It’s nearly impossible to resist the allure of fried cheese on a bar menu, especially once you’ve had a drink or two. And not to knock the simple pleasure of a breaded mozzarella stick, but you can find more creative options than that. At these six D.C. restaurants, melted cheese is transformed into fritters, toast and more.
Chizze at Centrolina
An order of Centrolina’s lighter-than-air chizze arrives in an orderly pile in a little bowl and is dusted with grated cheese — as if these perfectly shaped fried pockets of dough weren’t already stuffed with mozzarella, fontina and a bit of Swiss chard. (Hey, there’s a vegetable in there). These piping-hot crispy raviolis — which rotate on and off the menu — look a bit like refined Cheez-Its, and they’re just as impossible to resist. $14. 974 Palmer Alley NW.
Cheese chili toast at Bindaas Foggy Bottom
Wedges of white bread never looked as appealing as they do at Bindaas, Foggy Bottom’s playful destination for Indian street food. Creamy melted white cheddar is studded with colorful snips of pepper and draped over toast for this offering on the restaurant’s “Cutting Chai” happy hour menu. The fiery take on the classic after-school snack of grilled cheese comes paired with gunpowder fries that boast an equally tingly dose of spice. $5. 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. “Cutting Chai” happy hour is available Sunday through Friday, 3 to 6 p.m. throughout the dining room and outdoor patio, and 3 to 7 p.m. at the bar.
Wisconsin cheese curds at the Big Stick
Every bar on the block may have mozzarella sticks, but Wisconsin-style cheese curds are a different story. Baseball-themed bar the Big Stick, located near Nationals Park, dunks these balls of firm but stretchy young cheddar into a fryer until they’re golden brown, then serves the cheesy nuggets with a chipotle ranch dipping sauce. $7. 20 M St. SE.
Tequeños at Arepa Zone
Venezuela’s version of a cheese stick is a thing of beauty, as seen at Arepa Zone’s stall at Union Market and stand-alone location on 14th Street. These fried bundles called tequeños consist of crispy dough encircling stretchy, melty Venezuelan queso blanco. Dunk them in the accompanying garlic-cilantro dipping sauce; if you’ve got a crowd, go for an order of tequeños pops: 20 bite-size versions of this cheesy snack. $7 for an order of five; $14 for an order of 20 pops. 1121 14th St. NW; Union Market, 1309 5th St. NE.
Carbonara fritters at Officina
Everything you love about pasta carbonara — including the pecorino cheese — is reduced down to two bites at Officina. The three-level Italian culinary wonderland at the Wharf serves bucatini carbonara fritters in its lower-level cafe, where the showpiece is a gilded, blue-tiled bar. Slide in during happy hour for a drink deal and complimentary snacks to go along with your fried carbonara. $6. 1120 Maine Ave. SW.
Crispy fried mozz at All-Purpose Capitol Riverfront
The fried mozzarella at this Italian American restaurant’s Navy Yard location definitely doesn’t skimp on the cheese. This is a huge, triangular hunk of mozzarella, so good luck if you’re saving room for pizza later. There’s Pecorino Romano and marinara sauce as an accent, but it’s really all about that golden fried crunch and the gooey, steaming hot cheese that pours out. No wimpy mozzarella sticks here. $11. 79 Potomac Ave. SE.