If you have not heard yet, tonight is the night that the Man Vs. Food visits Cleveland to take on the Mighty Melt Challenge at Melt Bar & Grilled. Make sure you turn to the Travel Channel at 9pm to see what happens when Adam Richman takes on an almost 5lb. grilled cheese sandwich.
Just look at this thing:
I should also mention that yours truly will be cheering on Adam. Literally. I will be behind him to the right of the screen during the actual challenge (see here for a previous post on my experience). Come 9pm tonight you will find out if he conquers the sandwich or if he fails.
Odds are if you live in or around the Akron/Cleveland area of good ol’ Ohio you have probably heard of a little place called Melt Bar & Grilled (aka Melt). Honestly though if you have no idea of this Melt I speak of you might live inside a box and do not read this blog very often. As many readers of BHP know, I have a slight obsession with the establishment.
How obsessed you ask? Well not only to I try and make it there once a month but I also am one of those folk who prove their undying love for Melt by sporting a Melt tattoo (25% off for life yo). I even have gone so far as to attend a filming of a Man vs. Food episode at the Lakewood, OH location just a couple months back and will enjoy watching myself scream/cheer at Adam Richman as he took on the Melt challenge. The episode will be showing sometime this summer on the Travel Channel as the all new season is starting on June 16th.
I love the place and I can honestly say I am not the only one. With a 2+ hour wait on most days just to be seated to grab a delicious bite to eat, I would say that most folk in this neck of the woods have at one time enjoyed some Melt. The gourmet grilled cheese restaurant, owned and operated by Matt Fish, recently spawned (pun intended) across Cleveland for a second location in Cleveland Hts.
This little babble blog is about that new location.
A few weeks back I had received a piece of mail with the Melt logo on it. Having no idea what it was I opened it up and there it was, an invitation to a pre-grand opening to the new location. I seriously felt like Charlie from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory as this was my “golden ticket” to a special event. I was invited to check out the new location before the public and might have been a little excited about it.
So about a week later I headed out to Cleveland Hts. to check out the new eatery. I had heard bits and pieces about the location and the extent of the renovations it took to turn what used to be the Rhythm Room (RIP) at one time into the new Melt.
Anyone remember that place?
The Rhythm Room was less of a room and more of a a hole-in-the-floor bar. When you walked in the bar there was a large opening that peered down into the basement where the stage was. There is more to that of course with rails and a stairwell but it was always interesting to see a punk show there. You would either cram in the basement or hang out above and lean on the rails to watch the shows.
I miss that place a lot and have some fond memories thanks to my good friends who used to be in the “Clevland” punk rock band The Narcoleptics x5. I used to hang out there a lot actually and saw my fair share of local independent punk acts as well as even caught The Unseen there. Sadly the place stopped hosting punk shows and morphed into a reggae club before finally calling it quits.
Enter Matt Fish and his idea to expand his amazing creation. I am not sure how or why he chose the location but I am in the works of interviewing him so that will be told at a later time. Knowing though on what the place used to look like I was highly curious to see how he was going to pull it off.
Walking up to the building nested on the corner of Cedar and South Taylor I started having mini flashbacks of fun times with my pals usually fueled by cheap beer but it all stopped as soon as I looked up and saw the giant Melt sign located just above the entrance. Imagine if you would a giant grilled cheese and crossbones… All I could do was smile as I opened the doors and made my way in.
I was wowed by what I saw. The place looked nothing like the Rhythm Room and was completely renovated. There was a large bar in the center of the building that spanned over where the hole-in-the-floor used to be. Retro decor graced the walls of the much larger new restaurant including a giant Dairy Queen sign on the wall over by where I sat. There were arcade signs incorporated into the liquor racks, old advertisements, and of course random plastic light up pumpkins and other holiday items that make Melt so unique over many other places. I even spotted some broken bottle stained glass windows over the entrance – sounds crazy unless you have seen them at the Lakewood location. Flat screen TVs hung about showed The Goonies while music blasted from a very impressive PA system.
The place looked like the Lakewood Melt in a sense but was much larger and just…new. Staff ran around the floors seating other special guests and basically getting a preview for what they were hired for. With in about 20 minutes of me being there the place was packed. It was no surprise to me at all and I can see this being a trend from here on out.
In the back left corner at the pick-up window I could see that Matt Fish in the kitchen area showing all of the new cooks how it was done helping prepare countless amounts of various grilled cheeses. Plate after plate was picked up by the waiters and waitresses and delivered to happy customers.
I wanted to try something new on the menu but went to my default and grabbed a Big Popper. I lied to myself and said it was healthy for me. There is nothing good for you about a jalapeno grilled cheese sandwich that is battered and then deep fried other than the guilty pleasure and the taste for that matter. The fries and cole slaw too make it a pretty kick ass meal.
