An Early Look at Cheesetique in Shirlington (Pictures)

Cheese is the star of the show at this larger outpost of the popular Del Ray wine bar and shop.

Warm chèvre and tomato dip at Cheesetique. Photograph by Kyle Gustafson.

Cheesetique owner Jill Erber had a very busy 2011. First, she nearly doubled the capacity of her seven-year-old cheese shop and wine bar in Del Ray by adding a 40-seat dining room. And in late December, she debuted an even larger, 75-seat operation in Shirlington.

“They say you can never have too much of a good thing, but I may,” says the mother of two toddlers.

The same could be said for Cheesetique’s menu, which is bigger than ever thanks to all the new space. It’s tricky choosing from seven varieties of mac and cheese—little cauldrons brimming with pimento-cloaked fusilli, or egg noodles tossed with manchego, chicken, peas, and mushrooms—or the six types of grilled cheese, which range from the almost familiar (aged cheddar on tangy grilled sourdough) to the exotic (sweet Swedish gjetost cheese layered with bananas). Purists can pick from rotating cheese boards or a creamy round of Italian burrata—mozzarella with a creamy center—while those looking for less fromage-focused fare can opt for a pulled-chicken sandwich with blue-cheese-spiked slaw or crisp flatbread with garlicky shrimp and a light layer of mild crescenza. All can be washed down with cheese-friendly wines and beers.

The smorgasbord of options continues in the front shop, where Erber stocks a deep case of samples, cured meats, and all the accoutrements like honeys, chutneys, crackers, olives, and pickles, plus the same fortified sips found in the dining room. If you’re a cheese novice looking to learn more, ask questions; Erber says her staff goes through an intensive training program (including exams), so they’re fully prepped to articulate the differences between Comté and cacio de Roma.

Next up, Erber may be introducing brunch and seasonal specials to both Cheesetique locations, as well as deals in Shirlington for patrons of the nearby Signature Theatre.

Cheesetique. 4056 Campbell Ave., Arlington; 703-933-8787; Open Monday to Sunday 11 AM to 10 PM.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.