This past weekend, an estimated 1,500 hungry grilled cheese enthusiasts flocked to the third annual Big Cheesy competition in NoLiTa to determine which restaurant boasts the most delicious grilled cheese sandwich in New York City. Seven city restaurants brought their best and most creative grilled cheeses to the event in hopes of winning the annual competition. This year’s competitors included Murray’s Cheese Bar, Lucy’s Whey, Say Cheese, Sons of Essex, ‘Wichcraft and two past winners, Melt Shop and Milk Truck.
Last year, winner Melt Shop showcased three sandwiches, which contributed to their landslide win. This year, competitors were only allowed to offer one recipe, with the exception of an additional vegetarian sandwich if they served a sandwich with meat. Other than that, said Jonathan Daou, Openhouse founder and the mind behind The Big Cheesy, “the formula remains the same, as it has been so appreciated by fans.”
According to Daou, The Big Cheesy is a solution to a “uniquely New York problem.” Daou explained that in New York, there are so many “best of” lists that are usually decided by the media. The idea behind The Big Cheesy was to bring together the products and the people in order to determine what is truly the best.
“We decided to bring them together for a change and have a true people’s choice award,” said Daou.
Tasters are invited to sample mini versions of the restaurants’ sandwiches and to vote for their favorite combination by dropping an orange ping pong ball into a container situated at each table.
This year’s sandwiches ranged from classic to over-the-top. Murray’s Cheese Bar served up their Classic Melt with a side of smoky tomato soup, while Lucy’s Whey offered a classic cheddar and ham sandwich with the unique additions of sweet and savory apple butter and a bit of fromage blanc—a tangy goat milk cheese. Say Cheese, a first-time competitor, had both savory and sweet offerings. They served up a French Onion grilled cheese composed of Gruyere, Swiss, French onion soup compote and secret garlic butter in between classic sourdough bread in addition to their popular s’mores sandwich. The s’mores are made with graham cracker-dusted Brioche filled with sweet mascarpone cheese, Nntella and a pipet of warm chocolate syrup sandwiched between the bread, which they encourage diners to squeeze while biting into the creation for a uniquely decadent treat.
So what does it take for a sandwich to become a Big Cheesy winner? That’s completely up to the tasters. While some competitors drew in votes with boisterous chants (“Say what? Say Cheese!”), Stephanie Rose, an employee of Melt Shop, said that it was important for tasters to “vote with your palate, with your heart.”
This year’s grilled cheese winner is reigning champion Melt Shop, which served Widmer’s aged cheddar and brick, with Nueske’s bacon and cranberry onion chutney on levian locale.
Caitlin Schnack is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]