I Love Grilled Cheese: Melt Bar and Grilled
Soon after I started cooking grilled cheese sandwiches and blogging about them, I began emailing a few different people who are involved in the restaurant business and have a special tie to grilled cheese. I was interested in hearing why they are so interested in grilled cheese sandwiches and how it fits into a restaurant when not being featured on a children’s menu.
The first restaurant I contacted has a new grilled cheese sandwich each and everyday. The owner seemed very interested in answering my questions. However, I believe but cannot confirm, that once he realized I had never visited the restaurant he began to ignore me and my questions. I eventually gave up and decided that although I was intrigued by his restaurant, I would never visit it.
The second restaurant I contacted was much more responsive and Mr. Matt Fish of Melt Bar and Grilled answered my questions. With just a couple nudges, he took time out of his very busy schedule to answer my questions in full. Unfortunately I have not been to his restaurant in a couple of years, but because he was so nice and forthcoming, I will do my best to make it back as quickly as I can. Plus, it is a grilled cheese restaurant, why wouldn’t I want to return? (The one time I dined at Melt, I ordered the Parmageddon, which Matt names as one of the most popular sandwiches. I can definitely see why, considering I am still talking about it two years later. I would highly recommend it.)
Below are Mr. Fish’s answers in his own words. If you live in the Cleveland area or ever visit, make sure to stop by Melt. I owe him a great deal of gratitude for being our first interviewee. Please add your comments below regarding the “interview” or the I Love Grilled Cheese feature. I hope for this to turn into a somewhat regular series.
How long has Melt Bar and Grilled been open and how long have you personally been in the restaurant business?
Melt Bar and Grilled has been open since September 2006. I have been working in the restaurant business since 1992. So it has been about 17 years now. I have a combination of culinary arts schooling and self-taught on the job training. I have always worked for independent restaurants and have tried to put my touch and signature on every establishment.
Please expand on your love for grilled cheese and how it evolved into a restaurant.
I have loved grilled cheese for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest cooking memories from childhood are making grilled cheese with my mom. It has always been my go-to food of choice. Working in restaurants everyday for so long, you really need a go-to, no brainier favorite food. Something quick, simple and delicious. I have always had the dream of opening my own restaurant. I came up with the idea for Melt Bar and Grilled a few years before actually opening for business. I really wanted to do something different and special in the restaurant community here in Cleveland. I needed a very unique concept and product. Since I have always been very much in love with grilled cheese and comfort type foods, it was really a simple decision.
Do you believe that most people stereotype the grilled cheese in that they think it is boring and for children?
My experience with Melt Bar and Grilled and grilled cheese has been overwhelmingly positive. When people hear that we are a gourmet grilled cheese restaurant, they get very excited and very hungry. I think the grilled cheese is a very common connection food for many Americans. Everyone has a memory or a story involving grilled cheese. Plus the way we approach and produce the grilled cheese makes it light years from a so-called “boring” childhood favorite.
Have you seen a positive response to your restaurant?
The response has been 100% positive and very overwhelming. People from all walks of life have embraced Melt Bar and Grilled and call it home. We have expanded our small restaurant twice to accommodate the crowds and I am currently working on opening a second Melt in Cleveland Height by the end of 2009.
What has been the most popular sandwich and what is your favorite?
The most popular sandwich is pretty much a 3 way tie. The classic Kindergarten is our basic grilled cheese. Choose your cheese from the 12 that we offer and add pretty much anything you would like. Or simply order it straight up and enjoy the classic deliciousness. The Wake & Bacon is also a favorite. It features 2 farm raised fried eggs, crisp bacon and american cheese. The Parmageddon is also a great seller. It combines 2 locally produced potato and cheese pierogi, fresh made napa vodka kraut, grilled onions and sharp cheddar.
My favorite sandwich is something I call the “classic” I just combine 2 fried eggs, grilled tomatoes and american cheese. I am a vegetarian, so it is a great sandwich for me.
Where does your sandwich inspiration come from?
I am inspired by classic American comfort foods. I simply try to convert them and create a grilled cheese sandwiches from the idea. We offer a special sandwich every month that really has taken on a life of it’s own. I am constantly trying to out do myself every month. For example, this month we are featuring a sandwich called The Corny Beast. It is our take on the corn dog. We shove a grilled jumbo hot dog and double american cheese inside the sandwich. Then, corn bread batter the whole sandwich and deep fry till golden brown. We serve it with sticks also for that old school carnival feel. All the specials have been great sellers for us.
Thanks for the opportunity to answer these questions and be a part of your blog.
Melt Bar and Grilled • 14718 Detroit Road • Lakewood, OH 44107 • 216.226.3699