14718 Detroit Ave
By K. Sediya
Only a few tables were open on Saturday afternoon at Melt, and only one on the patio. Of course, choosing the patio meant sacrificing the ambiance including random cartoons on various televisions, Cleveland memorabilia- particularly related to the Tribe- and the glowing plastic Dracula statute statue above the bar. The patio, in contrast, lacked décor and the tables were strangely and sparsely arranged, producing a slightly sterile and empty feeling. The waitress was almost cartoonish because of her stature (at least 6’2”) and un-worldly large breasts. Still, neither she, nor the sing-along oldies music, nor the stunning weather, came close to matching all of the stimuli inside of the restaurant.
We started with fried tofu. As a 16-year vegetarian I consider myself a tofu connoisseur and “fried” is one of my favorite presentations. The crunchy outside pleasantly contrasted to the soft, but not gelatinous, inside. The tofu entirely absorbed the flavor of the BBQ sauce, which was tasty- thick and slightly sweet with a very mild zing- though would not win any awards for creativity. Still, the appetizer was a satisfying “tide-me-over” after a long day of photographing on the West Side.
When the gargantuan sandwiches arrived, accompanied by a generous portion of French fries and coleslaw, it became apparent that the tide-me-over was unnecessary. First, my family believes that cooking French fries is an art. The fries at Melt were crispy on the outside without being burnt and would have more than passed muster at our dinner table in their generous portions. Second, the flavors of the Mushroom Melt blended flawlessly. The sweetness of the caramelized onion nicely complemented the provolone and portabellas. However, the Spinach Pie sandwich was less satisfying. The feta did not melt very well, so the sandwich, including spinach, roasted red peppers and grilled onions, fell apart and the flavors and textures seemed like separate entities rather than cohesive parts of a whole.
Though I would happily return and re-order the Mushroom Melt, the appeal of this typically Lakewood joint- chock-full of hipsters, heavily tattooed punk rockers, middle class families (probably of Irish-American descent), and the occasional neighborhood jock- is not the gourmet food. Rather, it’s the nostalgia that the restaurant evokes from the grilled cheese sandwiches, a favorite food from childhood, to the retro album cover menus and the historical Cleveland Decor. The past often seems better in hindsight, doesn’t it?