Cleveland-based grilled cheese haven Melt Bar and Grilled opens tomorrow (Nov. 15) in the Short North. Last night, we got a sneak peek at the restaurant and its behemoth sandwiches.
The anchor tenant in the new Hub building on High Street, Melt is a bar food spot known for huge, quirky sandwiches on Texas-style toast. The atmosphere is kitschy, always nodding to its roots as a hole-in-the-wall bar on the west side of Cleveland, which opened in 2006, with plastic holiday lawn ornaments, menus backed with old records and soup served inside garage-sale coffee mugs (last night, for example, my cup of Buffalo Chicken Chowder came in a “World’s Best Engineer” mug).
What the Short North Melt lacks in neighborhood-y charm (it is a new-build space after all), it makes up for in a hefty beer list (40 on tap and another 40 in bottles) and huge sandwiches and a heaping pile of fresh cut fries. It was common to see diners last night leaving with takeout boxes full of the other half of their sandwiches.
There are the classics, like the Kindergarten (just bread and your choice of cheese for $6.50) or the breakfast-style Wake & Bacon (farm fresh fried eggs, crisp bacon, American cheese for $9). Then, there are the quirky, like the Parmageddon (potato & onion pierogi, fresh napa vodka kraut, sauteed onions, sharp cheddar) or the Godfather (three cheese lasagna, fresh fennel-oregano pasta sheets, hearty red sauce, provolone and romano).
There are 20 sandwiches in all (I suggest trying the War Pig with honey ham, roasted pulled pork, mojo glazed pork belly, fried pickles, honey mustard and Swiss). Some will rotate with the seasons, and there will always be a sandwich of the month (up in November it’s Chicken & Waffles Melt).
You can also choose from a small selection of burgers, salads and soups (the Roasted Garlic Tomato is another personal favorite, coming with a bag of cheddar cheese Goldfish), plus classic bar-food appetizers. To start, a few standouts included The Melt Pierogi ($6) with potato and onion and served on a peppery bed of Napa cabbage vodka kraut, and the Wild Tofu “Wings,” blocks of fried tofu with a thick crust (so you’ll get a nice crunch) and your choice of classic wing sauces including buffalo, barbecue, honey mustard and Thai chili (so you’ll also get the same kind of flavor).
The real bonus: roughly 80 percent of the menu can be made vegetarian or vegan, with items clearly marked. And you can also sub in gluten-free bread. Owner Matt Fish, himself a vegetarian, says he wanted to cater to all crowds.
Word to the wise, if the crowds gather at this Columbus locale like they do up north, there will likely be a wait. So be prepared to grab a beer at the bar and see how many famous Ohioans you can name on the cartoony mural that surrounds the hostess stand on two walls. Inspired by Fish’s many trips along Interstate 71 in the year-and-a-half it took to open Melt, the mural depicts a trip through the state—starting in Cleveland, venturing through Columbus and down to Cincinnati—with 105 familiar faces, cartoons and mascots along the way.
Melt is open for lunch and dinner daily. 840 N. High St., Short North, 614-453-1150, meltbarandgrilled.com —Beth Stallings