I still remember my first meeting with Cheese & Crack in Portland, which was then a fledgling food cart a few years ago. Besides delicious offerings of cheese plates and also homemade crackers, the cart owner William Steuernagel really showcased a sense of presentation and style that helped them really stand out on the food cart scene.
In 2012 he launched a successful Kickstarter which ended up with twice what he was asking for to start that little cart (and proving that the demand for cheese and the number of cheese addicts in Portland is real), and then grew up into a store on SE 28th by Burnside that opened around this time last year, though that also meant he sadly closed his cute cart. The snack shop is charmingly adorable.
Their regular menu has about half a dozen cheese plates, and there may be a special cheese plate or special sundae or special snack on their Specials Board, so make sure you check it out. This is the only part about Cheese & Crack that I don’t like – in the multiple times I have visited, people assume that the only offerings are what is on the board, not realizing there is a printed menu once they reach the register that has a listing of more cheese plates and snacks. I wish they would make a large sign with their regular menu offerings for the wall as well. The service works in that you go up to the register to order and pay, and then they prepare your order and bring it to you, and then you bus it to some shelves with dish-bins.
As you can see, there are quite an assortment on your cheese plate: rustic butter crackers they make in house, homemade savory oatmeal cookie, baguette slices, olives, cornichons, dijon mustard, honey, and even a dessert teaspoon of chocolate ganache. My favorite plate is to put together the Shaft’s Bleu and Cypress Grove Fromage Blanc with Marionberry Jam, plus an additional side of cheese. Below, I requested of the brie brulee on the right hand side, but I change out that cheese – I like the blue and the fresh cheese as a base. Make you you sip the blue cheese in the honey! Be careful with the dijon mustard, it is quite pungent – and make use of the olives and cornichons acidity to balance out your little bites.
If you are looking for more to fulfill your appetite, get their Seasonal Sandwich. When I visited below it was a Coppa Sandwich with Alps Provisions Dry Cured Pork Collar, Swiss Cheese, Apple Butter, and Greens all on a Grand Central Baguette.
Add a side salad for $2 or Mornay sauce for $2 – but I think you should add the Macaroni and Mornay instead of putting the Mornay on your sandwich. Go ahead and get the salad so you get some veggies in with the large amount of cheese you are eating.
For the Macaroni and Mornay, they make it with Trofie Pasta to make it even more melt in your mouth, along with Sauce Mornay made with Gruyere & Beecher’s Flagship White Cheddar and then topped with a touch of garlic, herbs, and olive oil.
Another visit, they had a Special Snack of Grilled Halloumi with seared halloumi cheese, toast, honey, lemon and greens. I thought it was well worth the price as I assembled by little bites with bread, arugula, warm seared halloumi, a tiny squeeze of lemon and smear of honey.
Perhaps you even have room for dessert? I tried the seasonal dessert of a Port Wine Cheese Sundae with Vanilla Soft Serve layered with Ruby Port Wine Reduction and Hazelnut Granola, and then there’s the grated Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar.
For their 1 year birthday recently they had a Birthday Sundae with vanilla soft serve, cake mix dusting, sprinkles, and almond whipped cream. This month, I believe it’s a new sundae called Ten Dollar Banana Split boasting Brûléed Bananas, Buttered Chocolate Sauce, Freddy Guys Hazelnuts, Sea Salt, Brown Sugar Whipped Cream and Local Bordeaux Maraschino Cherries. Yep, they are pretty fun with their sundae of the month. This is dangerous to have on your Instagram feed.
Their usual Cheese & Crack sundae boasts their vanilla soft serve with torched marshmallow, cracker crumb crumble, and chocolate ganache. Their regular soft serve, a steal at $3, was very popular in the recent wonderful spring weather with the vanilla soft serve with the cone bottom filled with chocolate ganache and optional espresso dust sprinkle on top.
I enjoy following their Instagram @CheeseandCrack which continues the charm pictorially even when I’m not at the shop, and the Cheese & Crack Facebook page is usually the one updated with specials (and food porn images of those specials).
Have you been to Cheese & Crack? Have you heard of it? What do you think you would try if you visited?