When my friend Jason presented me with the option of either going to the AP Fall Tour in Cleveland or at home here in Pittsburgh, I didn’t hesitate to choose the 2.5-hour drive to Cleveland because I wanted to go back to Melt.
I mean, I wanted to hang out with Jason.
While eating the fuck out of some Melt.
Saturday morning, Jason and his wife Emily were already standing outside of the back entrance, sentinels in anticipation of an impending line of grilled cheese aficionados. We were soon joined by Jason’s friends Terri and Christian from Philly, who were quick to apologize when it came up in conversation that I once stayed in a motel in Camden. Then I asked if they have ever eaten at Cereality, because that is all I know about Philadelphia. I’m not sure how well I sold the cereal bar, considering my review featured the line: And then I almost threw up on my drive home.
I think these were actually the first words I slapped them with after the standard “how do you do”s. I am not very good at small talk.
Once we were all situated in a booth (first ones in, motherfuckers!), Jason, Terri and Christian all ordered different root beers and I could tell Henry was bursting at the seams to start masturbating their minds with all of his lame bottled beverage knowledge. (And then he orders plain old iced tea.) Meanwhile, Emily’s palate twice rejected the grape soda she ordered so she finally surrendered and just got a Coke. Jason teased her about holding up the ordering process but if it had been Henry, my foot would have swiftly kicked his nuts in lieu of good-natured teasing.
Last May was my first time at Melt and I experienced a complete meltdown behind the curtain of my menu. Absolute ordering paralysis. So many choices! And nearly all of them can be made vegetarian/vegan. So what did I get? A plain old mushroom melt. Granted, not so plain when you get it at Melt, but still – it was a far cry from fancy and exotic. Delicious, but pretty pedestrian when wedged in between a line up of artery-clogging sensations like The Dude Abides (homemade meatballs, fried mozzarella cheese sticks, rich marinara, provolone & romano); Paramageddon (2 potato & cheese pierogi, fresh napa vodka kraut, grilled onions, sharp cheddar); and The Big Popper (fresh jalapeno peppers, cheddar & herbed cream cheese, beer battered, mixed berry preserves), which I almost ordered because my aunt Susie recommended it and also because of the mixed berry preserves (Henry puts jelly on my grilled cheeses at home; it’s the best way to eat a grilled cheese) but I was afraid the jalapeno peppers would ignite bonfires in my stomach for the rest of the day.
But then I saw that the special was the New Bomb Turkey, which could be substituted with seitan turkey, and just like that, all the other options paled in comparison. Terri and Christian are both vegetarians as well, and Terri also ordered the New Bomb Turkey so I didn’t feel like an asshole forgoing the meat like I normally do when I’m eating with a bunch of carnivores and being the “difficult one.” Jason and Emily ordered the regular versions of this, Christian I believe got the Dude Abides with vegetarian meatballs because I remember exclaiming that I might have wanted to get that instead but I already ordered. Henry got something dumb.
Waiting for our food went something like this: Blah blah blah, JONNY CRAIG DISCUSSION, blah blah blah, OH HENRY IS THE BEST FOR BRINGING A CASE OF BOYLANS ROOT BEER EVEN THOUGH IT WAS ERIN’S IDEA, music industry scoop, WHERE IS OUR FOOD MY STOMACH IS REVOLTING & IT SOUNDS LIKE NICKELBACK.
Oh, you guys. It was the most glorious sandwich I have ever had the pleasure of sloppily masticating. I softly cried when I took the first bite, like a woman meeting her baby for the first time. (I did not do that when Chooch was born; I was too shell-shocked and hyper-aware of the fact that beneath the sheet, my abdomen was splayed open like a freshly-fucked corpse on a row of milk crates in the back of a serial killer’s Econoline van.)
The bread alone on this sandwich was enough to grow a food baby in a belly. They use the thickest slabs I have ever seen on a sandwich and I don’t know what sort of liquid heart attack they use to grill it, and it’s probably best that I don’t know, but it makes the most glorious goddamn grilled cheese vessel of all time. If it won an award, Kanye West would probably interrupt its speech just to agree. Greasy as fuck, crispy around the edges, moist in the middle—just the way Henry liked his hooker vaginas when he was in the SERVICE.
