It’s about time that the far Upper East Side where East Harlem meets starts getting spots like this that you would normally find only downtown. Earl’s Beer & Cheese is located in a pretty vacant stretch along Park Ave and 97th where the train overpass meets the tunnel underground. Not much of a view but who cares when all you need to look at are your terrific beers and wonderful cheese plates.
As others have mentioned the place is insanely tiny. Personally, that does not bother me as long as I can grab a seat or spot to enjoy my brew. For others I can see where they would become claustrophobic quickly. When we arrived here around 6PM on Saturday there were only around eight people there, but by 7PM I had counted around 25 and it was jammed packed. This place has become popular very quickly in this neck of the woods, and for good reason.
Basically, it is one long communal table that seats 8-10 people. A small counter with a few stools looks out the front, and there is another narrow counter along the wall to stand at. Really, before we left a few hours later there still must have been close to 25 people in there and it was rocking. They were playing a cool mix of 80’s rock and I remember hearing The Cars and The Police playing a lot. Also, it can get a bit warm in here but they had the whole front open letting in a nice evening breeze. The place resembles a faux hunting lodge with mounted deer heads on the walls, murals of deer in the woods, and a bathroom that looks like you are in a wooden shed outhouse.
The menu features some creative takes on cheese. We had the Beer Cheese which was terrific. Comes in basket of bread that is presented as toast points buttered on each side. So airy and crispy. You get a good amount of spreadable cheddar beer cheese, and a tin with garlic cloves too. Yummy, yum, yum!
Mmmmm……Beer Cheese. Just thinking about it is making me drool. As if cheese is not like crack to begin with!
There are other plates such as a cheese board, grilled cheese sandwiches, Asian Gnocchi & Beef, Mac & Cheese, a gourmet Eggo waffle with foie gras, cheddar, and coffee-cured bacon, among a few other items to choose from. From what we tried, and talking to the people around us eating, everything here is on-point. Just order at the bar and the staff will bring it over to you. Be aware that it is cash only as of this writing.
Can I mention the beer selection? I was pleasantly surprised at the craft beer options on tap and in cans. Draft beers served in glass mugs go for $5 – $6, and canned beers run $3-$8. They even have Growlers To Go – $19 Refills / $4 for a Growler. The four line beer selection rotates and they bring in different brews constantly. Autumnation in cans, Victory Pilsner on tap, and Troegs Stout on tap were just a few that we enjoyed. They pair exceptionally well with the cheese plate selections here.
Personally, I love a small place like this that serves the local community. Saw a mix of younger newbies and older stalwarts of the area in here. There was even a group of older ladies visiting from Poland that came in to down a few pints next to us and then head out. It was too funny. Again, this small place is probably not for everyone, especially if you can’t deal with crowds and being squished next to other patrons. I guess it also depends on what time you go as I heard that right after work hours / early evening is very busy. Still, this has become a new favorite of mine in my hood. So glad it is not downtown or in Brooklyn, as it is only a few minutes walk from where I live. Easy access for me to go and try out some more wonderful cheese concoctions and thirst quenching tasty beers.