Cheese is not just about crackers anymore. From handcrafted local cheeses to imports with exotic names, there’s an endless array of cheese out there. Whether it’s a comfort food meal of grilled cheese and tomato soup or Swiss fondue with a Pacific Northwest twist, Seattle’s cheese options are growing — along with our appetite for this ancient food. Read on for some of the best cheesy dishes in the area.

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese

(Photo: Thinkstock)

(Photo: Thinkstock)

Seattle’s Pike Place Market
1600 Pike Place
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 956-1964

Kurt Beecher Dammeier opened his cheese shop in 2002, naming it after his great grandfather Beecher. Today, in addition to the flagship store, there are shops at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and in New York’s Flatiron District. Known for its “World’s Best” mac and cheese (one of Oprah’s “Ultimate Favorite Things 2010”), enjoy it in the cafe or take it to go. Made with penne pasta and one-year aged Flagship and Just Jack cheeses, it also comes in a gluten-free version. For something spicier, try mariachi mac and cheese with roasted Anaheim chilies, fresh veggies and Flagship cheese. Just want cheese? Beecher’s has a wide selection, all made with premium milk from Holstein and Jersey cows.

Related: Ask An Expert: Seattle Summer Farmers Market Guide

ART Restaurant & Lounge
Four Seasons Hotel Seattle
99 Union St.
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 749-7070

With views out to Elliott Bay and plush, comfortable surroundings, ART has become one of the city’s most popular cheese stops. The restaurant’s More Cheese Please and Antipasto Counter is an all-you-can-eat cheese table featuring a selection of local, domestic and imported cheeses — along with breads, crackers and condiments. It also includes seasonal antipasto selections such as artisan olives, cured meats, housemade pickles and grilled vegetables. Eighty percent of the cheeses are local, with at least a dozen varieties offered. More Cheese Please is available daily from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. for $14 and 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. $7.

The Coterie Room
2137 2nd Ave.
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 956-8000

If you’ve never tried poutine, this is the place to jump in. A popular dish from Quebec, it spread across Canada and is now popular in foodie-type cities such as Seattle. Poutine is simply french fries topped with brown gravy and cheese curds. But The Coterie Room, located in Belltown, has embellished things a bit. It comes as braised pork shoulder gravy, fried cheese curds and tender herbs over french fries. If you’re not that adventurous, you could always go the safe route and order the smoked cheddar mac and cheese. It’s “baked in a cast iron pot with herb breadcrumbs on top” and a Hungarian sausage.

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Row House Cafe
1170 Republican St.
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 682-7632

Housed in an early-1900’s recycled cottage in South Lake Union, the Row House Cafe calls itself the “neighborhood front porch.” And if you’re looking for a uniquely grilled cheese sandwich, it has an international mix. The gourmet grilled sandwiches menu at lunch is impressive and includes a Smithsonian (cheddar on country potato bread with rustic tomato relish) and a Louvre (brie on raisin pecan bread with orange marmalade). These are just two of seven sammies (this ain’t your mama’s grilled cheese). Row House is open for breakfast, lunch and supper.

Palace Kitchen
2030 5th Ave.
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 448-2001

The Palace Kitchen is one of 11 Tom Douglas restaurants in Seattle and a popular late-night dining spot (open until 1 a.m.). And who on occasion doesn’t lust for something warm and cozy like fondue at midnight? Try the goat cheese and lavender fondueserved with Dahlia Bakery wood-grilled bread and Cameo apples from Washington state. The dinner menu also features hand-crafted cheeses including Off Kilter, West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, Cana de Cabra, Perrydale and Two-Faced Blue.

Sue Frause is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer whose words and images appear in magazines and online publications. Her travel adventures, which have taken her to the seven continents, may also be heard on Around the World Travel Radio in Santa Barbara and KVI AM 570 in Seattle. Her work can be found at