to Newark to better ones). Other Brazilian baked goods, mainly sweet, are available to eat after your lunch of cheese balls (three should be sufficient),

Six yellowish round cheese balls in a waxed cardboard box.
Pan de queijo
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

10. Grilled cheese at Ray's Candy Store

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113 Avenue A
New York, NY 10009
(212) 505-7609
Visit Website

If you really love American cheese, this may be the grilled cheese for you. At veteran East Village fixture Ray’s Candy Store, a modest pair of American cheese slices are put between two slices of white bread, and the thing is thrust into the sandwich press, etching brown lines on the bread but also melting the cheese without benefit of the questionable grease that is spread on this sandwich prior to grilling at diners.

In the shade, a toasted cheese cut in half with grill marks on the bread but no grease.
Grilled cheese sandwich
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

11. Paneer methi at Dhamaka

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119 Delancey St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 204-8616
Visit Website

Famously, Dhamaka and its cousin Adda make their own paneer. This compressed collection of curds is so different than the supermarket sort used in most Indian restaurants today, which has obtained a rubbery consistency by being stored cold in plastic. Not here: This paneer, made from cow’s milk sourced upstate, is unstintingly fluffy. One version is coated with a mild but very red masala, but even better is the one that immerses generous cubes of paneer in a pungent fenugreek sauce, making for a brilliant vegetarian main course.

A greenish gravy with a handing holding up a spoon of paneer and sauce.
Paneer methi
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

12. Green eggs and cheese sandwich at Ix

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43 Lincoln Rd
Brooklyn, NY 11225
(347) 533-6920
Visit Website

Who doesn’t love tiny sandwiches? This Guatemalan cafe in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens is a favorite lunch and brunch destination, and at both meals (or even in the evening) one may enjoy this pair of tiny sandwiches, radiating green and white hues like beacons. The filling consists of blanched spinach with clouds of puffy goat cheese, which, let us not deny, provides a funky caproic edge to the flavor, somewhat neutralized by honey and horseradish. For such a light sandwich, it’s dense and full of flavor.

A pair or rolls with green spinach inside and white dressing lolling out.
Green eggs and cheese sandwich
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

13. Fondue at King Mother

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1205 Cortelyou Rd
Brooklyn, NY 11218
(718) 287-0241
Visit Website

Fondue is a sleeper of a Swiss recipe that seems to become popular in cycles of 30 years or so. Its last cycle saw guests giving newly married couples multiple fondue sets as wedding presents. And now it may be coming back again, as evidenced by the popularity of the fondue at this combo wine bar and cheese store in Ditmas Park. This being the keto age, the wine-laced melted cheese kept warm over a sterno flame is furnished with vegetable crudite as dipping implements, with the shop’s excellent focaccia provided at slight extra charge.

On a white outdoor table a reservoir of cheese sauce, little plate of focaccia, and bowl of crudite for dipping.
King Mother’s fondue service
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

1. Cheese slice at Gio's pizza and restaurant

308 E 141st St, Bronx, NY 10454
A slice on a marble counter turned so one edge is parallel to the bottom of the photo.
A plain cheese slice
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Pizza-grade mozzarella is a thing unto itself, nothing like the scintillatingly fresh cheese one might use to make a caprese salad. And at most pizzerias — where the plain cheese slice is the most fundamental product — either the crust, tomato sauce, or cheese is allowed to dominate. At Gio’s, a cave of a pizza parlor in Mott Haven, the cheese dominates, spread across the pie so there’s a fun mix of ingredients in every bite.

308 E 141st St
Bronx, NY 10454

2. Chopped cheese at Harlem Taste (Hajji’s)

2135 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10029
A sandwich on a roll with ground beef, lettuce, and tomatoes visible.
Chopped cheese
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

The exact story of how the chopped cheese sandwich was invented and prospered in Harlem and the Bronx (and now in Brooklyn) is murky, though some claim the sandwich was invented at Haijji’s by Carlos Soto. Suffice to say, the delightful concoction is a union of ground beef, onions, and lots of American cheese, which melts into the beef to create an entirely new food group. Shall we call it beese? Or cheef?

2135 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10029

3. Sesame bagel with plain cream cheese at Ess-a-Bagel

831 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10022
A seeded bagel cut open and smeared with white cream cheese.
Sesame bagel with plain cream cheese
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

What is a bagel but an overgrown spare tire of dough and seed, before it receives its consecration of a thick schmear of cream cheese? And nowadays, those cream cheeses come in a wild variety of flavors, including — during a recent inspection of Ess-a-Bagel’s glass refrigerated case — scallion, olive, jalapeno, herb, raisin walnut, avocado garlic, blackberry, oreo, sundried tomato, vegetable, lox, and a dozen others.

831 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10022

4. Vito's Deli

806 Washington St A, Hoboken, NJ 07030
A glistening hero with white cheese and red peppers poking out.
The Hoboken
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Hoboken is known for several Italian delis that make their own fresh mozzarella daily, and all present a series of wonderful sandwiches in which the sleek white cheese is the star of the show, no matter what other ingredients are included. Founded in 1986, Vito’s assembles a hero called The Hoboken, which matches its mozzarella with roasted peppers, grilled eggplant, pickled artichokes, and pesto, for a magnificent vegetarian tour-de-force.

806 Washington St A
Hoboken, NJ 07030

5. Romanian Garden

43-06 43rd Ave, Queens, NY 11104
Two white coated orbs and a small dish of dark red jam on the side.
Papanasi
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

After you’ve finished your giant dinner of steaks and polenta, it may be too late to save room for papanasi at Romanian Garden in Sunnyside. This incredible dessert consists of fist-size, newly fried globular doughnuts filled with branza de vaci, a fresh cheese. As if that weren’t enough, they’re served still warm and thickly coated in sour cream and with jam on the side. 

