Monday, January 9, 2012
Good Grub: Little Muenster
I went out on a first date last week with a Geeker, and was plesantly surprised when he suggested this spot as a fist meal. It's small. It's run by hipsters. It's located in the Lower East Side. Oh, and it's all about the mother fucking GRILLED CHEESE!!! Yes, people. I shit you not. The Mecca of fancy cheese between bread WITH an option of uber fancy marrow butter. MARROW BUTTER, for Christ's sake!!
Well, I nearly walked past the place a few times because there is no large signage outside. The only way I found it was because I recognized the espresso bar next door that was pictured on google maps when I was mapping my way there. My date ended up walking right past it, and he lives a couple blocks away from the place.
We get inside and all I smell is the buttery toasty aroma of bread on hot grill. YUMMMMMM. All the sit-down tables were taken, but the counters were open and I was fine with that since I had no chemistry with my date and I wanted to keep it as casual as possible.
I had it all planned out. I was going to order the Manchego/Anchovy/Caramelized Onion/Mushroom/Red Pepper combo. However, would you guess that it was the ONLY sandwich crossed off the chalkboard, and the substitute was nothing close to what I wanted? Just my luck. My date suggested we order two different sammies and trade halves with each other. We both got the corn chowder soup. The combos came with chips. I ended up getting the Gruyere/Chevre/Leek Confit/Pancetta. He got the Stilton/Muenster/Pear Puree.
The soup was bland and needed lots of pepper. The chips were cold and tasted stale. The sandwiches.....Oh, lord!!!!! Mine was divine!! Salty, flavorful, crunchy, cheesy. The only thing I didn't enjoy was biting into the cold goat cheese in the middle, but thinking about it now, how plesant is warm goat cheese anyway? It's not. I didn't taste much of a leek confit going on, but the pancetta was crispy and delicious and the gruyere was perfectly melted, hot, and tasty. The date suggested that perhaps the soup was under-seasoned to balance out the saltiness of the cheese combinations. Granted, he may have a point, but food should be able to stand on it's own, and under-seasoned soup is unacceptable.
The Pear Puree/Stilton combination was like dessert. The tangy blue cheese combined with the sweet pear puree was heaven. Simply put, I saved his half for last so I could finish my meal on a high note. Since Mr. Suave whipped out his wallet before I could finish ordering, I didn't get to add on the extra $1 worth of marrow butter. I wanted it like a crack whore wants a rock. I wanted it BAD. But, he insisted on paying, and it guilted me into holding back. In hindsight, if I wanted it, I should have just asked for it. It's a damn dollar for Pete's sake, and if the dude scoffed at an extra dollar on my order than he really didn't deserve the second date anyway.
The date was forgettable, as was the bland soup. The vibe in Little Muenster was fantastic. If it wasn't so out of the way, I could see it becoming a regular stop on my way home. Instead, however, it will be sort of a destination spot whenever I'm out drinking in the LES. What better way to sop up the liquor then to line your tummy with a hearty gourmet grilled cheese?
Yelp reviews complain about the apathetic hipster staff. Are they young and hipster? As sure as their droopy beanies are barely hanging on their heads, they are. But they were very friendly and it's not like there's table service anyway. You will come out smelling like food. I don't care. I've sat on the subway next to people who have smelled a lot worse. Other Yelpers complain about a $9 grilled cheese. Well, if it's cheaper to make at home, then by all means, go to Whole Foods or Trader Joes, buy all the different components to make ONE of their combos and scratch your head when you walk out of the store having spent at least $30. Good cheese isn't cheap, and neither is good meats. $9 is the high end of their menu and it is WELL worth it. In fact, a grilled American cheese on whole wheat with bacon will run nearly $7 in some diners. For the extra two bucks, you get REAL artisan cheese, REAL cured meats, REAL artisan bread, and plenty other things you won't find at your local Omega Diner. (Sorry, guys! I still love the diners, though!)
Little Muenster was a BIG hit. It's not a meal I can eat every week. It's artery clogging and fattening, and if you're Asian, you WILL be popping the Lactaid before you head in there. However, like any comfort food, there is a time and a place and an occasion to indulge, and if you are going to be treating yourself, why not do it at a place that knows what the fuck they're doing?
My date; never again. I'm glad he was gentleman enough to pay for dinner. There aren't many of those guys left out there! And many thanks to him for picking a great spot.
The fancy grilled cheese- Oh, you and I shall meet again! ;-)
100 Stanton Street
New York, NY 10002