Most Interesting People 2010 - Matt Fish

Matt Fish
Restaurateur | 36

Why he’s interesting … He’s the man behind Lakewood’s Melt Bar and Grilled. What started as a neighborhood bar three years ago has morphed into a temple of gourmet grilled cheese. Fish is bringing his monster-sized sandwiches to a second location, Cleveland Heights, this year.

Early influences … Fish worked at Marco Polo’s in Brecksville, Fat Fish Blue downtown and Johnny Mango World Café in Ohio City.

On the power of grilled cheese … Fish often made one for himself at the end of the night. Inevitably, co-workers would ask him to make one for them, too. “I saw the intrigue,” he recalls. “As soon as you say ‘grilled cheese’ and tell someone you’re going to make one for them, their eyes light up.”

Expectations for Melt … “I originally thought I was opening a bar that served really good beer and just happened to have this grilled cheese menu. If I served 100 people in a weekend, that would be really crazy busy.”

Reality … “If we don’t serve close to 600 sandwiches on a Friday or Saturday night, something is wrong.”

Comfort mood … A recent special was a melt stacked with meatloaf, chipotle ketchup, mashed potatoes and Muenster cheese. “I want people to have some sort of memory trigger with what we do. I want them to associate it with something positive or heartwarming.”

Loyal customers … In September, he offered a lifetime 25 percent discount to those with a Melt logo-inspired tattoo. By mid-December, 50 people had been inked. “People are getting way into it,” Fish says. 

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