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The venerable Village shop has heeded the call of cheese-lovers and opened an outpost that serves dinner

Ever since Murray's Cheese opened The Cheese Bar two doors down Bleeker Street in 2012, the restaurant has seen a steady flow of cheese lovers looking to share decadent fondues and some of the best wine and cheese pairings in the city.

But recently, the people decided they wanted more: they wanted dinner.

So Murray's food service director, Julia Collins, 34, got to work devising a menu focused on cheesy comfort food.

While on a personal mission to make the best mac and cheese in the world, Collins first encountered Murray's in 2008, leaving the shop $40 in the hole and with just enough cheese for a single serving. A year later, she found herself living on a friend's buffalo farm in Italy, satisfying her desire to learn about all things artisanal and watching the product evolve from milk to cheese. Eventually, she came back to New York to work at Danny Meyer's various eateries, and brought the "casual-fast vibe" she loved with her to The Cheese Bar.

Last Friday afternoon, after a weeklong deep-freeze, The Cheese Bar was comfortably crowded. On the table in front of Collins was the Cheese Monger's Choice Plate, a variety of meats and cheeses garnished with sweet, syrupy cherries, spicy kimchi, and a whipped, creamy honey. This was accompanied by a sirloin burger from Ottomanelli and Son's Meat Market, served with Rarebit cheese sauce, and, of course, some Brisket Mac and Cheese.

The perfect mac and cheese, Collins says, has to be creamy, crusty, and deep.

"It also has to be sweet and nutty, and then have aspects that are sharp and salty. It should look decadent, literally melt over the pot," she explains. "The common mistake other restaurants make is that the cheese isn't high enough quality."

Collins always begins her day with a walk through Washington Square Park and over to The Cheese Bar, where she meets the rest of the Murray's family for their morning meal ? the staff often fights over who gets to cook it each day.

"Here, it's not just about the food, it's really and truly about the people, our team, our community and, of course, our guests," Collins says.

The Bleecker Street block has always been a one-stop shop - bread from Amy's, Italian delicacies from Faicco's, and baked goods from Rocco's. While it has indeed become a destination for many New Yorkers and out-of-towners, the locals are their most valued customers.

"Our neighbors are hands down the most important to us, because they'll be with us through the good times and the bad, no matter what," she said.

Every Monday night, from 5 p.m. until closing, locals love to come by for "Rockin' Raclette Night," when Cheesemongers warm the upper layer of a wheel of Raclette, and, as it melts, scrape of the melting layer and serve it on small plate with toasted bread, cornichons, and pepperoni. As if it couldn't get any more awesome, the evening is set to a soundtrack of rock tunes from the 70s and 80s.

Coming up on January 27th is their "Cold Nights, Hot Cheese" dinner ($75), a five-course cheese tour from France to Switzerland, regions famous for their hot cheese traditions like fondue.

As the neighborhood continues to see an increase in the number of specialty shops popping up (think Potatopia and Bantam Bagels) one thing is for sure: Murray's will always be the cheese shop, and The Cheese Bar will be there for those who want to make a meal of it.


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