For those of you who have known me longer than five minutes, you know I have a passion for food: talking about it, reading articles and blogs about it, cooking it, baking it, writing about it, watching TV shows and movies about it, and eating it.
I pretty much love everything about food.
In fact, I'm convinced I am my parents' favorite child because (amongst other shining qualities) I wasn't a picky eater. I have a habit of asking people what they ate for dinner the night before; and if I had done things differently after high school, I suspect I would've tried my hand at culinary school. For the record, if you ask me to name my dream job, I will answer: food critic.
That said, you can imagine my elation when I heard about a restaurant in Cleveland called Melt. It's a much-buzzed about place that serves up superhuman-sized grilled cheese sandwiches. Sure, you can order burgers and salads and a variety of appetizers, but the main event is their uber cheesy goodness on a plate. With the wait time exceeding three hours on some nights, you know the hype is worth investigating. Our party of four adults and two children ordered the pierogis and spicy mushroom & sausage stew as our starters. Both dishes were savory and delicious and the perfect way to prepare our stomachs for what came next. Between the four adults we ordered sandwiches called Westside Monte Cristo, Mushroom Melt, BBQ Chicken, and the Big Popper. Words cannot describe how colossal these cheesy grinders were. You have to see them to believe them!
Scott Bickel is a professional eater from a few towns over and we happened to be there the same night he conquered the Melt Challenge. It was amazing just how many diners, fans and photographers they fit in to a small space. I will admit, it was a thrill to be sitting two arm-lengths away from this guy and watching him devour what would take me three days to consume. As he shoved food in his mouth, he wore headphones and bounced around. After exactly 18 minutes, the meal was gone and only remnants of coleslaw remained on his face. Bickel is a former Marine with the goal of defeating Joey Chestnut in next year's Coney Island hot dog eating competition.
Everyone has a dream (and a Facebook page).
Personally, I would give Melt a three out of four star rating. While the space is cramped, the wait is long and the bread-to-filling ratio can be confusing, the flavor combinations are out of this world! I see why so many magazines, newspapers and Guy Fieri gave this joint high marks. I mean, who didn't crave melty cheesy bliss on toasty bread (with a bowl of tomato soup) for lunch when they were young? Melt brings those feelings back, and changes the recipe just enough so you feel like you're reliving a happy part of your childhood in a gourmet kind of way.
I think the author of Treasure Island would agree, "Many's the long night I've dreamed of cheese - toasted, mostly."
Thank you, Robert Louis Stevenson. Thank you, Melt.