And there’s so much going on between the slices, I have no idea how the sandwiches don’t topple over on their way to each table from the kitchen. Even the vegetarian versions had so much seitan turkey jammed atop a soft wad of stuffing, there was no way that bitch was fitting into my mouth (and I do have a big mouth) without the aid of a fork.
It was all the things I never get to have on Thanksgiving, punched inside a towering stack of Paula Deen-approved toast and served with a prescription for Lipitor.
The cranberry dipping sauce was like gilding a lily at that point, but fuck did it make for an ambrosial lily.
I had to take copious breaks, but I managed to polish off an entire half and I felt my stomach expanding sickeningly throughout it all. Henry had already engulfed his entire plate in that time.
Speaking of Henry, here is what he has to say about his lunch at Melt.
Me, watching Henry wash the dishes last night: What was on your sandwich?
Henry, in his standard indignant tone: It was gyro melt.
(I guess this means we’re supposed to figure it out on our own.)
Me: OK, no one cares anyway. How sad were you that you couldn’t sit next to Jason and dish secretly about root beer like two little 1950’s school girls?
Henry, maintaining his Man of Few Words image: I wasn’t.
Me, as Henry takes a hearty swig of Faygo Cola. Dish washing is hard work, ya’ll: What was harder to wrap your mouth around, your sandwich or the words “I do” in 1993.
Henry: Why do you have to do that.
Me: Seriously, which one?
Henry, adopting his “You’re pushing me” high-pitched squawk that I hate so much yet cause so often: I don’t know! Let it go!
(He hates being reminded of That Time in his life.)
Me, furiously scribbling in my important “I’m Interviewing Henry!” notebook (it has monsters on it): If you could have your own sandwich on the Melt menu, what would be on it?
Henry, trying to make my dinner at this point, so you would think I would back off lest a generous sprinkle of rat poison fall into the pot: I don’t know!
(This is assuming Henry has any imagination, but it would probably be some sort of flesh marinated in Faygo and served on a bed of emasculation, with a bandanna as a napkin.)
Me: Did you think our waitress was hot?
Henry: [Looks at me suspiciously and slowly says no. This means YES.]
Me: What about the guy who refilled your iced tea?
Henry, in a flat tone: No, I didn’t pay attention.
(This means he’s already downloaded busboy porn.)
Me: How disappointed were you that none of our lunch companions remarked upon your striking resemblance to serial killer Ed Kemper?
Henry, playing Bakery Story on his phone at this point: I wasn’t.
Me: If you found a finger in your sandwich, would you
- Pull it out and set it aside, then puke in a flower pot;
- Eat it. Meat is meat and they know what they’re doing at Melt;
- Use it to replace the butt plug you lost during the Great Marital Separation of 2001.
Henry: [Laughs like a gay Santa, I think to illustrate the fact that this is going to be one of those NO COMMENT moments.]
Me: If you invented a sandwich at Melt in my honor, say if I died saving an albino support group from a hostile group of arms-bearing Serbians mistaking them for enemy Albanians, what would you name it?
Henry, no hesitation: Pain in the Ass.
(That sounds unappetizing and pregnant with pinto beans. Pretty apropos then.)
Me: There were some big words on the menu, like “muenster” and “diablo.” Did you use your phone to covertly look up the definitions under the table?
Henry: [walked away.]
Me: What would your SERVICE buddies say if they knew you were eating trendy gourmet sandwiches and not pork-n-beans?
(Totally typed porn-n-beans at first.)
Henry, in a beaten-down, wilted-dick mumble: Nothing.
Me: What did you eat in the SERVICE, anyway?
Me: No, seriously. All asshole-ness aside, I really want to know.
Henry: I ATE WHATEVER I MADE.
Me: So like, succotash?
Henry, slashing my throat with his glare: I don’t know.
We officially reached WOKE BEAR status at this point, so I quickly closed my notebook. Maybe someday Henry will regale us with tales of making messes in the mess hall. But today is not going to be that day.
Here’s a quick review from a special guest:
Henry’s Moustache: I have been trying for the last 20 years to emulate Tom Selleck’s lip wool. Maybe then I won’t walk around with meal souvenirs tangled in my bristle. Someone please send Henry a stencil.