Melt Bar & Grilled has been serving up spectacular grilled cheese sandwiches and serving them with an impressive array of appetizers and craft beer since Matt Fish opened up his first location in the Cleveland neighborhood of Lakewood in 2006. It is hailed by many locals as one of the best restaurants in the city of Cleveland, Ohio. This restaurant has won a slew of awards over the years including One of the Best Sandwiches in America – Esquire Magazine 2008, One of the 10 Best Sports Bars in America – ESPN the Magazine 2011, America’s Best Sandwich Shops – USA TODAY and Zagat 2012, Best Beer Selection – Cleveland Magazine Silver Spoon Awards 2011 and 2012, and America’s Top Restaurants – Zagat 2013.
Melt Bar & Grilled has also been featured in several TV shows including Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives and Travel Channel’s Man v. Food. The sandwich shop and bar has done so well that it has opened up multiple other locations throughout Ohio in Cleveland and Columbus, and plans to introduce new stores in Akron, Dayton, and Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. The hype for Melt Bar & Grilled is sky high.
As a musician Melt founder Matt Fish has implemented an interesting and eclectic collection of art, knickknacks, and murals in all Melt Bar & Grilled locations that gives each store a punk rock and hipster feel, yet joyful and family-friendly atmosphere. You will find everything from neon lit signs to holiday cheer to the famous leg lamp from the movie A Christmas Story, which was filmed in Cleveland. The restaurants also feature large murals of several famous persons and characters from Cleveland and Ohio, many of them related to music, sports, and entertainment. Bars inside the stores are sleek and modern, and offer a huge selection of craft beers and cocktails. While each space is somewhat unique in its own way, they all have a similar vibe, and of course amazing greasy goodness awaiting its customers.
The food at Melt Bar & Grilled is delicious, but extremely heavy. Prepare to take home leftovers or walk out of the restaurant in a food coma. Appetizers such as their Melt Pierogis and Mac & Cheese bites will make your mouth water, as well as their vegan and vegetarian friendly options such as the Wild Tofu “Wings”. One appetizer that stands out on their menu that I have yet to try is their Hangover Fries which is made with fresh hand cut fries, seared pork belly, mozzarella cheese curd, rich gravy, a fried sunny up egg, and scallions. Even the fresh cut fries they serve with each grilled cheese sandwich are crispy and seasoned to perfection. Local beers from Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewery and other craft beers from Revolution Brewing in Chicago line the list of the many options available to pair with your meal.
There are several grilled cheese choices at Melt Bar & Grilled, and everyone seems to have their own favorite. They even offer a sandwich of the month. At the time of this posting in April 2017, they are offering My Big Fat Greek Gyro Melt which is made with beef and lamb gyro meat, tzatziki cucumber yogurt, fresh tomatoes, sweet onions, rich feta and muenster cheese. One of my favorite sandwiches that I have had at melt is The New Bomb Turkey melt complete with roasted carved turkey, mom’s sage stuffing, roasted butternut squash, homemade turkey gravy, muenster cheese, and cranberry orange jam. The combination of flavors along with the sweet cranberry orange jam make this a must eat during the Thanksgiving holiday season. Just budget time for a long nap after eating this one.
Other highlights that can be found year round on Melt’s menu include the Cleveland Cheese Steak, Parmageddon, Monte Cristo, Godfather, and my personal favorite The Dude Abides. There is no doubt that if you ask others, they may give you a completely different list, but my guess would be that at least two that I named will show up on most people’s top Melt Bar & Grilled sandwiches list.
The Cleveland Cheese Steak features tender and braised pulled beef brisket, garlic mushrooms, sautéed onions & peppers, provolone cheese, and an amazing rosemary onion aioli that truly makes the sandwich one of the best in Melt’s lineup.
Melt’s Parmageddon is extremely unique and is influenced from Cleveland’s huge Polish population and restaurant scene. The grilled cheese is made with potato & onion pierogis, fresh Napa vodka kraut, sautéed onions, and sharp cheddar that combine to excite the taste buds, and that may have you jumping out of your seat to dance the polka, if your stomach can handle it that is.
Their Monte Cristo is fried heaven on a plate, truly a thing of beauty. However, it is one of the heavier and sweeter sandwiches, and can be hard to eat a whole serving without the taste getting old. If eating with someone else, I recommend splitting this sandwich and another. If not, grab a half serving or be ready to take the second half home with you. The Monte Cristo has honey ham, smoked turkey, Swiss and American cheese. It is battered and deep fried for a crispy texture, and then topped with powdered sugar and served with berry preserves for dipping.
If you are a lover of all things carbs and lasagna then this sandwich may be the winner for you. The Godfather contains a slice of three cheese lasagna, basil marinara, roasted garlic, provolone and Romano cheese. It’s a delicious Italian grilled cheese masterpiece.
Finally, my grilled cheese champion at Melt Bar & Grilled is The Dude Abides. This sandwich is also many others favorite at Melt. It is made with homemade meatballs, fried mozzarella wedges which give the sandwich a nice crunch, basil marinara, roasted garlic, provolone and Romano cheese. All the ingredients combine for a saucy and scrumptious experience.
The final two things to note at Melt Bar & Grilled are its Tattoo Family program and the infamous Melt Grilled Cheese Challenge. Those who get a Melt tattoo receive 25% of Melt Bar & Grilled food for life and are featured on the restaurant’s Tattoo Family member’s page on the store’s website. It’s a one of a kind marketing campaign that helps the restaurant to advertise their brand outside of traditional media channels, and it brings back loyal customers and extreme fans to the restaurant for more cheesy righteousness.
Melt Bar & Grilled also has a challenge for those brave enough to stomach over 5 lbs of food. Those that can finish the sandwich that contains 13 different cheeses (3.5 lbs worth), 2 slices of grilled bread, and a pile of hand-cut fries and slaw will be awarded a Melt t-shirt or pint glass, a $10 gift card, and a permanent spot on Melt’s website in their Melt Challenge Hall of Fame. Adam Richman is one of the winners of the challenge, having completed it on Travel Network’s television show Man v. Food. No help from others or trips to the bathroom are allowed, so prepare your mind and stomach beforehand, and afterwards, if you dare try this challenge.
Melt Bar & Grilled may not be for everyone. It’s heavy and greasy, and for some the sandwiches may be over-complicated. For most though, it’s cheese heaven and an extremely unique experience. It is a bit over-hyped in my opinion, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious. I just wouldn’t call it the best restaurant or best sandwich in Cleveland. However, I do think Melt Bar & Grilled has the best grilled cheese sandwiches that I’ve ever tasted. So if you are an avid grilled cheese lover, it is a must visit when nearby any of their locations in Ohio.
-Michael Averbook, Foodie Extraordinaire