After nearly 80 years in the artisan cheese business, the Murray’s brand is branching out with its first fast-casual outpost dedicated to the cheesiest of dishes.
Murray’s Mac & Cheese — the newest endeavor for the Greenwich Village-based cheesemakers behind Murray’s Cheese (circa 1940) — takes classic comfort food to new heights. Incorporating imported gourmet cheeses into the childhood favorite, the eatery, located next door to both Murray’s Cheese and accompanying Murray’s Cheese Bar, officially opens its doors Friday after a weeklong soft launch.
A small eatery catering to the neighboring college crowd (and others with cheese-prone palates), Murray’s Mac & Cheese has six made-to-order bowls on the menu, with 10 cheese varieties and nearly two dozen toppings.
“This was a quick project. We weren’t anticipating going into” the macaroni and cheese business, says David Elkins, the executive chef at Murray’s. “It has always been in the back of our leadership team’s mind: We serve mac and cheese super quickly, but also have guests customize it any way they want.”
On Tuesday, the second day of the shop’s soft launch, about a dozen curious eaters sit at tables testing out the ornate dishes.
Elkins says his team first noticed a demand for an on-the-go version of the dish while working at Murray’s Cheese Bar, where the meal remains a popular order. But, it can’t be ordered to-go. The vague idea for a gourmet mac and cheese outpost has been long-standing, but the implementation of the shop only took about six weeks.
“We did something similar in Milan, Italy,” Elkins says. “It was a diner in a bunker in Italy … the logistics were even more difficult [there] … so this time we had some practice and a quick turnaround, quick training and a quick opening.”
Elkins, 30, crafted the new NYC spot’s mac and cheese recipes himself, incorporating a mix of cheeses from Switzerland, including raclette, New York cheddar and a Gruyère that he says Murray’s has exclusive access to.
Diners can choose from mac and cheese flavors such as carbonara, French onion and BBQ, with sizes ranging from eight to 28 ounces. Toppings are also available for an additional one to four dollars and include an assortment of meats, veggies and sauces.
Elaborate additions aside, the chef’s favorite remains the classic, with broccoli mixed in. He also recommends the Buffalo chicken. Both dishes range from $7 to $26, depending on the add-ins.
Elkins says the shop is temporary, with plans to remain open for a minimum of four months. He has no projected closing date. While there are permanent gourmet mac and cheese stations throughout the city (S’MAC, Macbar), according to the executive chef, guests should taste the difference for themselves.
“It’s definitely the quality of our products that sets us apart,” he says. “I’ve been to quite a few other restaurants in the city, some that specialize just in mac and cheese and I was so underwhelmed by the cheese flavor that was frankly hard to find. I think mac and cheese can be very bland — a lot of places will put too much sauce in it, or not enough but I think for us, it comes down to the quality of the ingredients.”
Murray’s Mac & Cheese is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily at 254 Bleecker St.