There are several ways to determine what makes an iconic cheese shop worth a visit. And as with many things in food and wine, there aren\u2019t simple answers. But, some guidelines can help you find the best cheese shop for your needs.\n\n\n\nCheese educator David Asher believes how a shop engages with its community is paramount. \u201cA great cheese shop makes connections between the cheese producers and consumers, and tries to form a relationship between them,\u201d he says.\n\n\n\nThis connection is part of a larger cultural shift to understand where and how our foods are made. \u201cCheese stores can act as a liaison between good farmers producing good cheese and their consumers,\u201d he adds.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nAdditionally, cheese scholar Carlos Yescas says the difference between a good and a great cheese shop often comes down to what\u2019s for sale and how it\u2019s being sold. A retailer worth its salt will seek out products from cheesemakers that share its values. This could mean supporting independent local producers, sourcing rare international labels and hiring and training staff to become cheese experts. In doing so, these shops become community hubs of cheese exploration.\n\n\n\nYou\u2019ll know a good cheesemonger when you meet them because they\u2019ll be excited to talk to you about their products and to cut samples for you to taste, says Christine Clark, a writer and cheese educator.\n\n\n\nWillingness to give samples is key, she adds. One person\u2019s cheese preference may be different than another's. Plus, cheese is a living product and can taste different each time you try it. \u201cWhereas wine has vintages by year, in cheese, each day can be like a new vintage,\u201d Clark says.\n\n\n\nIf you\u2019re ready to explore the evolving world of artisanal cheese, consider visiting one of these 10 iconic cheese shops. While they\u2019re certainly not the only destinations for quality cheese in the U.S., this list is a great place to start.\n\n\n\nIconic U.S. Cheese Shops to Visit\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nAntonelli\u2019s\n\n\n\nAustin, Texas\n\n\n\nOpened by husband-wife duo John and Kendall Antonelli in 2010, Antonelli\u2019s has grown into a Hyde Park institution with circa 100 kinds of cheese cut to order. Plus, you can find charcuterie, pickles, breads and other sundries. The brightly lit cafe offers custom boards and gift baskets, and its educational program includes everything from Cheese 101 classes to guided tastings on a local goat farm.\n\n\n\nYescas notes that many Austin chefs source ingredients from Antonelli\u2019s and credits the shop with bringing artisanal cheese culture to a new corner of the country. "They\u2019re a catalyst in their state for better cheese,\u201d he says.\n\n\n\nArtisan Cheese Company interior / Image Courtesy of Artisan Cheese Company \n\n\n\nArtisan Cheese Company\n\n\n\nSarasota, Florida\n\n\n\nOne of Clark\u2019s favorite shops, Artisan, opened a small storefront in 2012 and relocated to its current 2,000-square-foot space in Sarasota\u2019s Rosemary District in 2018. Its expansive selection includes such all-American standard-bearers as Jasper Hill and Point Reyes, as well as hard-to-source European producers like Switzerland\u2019s Gourmino and England\u2019s Neal\u2019s Yard. The airy, industrial digs also feature beer, natural wine, salumi and more, and the caf\u00e9 serves grilled cheese, crostini and other small plates.\n\n\n\nBeecher\u2019s Handmade Cheese\n\n\n\nSeattle, Washington\n\n\n\nWhile the Pike\u2019s Place location of this Seattle landmark is admittedly thronged with tourists, Beecher\u2019s earns its spot for longevity and influence. The original glass-walled shop opened in 2003 with a then-uncommon commitment to sourcing milk from local cows not fed recombinant bovine growth hormones and hand-making cheese onsite. Today, the original location has since spawned four caf\u00e9s throughout Washington, a shop in New York City and several airport outposts worth a visit.\n\n\n\nFairfield Cheese Shop / Image Courtesy of New England Food and Farm\n\n\n\nFairfield Cheese Company\n\n\n\nFairfield, Connecticut\n\n\n\nOne of Yescas\u2019 top shops is this storefront with \u201camazing service\u201d and an extensive selection of small-production U.S. and international cheeses. The store stocks cheeses like Jasper Hill Farms\u2019 ultra-seasonal, spruce-wrapped Winnimere cheese, Amsterdammer Betty Koster\u2019s Brabander Reserve and more.\n\n\n\n\u201cThe owners are committed to diversity and inclusion in their mongering, and they\u2019re also doing the hard work of connecting cheese enthusiasts to cheese with their tours,\u201d says Yescas. Fairfield Cheese Company offers classes devoted to U.S., Italian and other regional cheeses, and hosts trips to explore far-flung cheese cultures, like its October 2022 sojourn to the U.K., called A British Cheese Odyssey.