The people behind the counters at L.A.’s cheese shops are a passionate bunch. Their eyes widen and sometimes even tear up when they talk about cheese. There’s Kia Burton, co-owner of the Cheesemongers of Sherman Oaks, who lights up as she recommends the silky goat cheese Sofia and offers samples along with tips for proper storage; cheesemonger Sigmund Werndorf at Wally’s Beverly Hills, who breaks into an excited tale of war and history behind cheese as he slices; cheesemonger Lynne Affleck at Wheel House, who confides that she tastes French onion soup in the German cheese Sternschnuppe; and Lydia Clarke, co-owner of DTLA Cheese, who gets misty-eyed talking about the honor of working with small dairies and bringing their products to the public. (More than one of these enthusiastic folks sports a cheese-related tattoo as well.)
As this cast of cheese characters will tell you, specialty cheese shops help bring cheese alive for their customers by carrying small-batch cheeses and hard-to-find varieties, emphasizing proper storage and quality control and focusing on customer service — imparting cheese knowledge to customers and offering samples and suggestions to help you find what you didn’t even know you wanted.
There are a number of good cheese shops in L.A., with new stores opening regularly as veterans of established venues open their own stores in new neighborhoods, and as American interest in “real” cheese continues to grow. Each shop serves a different community and has different strengths, but these are the best cheese shops in Los Angeles.
A fairly recent addition to the cheese-shop scene, Milkfarm opened in 2014 when owner Leah Park Fierro struck out on her own after managing the Cheese Store of Silverlake. Milkfarm carries one of the best selections of cheese and a great stock of accompaniments, including baguettes and mini loaves from Bread Lounge. The store emphasizes knowledgeable service from cheesemongers versed in the science and production of each cheese. It also carries a variety of interesting extras, everything from cheese-themed, letterpress greeting cards to cheese knives, with a preference for made-in-L.A. products. (Keep an eye out for the popular raclette nights to return this fall.)
2106 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock; (323) 892-1068, milkfarmla.com.
Andrew's Cheese Shop
There’s a sense of adventure at Andrew’s Cheese Shop, fostered by passionate owner Andrew Steiner. You’ll find experiments like Le Cornilly goat cheese aged in the shop and changing multicourse menus for fancy grilled cheese and beer nights (or occasionally grilled cheese and wine pairings). The fancy grilled cheese events sell out quickly, but the shop also offers grilled cheese sandwiches on the store menu every Sunday. (Tables and chairs are arranged in the shop for after-hours events, but most of the time there isn’t a dining area, aside from a couple of tables at the eatery next door that tend to do double duty for Andrew’s, so plan accordingly if picking up sandwiches.) The staff wants to help you learn about cheese here and even print out a description of each cheese you buy so you can remember the details when you get home.
728 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 393-3308, andrewscheese.com.
Cheesemongers of Sherman Oaks
Cheesemongers of Sherman Oaks opened two years ago, and it's in that sweet spot of a great new shop that’s reaching its stride but isn’t overcrowded yet. Co-owner Kia Burton used to work for Cowgirl Creamery and has been following her cheese bliss ever since. She and husband Tyler Burton run the shop with a focus on selling their cheese at peak condition (carefully stored and cut to order). Beyond cheese, they keep an exciting charcuterie case, and their selection of chocolates, crackers and other cheese-friendly accompaniments is so well curated you’re likely to make a happy discovery no matter what you grab. (They don’t sell alcohol but Valley Beverage, a must-visit liquor store, is only a block away.) The sandwiches they make every morning (available until sold out) are just what you want in a simple cheese shop sammy: fresh baguette, cheese that stands out, and a tasty addition or two that brings it all together, such as jam, chorizo or pickled peppers.
14517 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (818) 849-5523, cheesemongersofshermanoaks.com.
