If Lactose Intolerance Awareness Month -- February, in case you're wondering -- had an arch-enemy, it would be National Grilled Cheese Day. While April is National Grilled Cheese Month, April 12 is the indisputable karmic center of that month: the Qi of the cheese.
New York might be known as the Big Apple, but it's got a lot of respect for the big cheese. In 2010, American Public Media's Marketplace ran a piece on a mysterious entrepreneur that delivered grilled cheese sandwiches to patrons on the Lower East Side.
In the past couple of years, grilled cheese sandwiches have become the foci of rival food trucks and have held a position of prestige at specialty bars like Noorman's Kil and Dram in Williamsburg, where they've been made with a delectable cornucopia of ingredients, such as bacon, challah bread, black truffle butter, gruyere, sauteed onions, prosciutto and apricot jam (although not all at once).
And yet, some New Yorkers would argue that the best grilled cheese sandwiches are the least fancy ones -- the kind ordered at 4 a.m. from 24-hour Greek diners, or better yet, made on one's own gas range with a side of tomato soup. DIY grillers can stoke their ideas with this helpful grilled cheese org chart from McSweeney's.
In celebration of the beguilingly simple, epically satisfying wonders of toasted bread and melted cheese, here's a short list of New York City spots that do National Grilled Cheese Day right:
For an "outrageous" grilled cheese in Queens, stop by the Sage General Store (24-20 Jackson Ave., Long Island City) for a cheddar, jack and gruyere sandwich with peppered bacon and Worcestershire sauce. The Queens Kickshaw (40-17 Broadway, Astoria) serves up a classic mozzarella and shredded cheddar sandwich, too.
While it's primarily known for its cocktails, Dram (177 S. 4th Street, Brooklyn) also features a delectable sourdough beauty on its bar menu, made with black truffle butter, gruyere and caramelized onions. Noorman's Kil (609 Grand Street, Brooklyn), takes grilled cheese obsession a step further, with gourmet offerings featuring a four-cheese masterpiece with gruyere, fromage blanc, Havarti and sharp cheddar.
Little Muenster (100 Stanton St., Manhattan) is arguably makes the best grilled cheese on the Lower East Side, if not all of Manhattan. Its sandwiches include a dreamy goat cheese, gruyere, pancetta and leek confit flavor-bomb.
If food trucks are your thing, the Brooklyn-based Morris Grilled Cheese Truck serves up a gouda, pork jowl and ramp sandwich, while purists will enjoy the hot and sloppy American cheese on white bread from the Gorilla Cheese truck. Fancier options include smoked mozzarella, pulled pork and a variety of dipping sauces.