Houseman is good at a lot of things, but it’s the consistent, careful deployment of cheese that makes my knees wobble. A snow-white slice of liquified Melville—a buttery cow’s milk cheese from Connecticut—holds together charred broccoli, gritty with breadcrumbs and chilies. Let it cool a bit, so the cheese strings way out like a loose bungee cord, and it’s even more fun to twirl and eat. Flutters of briny goat cheese sweeten and season a pile of bitter purple chicory leaves dressed with lemon and olive oil. And though you can only find it at lunchtime, described as a French onion sandwich, Houseman makes an extraordinary grilled cheese with caramelized onions and big, squeaky, half-melted cheddar curds.
The burger is something, too. It involves two thin, crisp-edged patties with a faint line of pink running through each center, fused together with melted swiss cheese and a sweet, delicious black mass of deeply caramelized onion and mushroom. This is all contained in a Martin’s potato roll, the ideal vehicle for a burger because while it’s pleasingly squishy, it knows how to hold itself together under the duress of dripping cheese and beef juice. There’s no cheese in sight on the fries, and I’d be inclined to complain about them costing an extra $2, but I do believe they are perfect. (Which is to say, the way I like them: thick, salty, and super crisp).