The Cheese Iron

This is not your lunchbox’s ham and cheese. Smoky ham, taleggio, sweet chutney and basil, grilled on crusty baguette. This is the sandwich I have been wanting all year, maybe all my life. It is one of those rare instances where every ingredient is perfect in itself, in proportion and combination to create a sandwich more than the sum of its parts. It was a lunch of increasing returns, as each bite became better and more interesting, each different than the last. It’s Versailles and Thoreau’s Cabin at Walden Pond rolled into one. Malcolm had the Cuban, which hit every taste sensation: salty, sweet, spicy, and sour. Ham, pork, cheese, pickles and a midly spicy condiment as contradictory as Havana itself, pressed together like lovers in the night. Too much? No. You haven’t had this Cuban. And you have to have this Cuban. The Cheese Iron on Route 1 in Scarborough is magnificent, and it changed my life.

The barnlike structure boasts exposed beams and a quaint farmer’s table. Everywhere there are the good things in life: wine, salami – an entire room of hanging meats, curing – dry pasta, sauces, oils, baked goods and cheese. Glorious cheese. Sitting prettily on top of the display case in profound wedges, with the softer, more delicate varieties such as bleu and brie staying cool inside. It is a treasure trove of earthly delights. And the staff was easy and breezy, chatting, offering samples (which we were powerless not to buy) recommending restaurants and generally being a hell of a lot more awesome than most cheesemongers/mixologists/record store jerks tend to be. I am loathe to refer to picking up lunch as an experience, but it really was a very pleasant…time. I wanted to have all the things in this shop, in my life, all the time. And isn’t that the general idea?

Jillian Bedell

Jillian Bedell is a writer and mother living in a farmhouse in Cushing, Maine. She is very good at talking about herself in the third person. She is co-author of Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road. She creates content on the internet, on subjects ranging from summer camps to semi-precious stones to the folklore of food. With Malcolm, Jillian was one of the original "Insiders," for the Visit Maine tourism campaign. She loves telling the stories of her adopted state, finding out-of-the-way places, and people making interesting things. Watching her daughters play in the wild woods and fields of Cushing makes her very happy.


  1. They’re just plain amazing. And they’ll remember what cheeses you love and make recommendations based on what you have bought in the past. The whole time my friend was pregnant they were amazing at remembering and picking out cheeses for us that were pasteurized.

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  2. Another great review,The Cheese Iron is truly a gem for the entire region.Their selection,knowledge and service are exceptional.The only problem,Vince actually thinks he can sing.

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  3. FINALLY! 🙂
    If I could live in that shop, particularly in their aging room, I would. Not only do their cheeses blow my palette away every single time I’m there, but their collective product knowledge is f’ing ridiculous and unmatched by any specialty store north of Boston (or even north of NYC, I’d wager). If I could live inside the brain of Vince, Kara and Jill, I would. I am in awe of them every time I go in there.

    Some of the best risotto, cured meat, chocolate and olive oil I’ve ever had came from their shelves. And don’t forget the fact that you can pick up a 1/2lb of duck fat whenever you need.

    I think it can be safely said that I have a food crush on The Cheese Iron.

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  4. My husband and I are planning a move to Portland Maine in the next 2 years and at the end of the summer we want to drive up the coast from philadelphia and your blog has given me soo many spots that I want to stop and eat at along the way, including this place. Sounds amazing! And thank you so much for all the great knowledge of Maine!!

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  5. I guess I need to go back. I read about it a few months back when I moved here, so I went and I was the only person in the place. The employees were nice, but I thought it was going to be a restaurant and it wasn’t. It’s like a cheese shop (which didn’t seem to have an overwhelming amount of cheese selections compared to a grocery store) and a deli counter you can order a sandwhich or two from. I didn’t notice anyplace to sit to eat, but it’s possible I missed it. Was I in the wrong place?

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  6. I happened upon this terrific website because The Cheese Iron commented on your glowing review. And– coincidentally, found one of your reviews while on Urban Spoon.

    I’ve just spent the last two hours reading reviews and your sandwich log… LOVE it and your writing.

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  7. I’m enjoying a Cuban as we speak – couldn’t resist after reading about it. It’s been far too long since my last visit. I only have one complaint, and it’s not their fault. I have a major case of Captain Crunch mouth from the crusty bread. It’s totally worth the pain!

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    1. Wow, I am usually pretty tuned in to Crunchberry mouth, and I don’t remember experiencing it with this sandwich. I agree, though…worth every strand of dangling mouth-beef. 🙂

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