Hidden on 83rd Street between large awnings for other shops, lies a culinary gem, making some of the most unique and delicious gourmet grilled cheeses. I easily could have lived on the Upper West Side for years without finding Say Cheese and continually ventured to the Lower East Side for my grilled cheese fix. All of the stars aligned to bring my Dad and I to the door of this little restaurant, opened in March. Our original choice to eat was crowded and we did not have the time to wait for a table to open up. We walked down Columbus into what seemed like a culinary no-man’s land, causing us to turn onto 83rd in hopes of making our way to the abundant choices on Amsterdam. Just like in the movie of my culinary dreams, there lied the tiniest little grilled cheese shop you ever saw, with big open windows, no awning and a warm inviting chalk drawn sign outside with a few brunch options. My Dad and I looked at each other and gave the knowing nod of approval and walked inside.
The décor is rustic and simple, just like all of the farm to table food served at Say Cheese. Exposed brick, light wooden tables and chalkboards with menus and metal signs line the walls. Plastic utensils are contained in vintage tins. Immediately, the wonderful, young waiter brought over water, also served in the rustic tin cups. My dad and I were immediately drawn to the country feel of the restaurant.
As we debated which decadent, cheesey creation to order, we decided to start simple with a large tomato soup.
Served on in a paper cup on an iron skillet, the soup presentation was simple and completely in line with the entire vibe of the restaurant. This tomato soup was unbelievable, reminding my Dad and I of my Mom’s beloved SaraBeth’s soup. It was creamy without having a heavy feel to it. Lightly seasoned with chunks of tomato, the essence of the soup was homey and comforting. It was the most comforting wonderful way to start a meal on a cold, fall day.
After much debate, we decided on the Swiss, Gruyere and French Onions Grilled Cheese. It seemed like the ultimate deconstructed French Onion Soup between two pieces of sour dough bread.
Again, the presentation was so simple, it worked. Another iron skillet graced our table revealing the oozing goodness that is gourmet grilled cheese. With one simple bite, I felt as if I was eating a decadent and complex French onion soup. The onions melted away into that sweet, darkened color giving a sweetness and subtle acidity to the sandwich. The classic combination of swiss and gruyere cheese melted into one oozing sandwich full of flavor and complexity. The cheeses and onions were held together between two pieces of toasted sourdough bread rounding out some of the best grilled cheese I have found in New York City. As I sit writing this, I can taste the sweet onions and the craving for another trip to Say Cheese is already in the works.
At the end of what was already a wonderful dining experience, the waiter handed us little slips of paper for a complimentary drink when we return for brunch. Then, he asked if we would like a cup of complimentary hot chocolate. Of course, we said yes.
This reminded me of hot chocolate I had lived on for a few days in Belgium years ago. It tasted like pure melted milk chocolate. This drink was the definition of decadence. With the little dollop of whipped cream on top, I slurped this little cup with a childish glee.
My dad and I walked out of Say Cheese, completely satisfied and already planning our next trip back, bringing my mom and sisters to try even more grilled cheeses (especially the one with fig). As we turned down Amsterdam, we walked past at least a dozen restaurants we knew we would have gone to had we decided to walk up that street instead of Columbus. I guess things really happen for a reason and our UWS selves and palates were extremely happy we did.
Their motto is right: Say Cheese & Other Foods That Make You Smile. We were smiling the whole way home.
Say Cheese – 142 West 83rd Street – New York, NY
Location: Upper West Side, NY
Type: New American
Perfect For: Chronic Brunch, Impressing Foodies, Neighborhood Hang
Reservations: Not Accepted
Favorite Dishes: French Onion Grilled Cheese, Tomato Soup
*Note: Say Cheese is Cash Only