Cheese shops are a safe haven for most cheese lovers: a place for us to buy the cheeses we love and discover new cheeses we may not have known about. Partially because we are all biased towards our local cheese shop, and partially because we just love all cheese shops, choosing the ten best in the country was a very difficult task – so we didn’t! Instead, we decided to pick ten standout cheese shops. Even then, we couldn’t put the ones we ended up choosing in a particular order. So, with that in mind, here are our choices for the top ten standout cheese shops in America, all on an equal playing field.
Cured advertises itself as being “focused on preserving a personal connection to food.” In many ways, that’s what makes this shop stand out: They stay small, despite having enough success to grow, because they want everything to stay personal. They made their business because they thought specialized, personal shops selling local products had gotten lost in the midst of corporate supermarkets, and they’ve stuck by that to this day. Their staff is close to their customers, and everyone is close to the food. That’s what makes this a standout cheese shop in the United States.
What’s unique about the Calf & Kid is the way the owner discovered her love of cheese. She spent a good portion of her childhood milking the same goat every day, and watching that milk get turned into cheese on her family’s farm. Then, after spending many years forming a close relationship with her local cheese shop in New York, she was shocked to find that there was not one in Seattle. She changed that, and has in many ways become the shopkeeper she spent so many years admiring. She pulled herself up by her bootstraps, and it both shows in her work and makes her stand out.
Under the name of the business, you will see the sign for this shop reads, “Worker-Owned since 1971,” and it truly has been. Despite its growth in size, there is no actual owner of The Cheese Board and Collective: it’s just the employees. They make their decisions as a company, either on shift or at monthly meetings, and pride themselves on their close relationships with one another and their strong work ethic. This shift in ownership has allowed for a “true democracy” within the company, and has in many ways allowed for the company to expand: now selling over 400 different types of cheeses and featuring a pizzeria, espresso bar, and bakery. But they still stay close-knit and have never strayed from their process of doing this. That’s what makes them a standout cheese shop in the United States.
Star Provisions is more than just a cheese shop: you can also buy meat, seafood, wine, and even gourmet cookware. They’re not even just a shop. They have a restaurant where they only serve their products, the Floataway Café. Here, they essentially turned an old warehouse into a beautiful, faux-outdoors scene where their customers can enjoy their products as though they were sitting on a pristine back porch on a perfect summer’s evening (even in the dead of winter). Star Provisions has taken their cheese shop and made it so unique. There’s truly nothing else like it, and that’s why it stands out.
Formaggio Kitchen is not afraid to go the distance – literally. Every year, their mongers travel across the globe to find the best ingredients they can: buying from the “one-herd farmer in Corsica, the tiny storefront baker in Tuscany, and the fifth-generation olive grower in Andalusia.” They pride themselves on being the place where chefs go to find “the one ingredient they know they won’t find anywhere else.” In addition to this, they also have their own cheese caves, the first in the US when they were built in 1996. All of these reasons make them stand out, and the fact that you can visit their cheese caves makes it that much more exciting!
At Fromagination, they focus just as much on the pairings as they do on the cheese itself. Every time they mention their product, they mention the pairings they sell, and how it complements the cheese. They accredit this to their own “perfect pairing” of their shop and Madison, Wisconsin. They are also incredibly focused on selling things the “natural” way: keeping cheese on the block and/or wheel as opposed to wrapping it in plastic wrap. On top of all of that, they make sure all of their employees are passionate about their food and put them through rigorous training before they’re allowed to sell in the shop. All of these things show in their work, and make them a standout cheese shop.
New York, New York
When one thinks of a great cheese shop in the United States, Murray’s immediately comes to mind. It’s one of the oldest in the country – originally founded in 1940 – and is still ragingly successful to this day: with multiple locations, cheeses from around the world, and cheese caves of their own to prove it. Now they cater, offer special cheese classes, and make guest appearances all over the country (including at college cheese clubs). They are a staple in the history of cheese shops and a major part of America’s history as well. It is inarguable that they are a standout.
One of few cheese shops in America that’s been around longer than Murray’s, Di Bruno Brothers is celebrating their 75th anniversary this year. Like Murray’s, they’ve become extremely successful since they’ve opened, and have such a spanning history that their website features a timeline as opposed to a simple “About Us” section. This store re-defines the idea of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps: starting with two brothers from Italy with a third-grade education and now having six different shops all across Philadelphia. It’s rich in history, and now sells cheese around the world with one of the best online shops out there. That’s what makes this shop stand out.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
This creamery started as one recipe, of a “real” cream cheese, back in 2001. Since then, they’ve expanded to selling other types of cheese as well as gelatos, beers, wines, and sorbets. They also offer both tastings and tours within their shops and import cheeses from all over Europe. In many ways, they’ve become a staple of Ann Arbor, but what makes them stand out is their wholesale: both of their products and of neighboring distributors. They may not have the rich history of Murray’s and Di Bruno Brothers yet, but they will one day.
San Francisco, California
Like pretty much all of the cheese shops on this list, this shop began with a dream. But it also began with two close friends, and a so-called “hippy journey” across the country in the late ’70s. What makes this creamery stand out, though, is the legend associated with how it got its name.
Legend has it that when Peggy and Sue were exploring names for their budding cheese business, two women on horseback pulled up in front of the barn, hitched their horses to the bike rack, and ran into the grocery store for supplies. Ellen Straus, who was visiting at the time, looked at Sue and Peggy and said, “We’re living in the Wild West out here.” Peggy’s response: “Then we must be cowgirls! And this must be the Cowgirl Creamery.”
In addition to having two creameries of their own, Cowgirl Creamery cheeses are sold in cheese shops across the country, including Whole Foods Market. In many ways, Cowgirl Creamery is a staple for cheese lovers everywhere, and that’s why it makes this list.
Win an Issue:
There are countless other fantastic cheese shops that we didn’t have the space to mention here. What’s your favorite cheese shop and why? We would love to hear from you! Comment below for a chance to win a free edition of our magazine! Comments must be posted by Thursday, November 13 at 11:50 p.m. EST to win. Winners must have a mailing address in the continental US. Good luck!Photo Credit: Featured Image Courtesy of Sabia Blog