43-06 43rd Ave
Queens, NY 11104

6. Roast beef and arugula grilled cheese at Beecher's Handmade Cheese

900 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
Two halves of a grilled cheese sandwich, one angled over the top of the other, and a tomato slice is visible.
Grilled cheese with roast beef and arugula
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

This Flatiron cheese store has roots in the Pike Place Market from a Seattle cheesemonger. A great selection of cheeses is sourced from all over but some varieties are manufactured on the premises. It also boasts a cheese cave, wine bar, and cafe, and it is in the cafe that one can order a range of great grilled cheese sandwiches. Many are made with Flagship, the company’s white cow’s milk cheese, aged 15 months and tasting like a cross between cheddar and gruyere. The sandwich I like best features a thin slice of beef, a few leaves of arugula used as an herb, and a slice of tomato, the flavors of which are dominated by the cheese.

900 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

7. Cheese enchiladas at El Cantinero

86 University Pl, New York, NY 10003
A plate of rice, tortillas, and melted cheese flowing over everything.
Cheese enchiladas
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

The yellow cheese flows like a mellow river over the cheese enchiladas at El Cantinero, a Village old-timer that slings the Mexican-American fare that was most common here before southern Mexican cuisine arrived in the last decades of the 20th century. There’s cheese inside, too, making this one of the cheesiest (and most delicious) dishes on this map.

86 University Pl
New York, NY 10003

8. Penovani khachapuri at Cafe Delia

59 E 8th St, New York, NY 10003
Four flaky brown pies oozing cheese haphazardly stacked on top of each other.
Penovani khachapuri
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

By now, it seems everyone has tried the khachapuri, the Georgian boats filled with molten cheese, a raw egg yolk, and melting butter, more properly known as adjaruli khachapuri. But did you know there are all sorts of other cheese breads scattered across the transcaucasian state, many associated with certain locales? Penovani khachapuri is an estimable one, hand-held turnovers served warm that you can eat with one hand standing up, its imeruli cheese filling soft and salty inside.

59 E 8th St
New York, NY 10003

9. Pão de queijo at Brigadeiro Bakery

156 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012
Six yellowish round cheese balls in a waxed cardboard box.
Pan de queijo
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Pão de queijo is the iconic cheese ball of Brazil, using tapioca flour instead of wheat flour and oodles of cheese to achieve a texture like a soft rubber ball. Soho’s Brigadeiro Bakery produces some of the best in town (you’d probably have to go to Newark to better ones). Other Brazilian baked goods, mainly sweet, are available to eat after your lunch of cheese balls (three should be sufficient),

156 Sullivan St
New York, NY 10012

10. Grilled cheese at Ray's Candy Store

113 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009
In the shade, a toasted cheese cut in half with grill marks on the bread but no grease.
Grilled cheese sandwich
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

If you really love American cheese, this may be the grilled cheese for you. At veteran East Village fixture Ray’s Candy Store, a modest pair of American cheese slices are put between two slices of white bread, and the thing is thrust into the sandwich press, etching brown lines on the bread but also melting the cheese without benefit of the questionable grease that is spread on this sandwich prior to grilling at diners.

113 Avenue A
New York, NY 10009

11. Paneer methi at Dhamaka

119 Delancey St, New York, NY 10002
A greenish gravy with a handing holding up a spoon of paneer and sauce.
Paneer methi
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Famously, Dhamaka and its cousin Adda make their own paneer. This compressed collection of curds is so different than the supermarket sort used in most Indian restaurants today, which has obtained a rubbery consistency by being stored cold in plastic. Not here: This paneer, made from cow’s milk sourced upstate, is unstintingly fluffy. One version is coated with a mild but very red masala, but even better is the one that immerses generous cubes of paneer in a pungent fenugreek sauce, making for a brilliant vegetarian main course.

119 Delancey St
New York, NY 10002

12. Green eggs and cheese sandwich at Ix

43 Lincoln Rd, Brooklyn, NY 11225
A pair or rolls with green spinach inside and white dressing lolling out.
Green eggs and cheese sandwich
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Who doesn’t love tiny sandwiches? This Guatemalan cafe in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens is a favorite lunch and brunch destination, and at both meals (or even in the evening) one may enjoy this pair of tiny sandwiches, radiating green and white hues like beacons. The filling consists of blanched spinach with clouds of puffy goat cheese, which, let us not deny, provides a funky caproic edge to the flavor, somewhat neutralized by honey and horseradish. For such a light sandwich, it’s dense and full of flavor.

43 Lincoln Rd
Brooklyn, NY 11225

13. Fondue at King Mother

1205 Cortelyou Rd, Brooklyn, NY 11218
On a white outdoor table a reservoir of cheese sauce, little plate of focaccia, and bowl of crudite for dipping.
King Mother’s fondue service
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Fondue is a sleeper of a Swiss recipe that seems to become popular in cycles of 30 years or so. Its last cycle saw guests giving newly married couples multiple fondue sets as wedding presents. And now it may be coming back again, as evidenced by the popularity of the fondue at this combo wine bar and cheese store in Ditmas Park. This being the keto age, the wine-laced melted cheese kept warm over a sterno flame is furnished with vegetable crudite as dipping implements, with the shop’s excellent focaccia provided at slight extra charge.

1205 Cortelyou Rd
Brooklyn, NY 11218

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