As I destroyed the sandwich I saw some familiar faces some of who were staff from Lakewood that came out to help train and others who were at the Man vs. Food event. As if I was not full enough I decided to try the fried Twinkie for dessert and must say…amazing. I left that place a full and happy man…maybe a little too full.
If you live in the Cleveland area you really have no excuse to hit up a Melt Bar & Grilled and try one of their gourmet grilled cheeses. The new Cleveland Hts. location is located on the corner of Cedar Ave. and South Taylor Rd. Parking is available on the streets or in a small metered area that is free after 6pm if I am not mistaken. If you are not from the area and are worried you might not be able to find the restaurant, just look for the giant Melt sign at the corner. You can not miss it.
It’s been years since I have been on TV. I remember a couple of times when I was in the background for a news broadcast. Most notably there was that time in the Coventry Courtyard where a juvenile me was sucking down a cigarette as someone was getting interviewed about some murder. Adolescent and just not paying attention, let’s just say that I might have been busted by my Mom that night for smoking when I returned home thanks to that news story.
Then there was that other time when I was at the Warped Tour and a TV crew focused in on me and my pal Jonah walking where I attempted to eat an entire hamburger in one bite once I saw the camera was aimed at us. I later walked up to the nervous news reporter who was doing a story on the excessive swearing at the outdoor event and thought it was a good idea to throw the “horns” over his head on live TV. At age 19 I was happy with my 15 minutes of fame that day.
Needless to say I have not taken on being on TV too seriously. That all changed on Saturday when I was invited to appear in the background on an episode of a national cable show at Cleveland’s gourmet grilled cheese goodness gurus Melt Bar & Grilled.
Why was I invited you asked? Well I’m family.
A few months ago I decided to join a food cult of sorts. Melt Bar and Grilled in Lakewood, OH (owned and operated by Matt Fish and crew) put together one of the greatest promotional ideas. Get a Melt tattoo and receive 25% off for life. Having been obsessed with Melt since I had my first sandwich about a year earlier I was intrigued and wanted to do it. Seeing how I am pro-Cleveland and pro-Melt it just made sense to do it. Within a month I was sitting in the chair at the tattoo parlor and getting my permanent coupon tattooed on my forearm.
I got the tattoo back in October but thanks to lack of money and shortness of time I was not able to get up to Lakewood to show it off and get my membership until December. I am, and always will be, number 47. 47 meaning the 47th person to show their love and join the Melt tattoo crew.
Being part of the crew has its perks. First off I get the discount and secondly people love it. My co-workers love the story I tell of why I have a grilled cheese with a sword through it on my arm. It is an attention getter and I do like talking to people about it.
There is also the special event perks. Recently Matt Fish sent an email out to all of the tattoo members letting them in on a little secret. There was going to be a show filmed at Melt and all close to 80 Melt tattoo crew members were given first chance at being part of something awesome. I replied instantly.
I was not going to miss out on this so I planned my Saturday accordingly and headed out to Lakewood at about nine in the morning to get a good seat. I found out what the show was when I arrived as a disclaimer was on the door. Looked like I was going to be on an episode of Man Vs. Food.
Being a huge fan I was more than excited to spend a few hours at one of my favorite restaurants in Cleveland with a bunch of other tattooed grilled cheese loving people. Walking in alone I did not know what to expect. None of my friends have a Melt tattoo so I went solo knowing that the general public would have to wait to get in. The bar was actually empty when I poked my head in the establishment and there were just a few folk who were hanging out at the bar. That number doubled of course in less than an hour and by 11am the place was jamming.
Guinness for breakfast is always a good idea. Luckily I was not the only one and I sipped on my beverage and made acquaintances with fellow members. Everyone had no idea what to expect and it was just fun to sit there and wonder what was going to happen. Making things even more interesting and surreal was the fact that the Travel Channel crew was running around the restaurant with cameras and lighting equipment. They were filming the episode before we even got there and that was one of the reasons Matt Fish invited his family in early. He wanted all of us to see the behind the scenes. Very cool Matt, very cool.
I sat at a table just near where the challenge was to begin with some guys from the Westside I just met thanks to pint sized beverages. All three of them were good friends and all had Melt tattoos. After talking for a bit we found out that we were allowed to stay in our seats for the whole event – or so we thought. More on that in a bit.
Now for those of you who do now know what Man Vs. Food is you are missing out. The show is a challenge every episode for host Adam Richman who takes on the most insane food entrees. No it is not sheep eyes and ox tail, it is typical American foods but in extreme portions. From the world’s hottest wings to burritos the size of babies this guy has no limits when it comes to stomach capacity. That is not to say though that he finishes the plates all the time.
