Instagram Guide to Global Cheese Dishes
Here's a fact that should come as no surprise: Cheese triggers the same part of the brain as hard drugs.
No wonder cheese is a staple of dishes around the world, from traditional dishes like Swiss fondue and Argentinian provoleta, to newfangled wonders like mac-and-cheese donuts and deep-fried burrata.
More than delicious, dishes featuring a healthy helping of cheese are also seductively beautiful, making them perfect for Instagram. (If there's anything sexier than a "cheese pull" — a shot of melted cheese being pulled on a fork — we haven't seen it.)
Here are some of the most decadent, photogenic cheese dishes the world has ever known. Warning: The following will make you hungry.
Aligot at Les Chimères in Toulouse, France
Aligot is a specialty from the French Aveyron region: a combination of decadent potato purée and earthy, nutty tomme cheese. The result is stretchy, cheesy mashed potatoes that couldn't be more Instagrammable.
While you'll find this dish throughout the Aveyron region (and throughout France), one of the best versions is made in Toulouse at Les Chimères, where a father-daughter team native to the area serves up all-you-can-eat aligot every Wednesday.
Fat Tony at Milky Lane in Bondi Beach, Australia
This trendy Bondi Beach spot boasts cheese pull on nearly all of its menu items, from deep-fried mac and cheese to cheese-smothered tater tots.
But the aptly named Fat Tony is the king of them all, featuring a deep-fried five-cheese lasagna topped with pesto aioli and served on a garlic-bread bun. Don’t forget your drawstring pants.
Truffled Flambé Pasta at Le Petit Paris in Los Angeles
Combine dining and entertainment at Le Petit Paris for an experience you'll never forget. Order the truffled pasta, and you'll witness creamy penne placed in a hollowed Parmesan wheel and flambéed with Cognac before being topped with black Italian truffles.
The dish is prepared tableside, so be sure to have your camera (or iPhone) at the ready.
Khachapuri at Laguna Grill in Batumi, Georgia
This specialty from the country of Georgia seems simple at first: a combination of dough and cheese. But at Laguna Grill, the dish is taken to the next level with the indulgent addition of butter and egg. The restaurant also boasts a few intriguing plays on the classic, including a version made with smoked cheese.
Mac and Cheese Grilled Cheese at American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in San Francisco
America's quintessential cheese dish is the grilled cheese — and at restaurants across the country, this classic dish has been given a delicious twist.
San Francisco's American Grilled Cheese Kitchen has really upped the game with its over-the-top take: mac and cheese stuffed between two thick slices of garlic-buttered sourdough bread (sourdough is a San Francisco specialty).
The result is ridiculously rich and creamy. In other words, it’s perfect.
Raclette at Le Chalet Savoyard in Paris
This specialty from the central European region of Savoy calls for a half-wheel of raclette cheese to be fastened to a heating apparatus that slowly melts it. One then scrapes (racler, in French) the cheese onto piles of boiled potatoes and charcuterie.
You'll find sublime versions of this all over France and Switzerland, but the one at Paris' Chalet Savoyard offers a true chalet ambiance and nine different types of cheese to choose from, including smoked, truffled and blue.
Provoleta at Cantina del Vigia in Maldonado, Uruguay
A specialty of Argentina and Uruguay, provoleta is a grilled or broiled cheese appetizer, usually served with a tangy chimichurri. At Cantina del Vigia, the cheese is cooked at such a high temperature that it literally inflates, forming its own crispy shell to protect the melted cheese within.
Jucy Lucy at Matt's Bar in Minneapolis
The Jucy Lucy is a Minnesota classic; for the best one, go where it all began.
Matt's Bar claims to be the first place to stuff two quarter-pound beef patties with melted cheddar cheese. As the legend goes, the misspelled “jucy” was a mistake that stuck, and it’s now used to separate the real deal from the fakes. (As the Matt’s Bar website puts it, “If it’s spelled correctly, you just might be eating a shameless ripoff!”)
About 75 percent of all orders here are for the famous burger.
Croque Madame at Madame Messieurs in Paris
The croque monsieur is a Parisian bistro classic: a simple ham-and-cheese sandwich blanketed in creamy béchamel sauce and dressed up with grated cheese before it's slipped under the broiler.
Madame Messieurs has made the humble croque the star of its menu, with several different variations at any given time, featuring cheeses like Basque sheep cheese and cheddar. A fried egg over the top transforms the croque monsieur into a croque madame and adds even more richness.
Deep Dish Pizza at Lou Malnati's in Chicago
Chicago has a handful of spots contending for best deep-dish pie, and Lou Malnati's is always near the top of the list.
A buttery crust is the perfect support for sweet tomato sauce and a generous portion of mozzarella cheese. Choose your toppings, and dig in!
Bryndzové Halušky at Bratislavský Meštiansky Pivovar in Bratislava, Slovakia
This Slovakian specialty combines pillowy, potato-based dumplings with a rich local sheep's milk cheese. Topped with crumbled bacon and lard, it's pretty much the best comfort food dish you can imagine.
Fried Burrata at HandCraft Kitchen and Cocktails in New York City
Burrata is already a creamy dream, but cover it with truffles and deep-fry it, and it becomes an experience. This hip cocktail bar is famous for its decadent appetizer, which is served with a touch of arugula (so you can trick yourself into thinking you're eating salad).
Pizza Margherita at Pizzeria Da Michele in Naples, Italy
One of the oldest pizzerias in Naples — and regularly voted one of the best — Pizzeria Da Michele has pizza-making down to an art. There are just two choices on the menu: margherita, with cheese, or marinara, without. You probably know which one we recommend.
(Pro tip: Take your pizza to go to avoid the hours-long wait.)
