I’m sure I’m not the first person in the history of restaurant reviews to notice that affordable eating establishments often lack a little something in the areas of atmosphere, creative individuality, and, frequently, presentation. I’m not dissin’ anyone, just noticin’. It’s a tough combo to master – affordable quality, tastiness, aesthetic appeal, comfortable atmosphere. Many make the attempt, most fall short. Cheese & Crack Snack Shop delivers on these dual efforts. They consistently offer, at worst, solid base hits and, at best, frequent home runs – for both great eats and ambiance.
Located in the heart of southeast’s Buckman neighborhood, kitty corner from the Laurelhurst Theater, Cheese & Crack Snack Shop is a modestly stylish (stylishly modest? You be the judge) and laidback destination for the foodie or foodie wannabe who still needs to keep it real in the money department. To borrow a quote from the back of their own wine list, Cheese & Crack is a place for, “lowbrow people with highbrow taste.”
I recently went there to enjoy their Happy Hour (Monday through Friday, 4 to 6 p.m.) but in my opinion, this wasn’t necessary: there are beautiful experiences to be had on the cheap at Cheese & Crack at any time of the day or night. In fact, for the day or nighttime dallier on a budget, I counted no less than 10 culinary delights priced at or under $10. Before I wax rhapsodic about them however, allow me a brief word or two of praise about the atmosphere in this establishment.
Though you might be tempted at first glance to think of Cheese & Crack as a coffee shop, to possibly bring your laptop and camp – using their space as your office away from home – don’t. And don’t and don’t. They do not offer free wifi and their computer policy specifically requests that customers help them cultivate a “screen free environment,” where “food and conversation are the focus.” How bold! How cheeky! How fantastic for those of us who are not in love with meeting screens at every bend in the rainbow. (Seating is also at a premium here, another practical reason to leave space-sucking screens and devices at home.)
You would do well to think of Cheese & Crack Snack Shop as a quasi-retro hangout with ultra-modern overtones for comfort foodies who like a touch of class with their day drinking, workday lunches, decadent date night desserts, mother-daughter brunches and let’s-ditch-social-studies-and-get-ice-cream-sundaes get togethers.
The space is small and expertly organized – bright with natural light from big windows during the day and moodily light at night. It manages to be cozy yet open-feeling. The music is always bumping and is eclectic, based on the taste of whichever Jack or Jill of all trades is working at the moment – and doing everything from taking your order to making your cheese plate to pouring your beer to baking the crackers to making the chocolate ganache to cleaning your table to washing the dishes. (It would behoove you to tip them generously.)
What about the food?! Oh yeah – it’s really, really good! C & C specializes in cheese and charcuterie plates, served on trays with things like local, raw honey, hot mustard, and salted ganache on little, bitty spoons; all to spread and enjoy on butter crackers, rosemary parmesan crackers (to die for!) and French baguette. They have mad ice cream sundaes, topped with their own homemade, torched, marshmallow fluff. Their old-fashioned vanilla soft-serve comes from the local Sunshine dairy and they even have a slushie machine. In said slushie machine for the next several warm months: Froze’, a kicky combo of rose’ wine and icy heaven.
Several of the dishes at C & C are built around their house Mornay, a fundamental cheese sauce that puts other imposters to shame. Try it with their Macaroni & Mornay, nachos, fondue, or just drink the stuff, it’s that good.
Cheese & Crack Snack Shop is a feel-good neighborhood hangout destination that thrives on people willing to be experimental, try something a little different, and have a good time doing it. They bring their best game, so bring yours, and enjoy.
10 Delights for Under $10
As promised, here are 10 items to be had at Cheese & Crack for under $10. May your frugal, food-lovin’ heart be set aflutter.
Cheese & Crack Sundae: $7
Fondue: $5 ($4 during Happy Hour)
Macaroni & Mornay (w/escebeche salad): $9
Wine/beer/cider/prosecco on tap/Froze’: $4-8
Mini snack cheese plate: $5 ($4 HH)
Homemade Cookie (with ice cream): $3 (What?!)
Brie & Jam Sandwich: $7 (a third of a French baguette, slathered with melty brie and marionberry jam or apple butter)
Capicola Sandwich: $8 (this sandwich is crazy good and has die-hard fans who come in for it several times a week)
The Ploughman’s Lunch: $8 (toasted baguette, sliced capicola, salami, fromage blanc, mustard, cornichons)