The Melt Bar
14718 Detroit Avenue
Why has there never been a fast food restaurant based on grilled cheese, or a franchise place? When one sees grilled cheese on a menu, it almost always arrives as part of a kid's menu or packed in with the sides, a glaringly obvious placement for picky eaters and bland tastes. Grilled cheese, like Rodney Dangerfield, can't get respect. But does it really deserve it? As Oberlin proves every day of the week, grilled cheese CAN indeed be an oily mess of texture-less taste-less bread and plasticky cheese. I went to the Melt Bar hoping to be persuaded and perhaps moved, to re-attain my grilled cheese innocence.
The menu of the Melt Bar is a carefully constructed, yet audacious foray into the possibilities of the grilled cheese sandwich. Layered on top of thick-sliced and insanely crusty (that is the complimentary crusty) Italian bread, one can get such variations as the home-cookin' revivalesque Porky Cheese (honey ham, crisp bacon, swiss), the ethnic fusion sandwich of Smokey Russian (smoked turkey, napa vodka kraut, smoked gouda), or the insanity of the North Coast Shores (crab cakes, garlic spinach, roasted red pepper, and cream cheese). I opted for the Cleveland-inspired "Parmageddon," a sandwich filled with potato and cheese perogies, napa vodka kraut, grilled onions, and sharp cheddar. See Figure 1 below... Upon the first bite my mouth was in heaven! The crust of the italian bread shattered in buttery flakes while the melted cheese merged with the perogie cheese to create an unbelievably smooth thick creamy bite. Heavy? Fuck yeah. The sandwich is intense, starchy, mind-numbingly cheesy, totally slimy. What impressed me the most about this sandwich was the wild textures contained, from the shattering crust to the spongy interior of the bread, with the melted cheese versus the harder perogie cheese, and the potato-y perogie dumpling against the sweet grilled onions. Every bite gave me a new chance to taste a different balance of flavors and items.
My friends (heretofore know as the Chew Crew) ordered the Hot Italian (grilled salami, honey ham, pepperoni, sun-dried tomato pesto, roasted garlic, provolone) and the Westside Monte Cristo, a deep-fried grilled cheese with honey ham, smoked turkey, swiss, and american. The Hot Italian was a savory mix of deep flavors, expanding the cheese and bread bases with healthy heaps of meat and a tomato pesto that was a sour-sweet revelation. The Monte Cristo was AWESOME! Look at the bread! Deep fried and suddenly squishy soft, it was like a rich beignet-like donut, so that even the american cheese was richened, the whole thing a sweet almost-dessert decadent treat.
Plates are served with old-school french fries, cut thick and still with a dense true potato texture, and some seriously sub-par slaw, lacking almost any creaminess (i mean, a grilled cheese restaurant should not slack on creamy items, should they?) Perhaps they were thinking people might want a break from the cheese, but everyone at my table avoided the slaw nearly completely.
Some other standouts about the place are an outstanding and ridiculously reasonable beer list (Delirium Tremens, Dogfish Head, and Rasputin Imperial Stout all on draft!), and menus placed on the back of old records. I got a Twisted Sister album featuring Dee Snider waving around a half-knawed bone. I thought it was pretty fitting for the place! And the atmosphere, which is sort of like slightly done-up neighborhood bar. There is a faux-stained glass with inset cutlery, soccer playing on the television, and lots of brick, and the whole place is comfortable if not intensely hip or interesting. As for other menu items, salads and soups looked great, and I will definitely order the goldfish-laden Chili, and Fried Twinkie dessert upon a second visit, when I perhaps forgo the Parmageddon, as a gesture of kindness to my stomach.
The Rating - For a Primer, This is out of 5 MMMs