It’s a sunny day in August when I step out of CJ’s car and put my face to the wind. With khaki shorts, a windbreaker tied tightly around my waist and my hair blowing in the wind, I whisper…
“The prodigal son has returned.”
“Who are you whispering to?” Adam asks.
“It’s not important,” I reply as I squint into the sun and we make the uphill pilgrimage to my holy land.
Melt Bar and Grilled is a small chain of gourmet grilled cheese joints located in Cleveland, Ohio. Over time, I have systematically built crazy sandwiches and overstuffed myself in three of the four restaurants; today would be the final frontier.
I was particularly excited about today’s visit because along with me were an array of friends attending the Hotelier and Rozwell Kid concert directly following what I will now only refer to as “The Stuffing.” Adam, being a native Pittsburgher, was more used to Primanti Bros. (blech) than the slawless and flawless sandwiches of the far superior Cleveland.
Upon arrival, we were seated on a bench next to an old Centipede arcade game as we waited for a table to open up. The place was filled with the bearded, the tattooed, the flannelled – my kind of people. Someone showed us to our seats and we received our menus, which were placed on the backs of old album covers to give the impression that this was a “cool” or “hip” joint.
However, as a repeat customer, I didn’t need any of the distracting “ooooh’s” and “ahhhhh’s” to get between myself and “The Stuffing.” I knew what I needed, and that was the Backyard BBQ.
The Backyard BBQ is a grilled cheese containing your choice of barbecued meats (chicken, pulled pork or brisket) smashed between onion rings and a layer or two of sharp cheddar. But oh, no, I wouldn’t stop there. I would proceed to add bacon to it as well as something I’d never experimented with: mozzarella sticks.
Well, technically they were mozzarella wedges, but you get the idea.
We ordered. The deed was done, and still, I worried for some time after that I did not get a good enough look at the menu. What if I had missed some essential part of this monstrosity? I would have to live with my decision, for better or for worse. I never questioned myself this much before; it seemed all my anxiety and stress were coming forward because of a single sandwich. Could this be the downfall of Aaron Eats ErieTM?
“Get a grip, man.” I repeated to myself as I made sense of my order. I came here to do one job: eat a comically-sized sandwich so I could later write about it alongside a sea of Ron Swanson gifs. And I never take a day off.
With the moon hitting my eye like a big pizza pie, I recognized our sandwiches being dished out from the kitchen and headed our way. They delivered everyone else’s meal first, detailing what it was as they set it on the table in front of us.
“The Dude Abides…Parmageddeon…Chicken and Waffles…and…whatever this thing is,”
the waiter said condescendingly as he prepared me for The Stuffing. The guy didn’t even know a Backyard BBQ with bacon and mozzarella wedges when he saw it. What is this, amateur hour? Get on your hiring game, Melt.
Anyways, there it was, and being face to face with the beast, I had an epiphany: this is no different than any other Melt trip you’ve ever taken. You’ve written Aaron Eats Erie before; you do not need to stuff this beautiful piece of artwork into your gullet without having a proper respect or appreciation for its craft. You do not need to feel like you might puke at the show afterwards to appease strangers, even if that’s what they pay you for.
I relaxed. I enjoyed my meal like any human being should. And it was incredible, just like all of the Melt trips I’d taken in the past. To be honest, the mozzarella wedges may have been a little much, and I know that sounds like a ridiculous place to draw the line, but I just didn’t need that touch of deep-fried wonder to my sandwich. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t deep fry the whole thing for an extra $2.00.
I took half of my sandwich home and it was just as good (weirdly enough, even better?) reheated. The show was great; make sure you check out last year’s Home, Like Noplace is there (which I reviewed for this very site) and Too Shabby if you like emo and fuzzy, Weezer-inspired alt-rock. Some of you might be disappointed with my choice not to eat to the brink of sanity; if so, let us know! Give me feedback and tell me where I should eat next. Send us your food challenges so I can get paid to face them head-on. At the end of the day, this was merely training for my next Melt trip…where I conquer the Melt Challenge…