Melt has been trying to get Adam to come to Cleveland for a while. For months Melt fans have been sending requests on forums and directly to the Travel Channel to get Adam to Melt. The challenge you ask? How about a 12 cheese almost 4lb. grilled cheese. Yes, almost 4lbs of cheese! Every type of cheese that Melt puts on their sandwiches (american, sharp cheddar, provolone, pepper-jack, havarti, monterey cheddar-jack, swiss, muenster, smoked gouda, blue cheese, feta, herbed cream cheese, and goat cheese) is piled on three giant pieces of bread with a heaping potion of fries as well as their homemade slaw.
Anyone is welcome to try it, at $22 a sandwich of course. The rules for the challenge are simple: No time limit, eat everything on the plate, and no bathroom breaks at all. A reheat of the dish was even allowed.
I joked with my new friends and thought about trying the challenge myself but I had to weigh the pros and cons.
The pros, if I killed the sandwich I would be cheered on by everyone in the house and have something to (gluttonly) brag about for years to come.
The cons though outweighed that one pro. First, 4lbs of cheese??? Yeah, can you say cholesterol increase? How about high fat intake, constipation, and the risk of vomiting a warm sea of cheese that might represent what happens when you mix salsa with Velveeta cheese. Not to mention I drove there alone and risked going into a food coma. Oh yeah, I also had a ticket to see The Avett Brothers at the House Of Blues in Cleveland at 8pm that night.
Yeah, no giant Melt catastrophe for me.
There were a few others though who did try the challenge earlier. Once kid got half way through and another had at least six bites left but rushed to the men’s room to…well…think about it. Adam actually was walking around and got a sneak of the sandwich and made the most classic scared-face look.
At about 12:30 our super rad waiter told us we could start ordering food so I opted to get a Big Popper. Just imagine a giant jalapeno popper with a side of raspberry dipping sauce. Fresh jalapenos with cream cheese, cheddar cheese slapped in bread, battered, and deep fried. It was 100% fat free and the healthiest option on the menu… I am lying. No sandwich is “healthy” for you on the Melt menu. That is why it is called comfort food people!!!
Adam and his video crew was walking around interviewing people from table to table for a couple hours but sadly they never stopped at ours. I was a little bummed out because I, and the guys I was with, thought at least they would want to see our tattoos. I can though lay this claim to fame – In the episode, should it air, the menu Adam had in his hands at one time was mine.
Wow I sound lame. Let me make that up to you…
After we finished eating and after the interviews were done Adam and his crew took a break. The waiter told us regretfully that we had to give up our table. I was bummed out about it as were the other guys but we all knew that Melt needed to keep business going so we finished up our meals and left the prime real estate.
I was not about to leave and neither were the guys I sat with. We decided to hang out at the bar the best we could with a super cool girl named Russa who actually bought our table a round of Black & Tans earlier because we were “so nice”. Free beer from a cute girl? I’ll take it!
Turned out where I was standing by the bar was the exact area Adam was going to do his challenge. After about an hour or so a table, cameras, and lights were set up for the main event and I was right behind it. Suddenly being moved from my table was not so bad.
Being on a recorded show with a director was kind of hilarious. You were not allowed look at the camera and you had to smile or else the director would have asked you to move and let someone else in to smile. I had no plans on moving so I put the cheesiest (no pun intended) smile on my face and prepared to cheer for what the director said could be upwards to an hour.
When the filming of the challenge started, Adam came out wearing a shirt that said “I Still Call It The Jake” and advised all who were in house that he is a Cleveland native. The place went insane.
So what happened after that? Well let’s just say there was a lot of cheering done by yours truly as well as everyone else behind me. In fact my hands are still sore from clapping so much, my ears are still ringing, and I sweat through my clothes from all the warmth generated from the cheering. Oh, I also lost my voice. Small prices to pay to be on TV I suppose.
The result? Did he finish it or did he fail? Well you are just going to have to wait when it premiers on the Travel Channel sometime in June.
I can not tell because if the Travel Channel sees that I leaked anything about the main event they will prosecute me. Completely understandable.
June is just a few months away so be sure to check out the episode when it airs. I am so curious to see how much footage of me will be in it. Who knows I may be in it for three seconds but then again I can scream pretty damn loud so perhaps it will be longer.
Big thanks to Matt Fish and his amazing work crew for not only being incredibly generous by inviting me and the other tattoo crew to something that will be remembered for years but for also being so friendly and calm throughout the entire day. I was there for over eight hours and everyone staffed was smiling and making sure all the guests were comfortable and taken care of. It’s not just the gourmet grilled cheese that keeps me going to that establishment; it is also the employees that make it what it is. I’m proud to be an honorary member of their family.
If you have not ever been to Melt you need to do yourself a favor and check it out at least once. With a new Melt restaurant opening soon on the Eastside in Cleveland Hts. you have no excuse to not try it.