On average, each American eats 35 pounds of cheese per year.
That’s 35 whole pounds of assertive Stilton, nutty Parmesan, and mellow mozzarella. While this statistic might make nutritionists cringe, the simple truth is it’s worth every delicious calorie. A gooey grilled cheese improves even the lousiest of Mondays, and a melted slice of cheddar is the ultimate burger addition. Fromage aficionados can DIY a stellar cheese plate with the help of a local cheesemonger or splurge on an artisan assemblage at an upscale restaurant.
Whatever your tastes and budget, here’s a cheese lover’s guide to the best places to indulge in the Twin Cities.
For gourmet grilled cheese:
The grilled cheese sandwiches at Can Can Wonderland are charmingly listed under their British moniker, “toasties.” The basic version layers provolone, cheddar, and American on sourdough; take things up a notch with One More Cheese—a melty combination of provolone, cheddar, Swiss, and smoked Gouda. Don’t forget to add a cup of tomato soup.
755 Prior Ave. N., St. Paul
At Hell’s Kitchen, the grilled cheese isn’t merely oozing cheese—it’s covered with it. Sourdough bread is coated with grated Parmesan and then filled with Swiss, Vermont white cheddar, and fontina. If that still doesn’t meet your decadence quotient for the day, add thick-cut bacon or a slather of guacamole.
80 S. Ninth St., Minneapolis
Grilled cheese lovers can take to the streets with the O’Cheeze food truck. The rotating menu features a handful of cheese-focused sandwiches, from the carbs-on-carbs mac & cheese sandwich to the Big Stink, a refined combination of blue cheese, Gorgonzola, honey, and pear. A Minneapolis skyway location in the Baker Building (705 Marquette Ave.) is in the works.
For the cheesiest burgers:
Sidestep the whole Matt’s Bar versus 5-8 Club Juicy Lucy controversy and opt for the Blue Door Pub’s signature Blucy, stuffed with blue cheese and garlic. There’s also a flavorful array of variations: The Mount Blucuvious is made with ghost pepper cheese, while the Horsekick Blucy features a horseradish sauce. Each location even has an exclusive burger—plan a Blucy pub crawl and try them all.
The innovative burgers at Red Cow offer some unique cheeses in addition to the standard American and cheddar. The Barcelona layers manchego with prosciutto, piquillo pepper, and a smoked pepper aioli, while the refined Manhattan 2.0 features delightfully melty Gruyere alongside bacon confit, arugula, and a dried cherry-red wine reduction. Or skip the beef and try a bison burger with an inspired combination of goat cheese, fig, and caramelized onions.
American cheese has a less-than-stellar reputation. It’s somewhat understandable, considering the alarmingly orange color and vinyl-slick texture of the standard Kraft single. But at Saint Dinette, the American cheese is made in-house, with a secret recipe that includes cava. Add that to two patties made with dry-aged chuck, sirloin, and brisket, and you end up with a cheeseburger considered by many to be the best in Twin Cities.
261 E. Fifth St., St. Paul
For superb curds:
It may be sacrilege to cheese snobs, but yes, you can deep-fry Brie, and yes, it is delicious. At the Newsroom, order a riff on the beloved fair food that pairs fried Brie “curds” with a homemade blueberry ketchup.
990 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis
Also in the realm of unexpected fried cheeses, the goat cheese curds from the Curious Goat food truck are a delightful twist on the standard cheddar niblet. Slightly tangy, but still salty and rich, these curds come with a spicy honey for a full-flavored snack.
The Curious Goat
The Harold & Kumar Poutine at the Rabbit Hole boasts a cult following for good reason. The so-weird-it’s-amazing mashup starts with a base of thick-cut fries, before layering on pork curry gravy, kimchi, caramelized onion, Parmesan, cheddar, and chipotle aioli. A soft-poached egg is the crowning touch, because why the hell not?
920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis
For a DIY cheese plate:
Surdyk’s Liquor and Cheese Shop is the heavy hitter in the Twin Cities’ retail cheese scene, stocking an encyclopedic array of over 350 cheeses. Eat local with fresh farmstead chevre from Minnesota and the finest aged cheddars Wisconsin has to offer. Sample classics like Italy’s nutty Parmigiano-Reggiano, France’s piquant Roquefort, and Holland’s mellow Gouda. Or place yourself in the very capable hands of the friendly cheesemonger behind the counter, ask for a recommendation, and discover something new. Pair your cheese selections with olives, jams, honey, and pickles from the shop’s gourmet grocery section, and don’t forget the bread—the bakery offers fresh loaves from Baker’s Field and Rustica. Need a gift idea for the cheese lover in your life? Surdyk’s even has a cheese-of-the-month club.
303 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Located inside France 44 Wine & Spirits, the recently expanded France 44 Cheese Shop features a nicely curated selection with plenty of local options and artisan cheeses from further afield. The butcher shop and grocery section provide everything you need to round out your cheese plate. And there’s more: The shop’s deli offers an impressive menu of cheese-centric sandwiches and melts (served with a shot of tomato soup, of course). You can’t go wrong with the elegant simplicity of the grilled cheese made with double cream Brie and cranberry chutney. For something with more of a kick, try the Spicymonger sandwich, an enticing combination of soppressata, chevre, pepper-onion relish, and Sriracha.
4351 France Ave. S., Minneapolis
Despite its small footprint, the Cheese Shop at Lake Wine & Spirits has an impressive rotating selection of regional and imported cheeses. The shop also stocks fresh baguettes, salumi, olives, and chocolate: everything you need to craft the perfect cheese plate for a romantic night in.
404 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
For happy hour nibbles:
Gyst Fermentation Bar’s focus on all things fermented—including wine, beer, and cheese—makes it perfect for happy hour. Gather a group and split the designed-for-Instagram Motherboard, a hefty spread of cheese, charcuterie, pickles, olives, nuts, and accoutrements.
25 E. 26th St., Minneapolis
For a cheesy road trip:
The dining scene in Stillwater punches well above the town’s weight class, and cheese is no exception. The Wedge & Wheel is a classy little cheese bar and shop, offering cheese and charcuterie boards plus a handful of cheesy sandwiches. Put your trust in the experts and go with the cheesemonger’s choice board, paired to your preferences and beverage of choice. The cheese counter features a rotating selection of regional favorites and notable imports.
308 Chestnut St. E., Stillwater
For a cheese lover’s splurge:
At W.A. Frost and Company, the cheese program reflects the beloved fine-dining establishment’s seasonal and local focus. The carefully curated menu features several Minnesota and Wisconsin selections alongside a range of intriguing imports. End your meal with the build-your-own cheese plate: pick one, three, or five cheeses, and you’ll receive an artistic arrangement that includes seasonal fruit, nuts, and other delicious house-made accompaniments.
374 Selby Ave., St. Paul