4 Out of 5: Rina Raphael on New York

Rina Raphael is a features & fashion editor at TODAY. This is her take on four places she likes, and one place she doesn’t.

RECOMMENDED

Culturefix – "This bar/art gallery/performance space is my favorite hangout in NYC. Besides boasting great grilled cheese sandwiches, Culturefix hosts an array of interesting, unique events, including classical music concerts on Sunday evenings. It’s not pretentiously annoying, I swear. (Really.)"

Beecher’s Cheese – "I’d like to think of myself as a budding mac ‘n cheese critic and this cheese factory/restaurant serves the most effortlessly gooey, tasty dish (appropriately) called ‘the world’s best mac ‘n cheese.’ Not an exaggeration."

Daha Vintage – "Roughly half of my clothing purchases in the last year come from this awesomely affordable vintage shop, which consistently stocks a wide array of unique clothing in the most brilliant of fabrics. You can score an amazing dress for under $80."

Despaña – "This authentic little Spanish shop sells small bites like croquetas, sardine toasts, and little sandwiches that you can just grab and go. (Also, free cheese samples!) Highly recommended if you need a snack break during Soho shopping excursions. It’s the best ‘fast’ food in the area."

NOT SO MUCH

Clinton Street Baking Company – "Don’t do the cliché NYC ritual of Clinton Street Baking Co. for weekend brunch. (Unless you enjoy waiting an hour in line, you’re better off ordering their famous pancakes during the evening, when there’s no line.) If you do get tired of waiting, head across the street to Pause, a teensy café that might not look like anything special but sells the best egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches in the LES. (Their secret? They use Fontina cheese and ciabatta rolls)."

Beecher’s Cheese NYC vs. Carpenters’ Union

Forget hyperlocal, we’re getting painfully local here. As someone who lunches on the north side of Union Square here in New York, I’m always keeping a watchful eye for anything new and different besides sandwiches or this excellent mediocre Thai I’m enjoying as of this writing. So, when a colleague and former Seattleite noted that a branch of the Emerald City’s Beecher’s Cheese was opening around the corner, I was particularly aroused by his enthusiasm for their macaroni & cheese. I can modestly say I’m something of an authority on the subject, so I’ve kept close tabs on the storefront. However, there is trouble in cheese-town.

There are strikers out front! Well not strikers exactly, but more demonstrators in a labor dispute. (They are explicitly not striking or interfering with business in any way.) The guys with the sign have a flyer that explains their beef in detail, but the gist is that the contractor creating the cheese temple is not using union carpenters. Such a contractor is depicted on the flyer as a rat devouring an American flag. I was actually hoping for an appearance of the giant inflatable rat that’s usually involved in NYC labor demonstrations, because that would go perfectly with the cheese thing. But I guess we’re not at that level yet. I am pro-union though, so: Mr. Kurt Dammeier, CEO of Beecher’s Cheese, please resolve this situation immediately to ensure the sturdiest possible delivery system for your delicious mac. Calls to Mr. Dammeier’s office were not returned because they were not made.