Wheel House features a small cheese and charcuterie counter, a small wine room and a small patio out back. The unassuming but pleasant shop carries excellent cheeses and offers great service that extends to thoughtful cheese boards put together with your tastes in mind. Though the shop is usually quieter during the day, its events can get busy: Check out the Wine Wednesdays, Craft Beer and Cheese Thursdays and Raclette Night Fridays. (Many shops that offer raclette nights — featuring melted raclette on plates of ham, potatoes, onions and cornichons — take a break during the summer months or only offer the event occasionally, but Wheel House is still going with raclette every Friday due to popular demand.)
12954 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City; (424) 289-9167, wheelhousecheese.com.
The Cheese Store of Silverlake
Fourteen years ago, the Cheese Store of Silverlake was opened by Chris Pollan, who'd previously worked at the the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. When Pollan died in 2015, his wife, Alane Pollan, took over ownership and continues to run this neighborhood favorite shop. The staff takes cheese seriously, and they’re happy to make recommendations and help you hunt for the right cheese for your needs. The selection is very good, and there’s always an interesting new item to add to your cheese board, such as the Mojave Desert vine-ripened raisins currently available, along with a reliable stock of other tried and true accompaniments — oils, wine, pickled peppers, etc. They can get very busy and sometimes are less stocked toward the end of a weekend, so when you find something, snatch it up.
3926 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 644-7511, cheesestoreofsilverlake.com.
Located in busy Grand Central Market, DTLA Cheese can feel a little more hectic than your typical cheese shop, but the knowledgeable cheesemongers still take their time with customers and are happy to talk cheese and answer questions. Though the counter is not huge, they carry a good selection and they particularly love to feature small producers. (Sisters Marnie Clarke and Lydia Clarke own both DTLA Cheese and the Claremont shop Cheese Cave, though the vibe and stock of the two shops differ greatly.) This location has a kitchen and lunch menu featuring made-to-order items such as avocado and herbed ricotta toast.
317 S. Broadway #45, stall A7-A8, downtown; (213) 290-3060, dtlacheese.com.
Wally's Cheese Box
Wally’s Cheese Box is indeed a small “box” of a store, located next to the larger liquor store Wally’s Wine and Spirits, but the little shop houses a great selection of cheeses and accompaniments. Friendly service and good cheese, including some harder-to-find varieties (we recently spotted Andante’s Rondo, a terrific soft-ripened cheese from a cow's/goat’s milk blend, and several buffalo milk cheeses). The shop is known for its sandwiches, especially the popular Wally’s Hero, which features provolone, Italian meats and pepperoncini and makes a great meal.
2107 Westwood Blvd., Westwood; (310) 475-0606, wallywine.com.
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Wally's Beverly Hills
In addition to Wally’s Cheese Box, there’s Wally’s Beverly Hills, an elegant wine bar and restaurant ... with a cheese counter in the back. If you dine at the restaurant, you can order from an extensive cheese and charcuterie list to build your own board. But you can also just head back to the cheese shop and pick up something to take home. The mongers are helpful and enthusiastic and the selection is very good (similar to the Cheese Box). There’s plenty of wine and shelves of fun gourmet items to try with your cheese board, such as sweet pistachio butter.
447 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 475-3540, wallywine.com.
The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills
An established and beloved cheese shop operating since 1967, this long and narrow store is stocked to the brim with cheese, wine, bread, oils, pasta, caviar and other goods. The cheese selection here offers about 300 to 500 cheeses, depending on the season. After choosing your cheese, you might pick up a Bub and Grandma sourdough boule (it's one of the few retailers for this great local bakery) and a bottle of wine from the same region your cheese was made (a guiding principle in the wine program here). Monthly cheese and wine tastings focus on a particular region (tickets are $65), and you can listen to a podcast recording of each tasting on the website, too. (Though this shop does have an educational bent here and even offers classes for credit at professional culinary schools, the emphasis is on fun and appreciation beyond traditional pairings and rules.)
419 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 278-2855, cheesestorebh.com.