\n\n\n\nFormaggio Kitchen / Image Courtesy of Morgan Mannino\n\n\n\nFormaggio Kitchen\n\n\n\nCambridge, Massachusetts\n\n\n\n\u201cPeople don\u2019t think Boston is a cheese town, but Boston is one of the original cheese towns. Vermont is our local farm,\u201d says Yescas. He hails Formaggio as a standard-bearer in the U.S. artisanal cheese movement, noting how the 1978 Cambridge shop not only served as its own importer of then-hard-to-find European cheeses, but also spawned two other Formaggios in the Boston area and one in New York City. In nearly 50 years of operation, Formaggio has introduced generations of northeasterners to specialty cheeses like Valen\u00e7ay frais (the Loire\u2019s ash-coated goat cheese) and Vermont\u2019s esteemed Jasper Hills.\n\n\n\nFromagination Shop interior / Image Courtesy of Fromagination Shop\n\n\n\nFromagination\n\n\n\nMadison, Wisconsin\n\n\n\nNearly 50% of U.S. specialty cheeses are made in Wisconsin, and dairy is a point of pride for many in the state. This spot on Madison\u2019s Capitol Hill celebrates the local bounty with an extensive collection of Wisconsin labels including Uplands Cheese and Bleu Mont Dairy, plus national and international selections like Norwegian Gjetost and Germany\u2019s crowd-pleasing blue cheese, Cambozola.\n\n\n\nMilkfarm / Image Courtesy of Milkfarm\n\n\n\nMilkfarm\n\n\n\nLos Angeles, California\n\n\n\nNatural wine and high-end pantry items, like Jacobsen sea salt, line the walls of this well-stocked shop in Los Angeles\u2019 Eagle Rock neighborhood. One of Asher\u2019s favorites, Milkfarm, specializes in cheeses from small and independent producers primarily in the L.A. area. It also offers made-to-order sandwiches\u2014including a cult grilled cheese\u2014plus baked goods and cheese boards to enjoy at the counter or sunny sidewalk seating.\n\n\n\nSaxelby Cheese Chelsea Market / Image Courtesy of Ben Tansel\n\n\n\nSaxelby Cheesemongers\n\n\n\nNew York, New York\n\n\n\nWhen legendary cheesemaker, educator and author Anne Saxelby opened this shop in Manhattan\u2019s Chelsea Market in 2006, it was hailed as New York City\u2019s first dedicated to American-made farmstead and artisanal cheese. Asher and Clark are among the many cheese pros who still sing its praises, citing its friendly atmosphere and knowledgeable cheesemongers who happily cut samples and talk through options with curious customers.\n\n\n\nSweet Freedom Cheese interior / Image Courtesy of Sweet Freedom Cheese \n\n\n\nSweet Freedom Cheese\n\n\n\nBentonville, Arkansas\n\n\n\n\u201cThere are a lot of very good cheese shops in the south and middle of the country,\u201d says Clark. He cites this operation in downtown Bentonville as a prime example. Hailed as Arkansas\u2019 first independent, cut-to-order cheese shop, Sweet Freedom highlights American artisan producers, as well as international varieties, and knowledgeable staffers, who happily offer samples of nearly everything. They also have a socially minded philanthropic arm, sometimes referred to as \u201cdo Gouda,\u201d which includes fundraisers for local and national organizations like the Children\u2019s Safety Center, a nonprofit in Springdale, Arkansas.\n\n\n\nZingermans Cheese / Image Courtesy of Zingerman's\n\n\n\nZingerman\u2019s\n\n\n\nAnn Arbor, Michigan\n\n\n\nStarted as a delicatessen in 1982, this Midwestern innovator now spans nine specialty food businesses. Highlights include Zingerman\u2019s Creamery, which produces cheeses with milk primarily from local, small-production dairy farms, and the Cream Top Shop, a retailer for U.S. artisan cheesemakers including Zingerman\u2019s label. Zingerman\u2019s hosts on-site events like Cheese 101 intro courses, cooking with cheese seminars and beer and cheese pairing classes, all of which feature other Zingerman\u2019s house-made bread and pickles.\n\n\n\nZingerman\u2019s \u201cchanged how the Midwest understood cheese and other specialty foods,\u201d says Yescas. \u201cAnd, because Zingerman\u2019s business includes mail service, its influence reaches so far.\u201d\n\n\n\nThe company ships gift baskets and individual cheeses nationwide and has a wholesale arm that works with distributors to place cheeses everywhere from Whole Foods and The Graduate Hotel, to Michigan\u2019s Plum Markets.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nHonorable Mentions\n\n\n\nAs valuable as cheese shops can be, they aren\u2019t the only places to find great cheese.\n\n\n\n\u201cConsider shopping for cheese at a local farmers market, where some of the best small cheese producers sell their stuff,\u201d says Asher. \u201cSome makers, for example, my favorite natural cheesemaker in America, Bobolink Dairy, sell exclusively at NYC-area farmers markets.\u201d\n\n\n\nAdditionally, specialty grocers like Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco and Philadelphia\u2019s Di Bruno Bros. have destination-worthy cheese selections among other gourmet goods.