Believe it or not, Matt Fish did not intend to create a ridiculously popular gourmet grilled-cheese restaurant. He wanted Melt to be "a really cool neighborhood bar, something just for Lakewood," with the West Side's best beer selection. "And since I'm a culinary guy, I wanted to have a restaurant with it to serve really good bar food," he recalls.
Fish opened Melt in 2006 as a replacement for his favorite bar, the Warren Tavern, "a real hole-in-the-wall kind of place with an amazing beer list." After a Walgreen's displaced the Warren, Fish filled the gap, assembling a bar with 120 beers between draft and bottle.
But as soon as Melt opened, diners from throughout Cleveland went nuts about its three dozen variations on grilled cheese. Long waits for tables convinced Fish to open a Cleveland Heights location last year and a Melt in Independence last month.
The beer list, though overshadowed, is still billed as the town's "most dangerous." Each location still offers 120 choices, including 20 on draft in Lakewood, 36 in Cleveland Heights and 40 in Independence. The new location's army of taps allows room in the fridges for several bottled 22-ouncers.
Beers are chosen for flavor more than strength, to pair with food and please beginning and advanced craft-brew drinkers alike.
"The beer is really good, but accessible to more than your really beer-snobby person," Fish says.
2 to try
Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA: Fish has kept it on draft since Melt opened and has it on tap at home. "It's a perfect balance of hoppiness and drinkability," he says.
Bell's Two Hearted Ale: A celebrated craft beer named after a Michigan river and a Hemingway story, it's an IPA with a hint of citrus.