Queso Fundido at La Condesa in Austin, Texas
Think of queso fundido as chile con queso's stretchier, gooeier cousin.
This delicious specialty found throughout central Mexico is broiled to create a bubbly, charred top. The version at La Condesa in Texas is made with a combination of cheeses, including a tangy goat variety.
Instead of dipping chips into this queso fundido, use a spoon to drizzle it over tortillas. Mas, por favor!
Hilbilly Queso at Torchy's in Austin, Texas
Queso gets a makeover at this beloved Austin taco chain. The Hillbilly Queso is accented with chorizo and green chiles for a huge hit of flavor.
The dish boasts just the right amount of kick and is perfect for chip-dipping or taco-drizzling.
Poutine at La Banquise in Montreal
Québec is the birthplace of Canada's national dish: a nearly blasphemous combination of French fries, cheese curds and gravy that has nevertheless won over many.
La Banquise has been serving up dozens of varieties of this classic since 1968, with toppings ranging from local smoked meat to pulled pork to fried chicken. The restaurant is open all night to cater to partiers with a hankering for comfort food.
Fondue at Auberge de Savièse in Geneva, Switzerland
Switzerland's favorite après-ski meal is fondue: a pot of melted cheese that, using a long-stemmed fork, you dip bread into.
While there are delicious versions all over the world, the Auberge de Savinèse is recognized as the fondue specialist of Geneva and remains one of the best places on the planet to enjoy the dish. Different cheese combos include a 50/50 split of gruyère and vacherin and the house specialty, a mix of 80 percent gruyère and 20 percent alpine gruyère.
Have your fondue fork at the ready!
Lasagnetta at Rubirosa in New York City
These days, Manhattan's Little Italy tends to be filled with more tourist traps than true Italian restaurants, but Rubirosa in Nolita is definitely doing away with this stereotype.
Opened by the pizza-royalty family behind Staten Island's popular Joe & Pat's, the restaurant churns out savory thin-crust pizza, homemade pasta and a super-cheesy chicken parm.
But the best thing on the menu is the lasagnetta, made with a narrower version of lasagna noodles, plus sausage, meatballs and, of course, a copious helping of melted mozzarella cheese.
French Onion Soup at Au Pied de Cochon in Paris
French onion soup was reportedly invented at this 24-hour establishment near the former Parisian market district of Les Halles. Here, the chef prepares the three elements that make up this soup separately: caramelized onions, rich beef broth and grated gruyère. Only at the last minute are they combined for a dish filled with potent flavor — and more cheese than you can imagine, but definitely not more than you want.
Mac and Cheese at Blue Plate in San Francisco
Everyone's favorite comfort food is done up right at Blue Plate. For this mac, a creamy béchamel sauce is flavored with Spanish drunken goat cheese and a touch of Tabasco before being tossed with the pasta and broiled to create an extra-crispy top.
It's not necessarily super traditional, but it is wildly cheesy.
Mozzarella in Carrozza at Rosticceria Gislon in Venice, Italy
Think of mozzarella in carrozza (literally: mozzarella in a carriage) as a deep-fried ham-and-cheese sandwich. This inexpensive local spot serves the Venetian battered-and-fried specialty piping hot — perfect for satiating your hunger and pleasing your Instagram followers.
Obatzda at Ratschiller's Bakery and SB Cafe in Munich, Germany
If there's one thing better than cheese, it's butter. So it's safe to say obatzda, a Bavarian specialty, boasts the best mix of ingredients known to man: two thirds soft cheese, one third butter. Served with pretzels, the dish typically features aged Camembert, plus ingredients like paprika, horseradish and (how very German) beer.
Find it throughout Germany; the version at Ratschiller's Bakery and SB Cafe is particularly sublime.
Mozzarella Sticks at Cosa Buona in Los Angeles
Good mozzarella sticks have a cheese pull no other dish can rival, and Cosa Buona boasts the best pull of all. The sticks were in fact specifically designed to stretch: The chef experimented with several different cheeses before settling on a low-moisture smoked mozz that he claims can extend up to 15 feet.
Mac and Cheese Donut at Glam Doll Donut in Minneapolis
These donut specialists have taken a savory approach to their favorite fried treat with the Bellybomb: a donut of mac and cheese that's breaded and deep-fried. The cheese pull is strong with this one!
Just be aware: it's only available at the Northeast location of this Minneapolis fave.
Chicken Parmesan at Emilio's Ballato in New York City
This old-school red-sauce joint in downtown Manhattan cooks up one of the best chicken parms you'll ever encounter: a crispy fried-chicken cutlet smothered in tangy tomato sauce and fresh buffalo mozzarella. It's no wonder former POTUS Obama (and tons of other stars!) love this place so much.
Trust them (and us): It's worth the wait.
Saganaki at Sagittarius in Skala, Greece
"Saganaki" can actually refer to any Grecian appetizer prepped in a "sagani" frying pan. But the most ubiquitous app is Greek cheese, usually halloumi, fried up and adorned with tangy lemon juice and pepper. It can be served with bread or veggies or — why not? — eaten straight up.
The dish is popular around the world, but of course best enjoyed in Grecian restaurants like Sagittarius, which serves a simply delicious rendition.
Crispy Cheese Curds at Emmy Squared in New York City
This Detroit-style pizza joint took New Yorkers by surprise when it became one of the most popular new pizza places in Brooklyn. Before digging into the delicious square slices, try the crispy cheddar cheese curds. Served with two dipping sauces, they are the perfect way to start your diet-busting meal off right.
Monster Kong Nachos at Chacho's in San Antonio
Piled high with toppings and — most importantly — an absurd amount of either cheddar cheese or homemade queso (plus more queso on the side for dipping), these nachos live up to their name.
The full size of this "monster" feeds 5-8 people, so round up your closest turophile friends before digging in.