To be fair, when I first heard murmurings of a grilled cheese restaurant opening in town, I was skeptical. I pictured a sanitized and simplified version of the family-friendly greasy spoon with a withered wait staff, cornucopia of culinary transgressions, and who knew what else: vinyl booths, giant sodas in those irritating retro-red plastic Coke cups, booster chairs, coloring place mats and paper hats?
However, reports started filtering back that Melt was not merely a grilled cheese restaurant, but (and the clouds parted) a grilled cheese restaurant and bar!
Maybe the folks at Melt possessed some psychic ability, but this place hit me squarely in the intended demographic: Melt was absolutely the sort of place I’d been waiting for.
The space borrows the well-worn charm, comfort, and patina of an older bar and blends it successfully with some cool visual updates. New lighting, decor pieces, and some awesome cutlery-encrusted stained glass above the front door give the room a nice hip touch that still pairs well with the somewhat standard, but interesting collection of Cleveland memorabilia that covers the walls.
The real joy of Melt, however, is what the album cover holds: not just dated cover art, but a menu of delicious, if somewhat standard takes on bar appetizers, a collection of respectable, freshly made salads (each with cheese, of course), eight tasty half-pound burgers, and, saving the best for last, more than 20 different grilled cheese sandwiches.
If you’re not going to be getting pierogies ($5.50) later (they show up on the Parmageddon ($9) along with napa vodka kraut, grilled peppers and onions, and plenty of cheddar), these locally produced gems are close to perfect and definitely provide the avid beer drinker with a good start on sustenance. Hand-cut fries ($5.50) are also good but, again, there’s a good chance you’ll be seeing more of these later if you plan to order a sandwich.
If you are hoping to avoid any possible redundancy, try the spinach and artichoke dip ($8), a bar classic at its best.
My guests evinced an almost universal dislike for the roasted garlic and tomato soup ($3.25), though, which was served as thick as chunky tomato sauce. The flavors seemed to be on point, but the consistency disappointed those looking for what we generally consider “soup.” That, however, is my only complaint, because everything that comes after is simply wonderful.
Instead, I will list my five favorites. They are: The Kindergarten ($5) with tomato and bacon added; the Wake & Bacon ($6) with fried egg, bacon and American cheese; the Smokey Russian ($9.50) with smoked turkey, vodka kraut and smoked Gouda; the Municipal Stadium Magic ($9) with local bratwurst, vodka kraut, grilled peppers and American cheese; and the Chorizo & Potato ($7.50). Friends raved about most of the other selections, including a Grilled Peanut Butter and Banana ($6), fit for The King.
Melt Bar & Grilled, 14718 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, (216) 226-3699. Kitchen hours: Mon-Thu 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Fri-Sat 11 a.m. - midnight, Sun 9 a.m. - 9 p.m.