5.31.2010

Dinner In @ Melt

Melt is only a little more than a stone's throw from our house, and as a mainstay on Northside's main drag - Hamilton Avenue - it does a great job mirroring the community ethos.  With a substantial number of vegan and vegetarian options, local sourcing of ingredients, and creative combinations, Melt is a solid lunch, dinner, and brunch option for just about anyone.  And Melt's even expanding their imprint in the neighborhood, recently launching Picnic and Pantry - "Micro Market & Specialty Foods" - where we bought our produce today!

The Food:  The menu when you walk into Melt can be a bit overwhelming - a large chalkboard is full of sandwiches, salads, and more.  You quickly get the idea that you're in for a treat, with interesting ingredients and thoughtful pairings, it becomes clear that flavor will not be lacking.

On this trip, we ordered 2 sandwiches, both of which come with a side.  The Joan of Arc is a concoction that includes Applegate Farms roast beef, roasted red peppers, roasted garlic, blue cheese, carmelized onions, and melted provolone cheese, all on a focaccia bread.  And then the Muffaletta - Applegate Farms turkey, roasted red peppers, olive tapenade, and provolone cheese melted on a focaccia bread.  We had a side of Rosemary Redskin Potatoes (that come with a homemade curried ketchup) as well as mixed greens with a dressing (which I didn't pay close enough attention to to explain).  The sandwiches were both solid.  I particularly liked the olive tapenade (regular readers may be learning that I am a sucker for nearly all things salty), and bites that were full of chewy provolone were especially yummy.  We added some of the salad dressing to the Joan of Arc because it was a bit dry, but the flavors were still tasty regardless.  On the sides, the potatoes are always well seasoned and flavorful.  The mixed greens are literally a small box of mixed greens - no nuts, berries, veggies, or anything else - so if you want super straightforward, this is the way to go.  Otherwise there are plenty of salads as entrees to choose from.

It should also be noted that Melt has Jeni's Ice Creams available.  They are terribly good.  I still haven't been able to get over the per pint price ($9.95), as much as I want to.  I am very willing to pay extra for better quality, and while they do use local Snowville Creamery, pints in Cincinnati are between $1 and $3 more per pint than the same product up the road at their Columbus stores (UPDATE: Pints are $8.50 to $10 each in Columbus - I was wrong on this initially, so actually while you may be paying $1 more in Cincinnati on some pints, there are actually many that are 50 cents cheaper. Thanks to Ryan for the comment below, and to friendly employees at Columbus stores for verifying. I apologize for the error, either prices have changed or I just plain had it wrong.)  However, I did just note that Picnic and Pantry has Jeni's macaroon ice cream sandwiches in their cooler and it's likely that I'm near a breakthrough.  Those things are ridiculous.  I am not going to walk over there right now and get one.

The Ingredients:  Melt has great information available about not just its ingredients, but also its practices at the restaurant in terms of packaging, recycling and more.  There are some places around town that are supplying their customers with a good deal of information about the source of their ingredients, but Melt is definitely at the head of the class.  It is simply awesome that owner Lisa Kagen has taken the time and space to write/explain for her customers about the sources of ingredients and how that ties in with the prices that are being paid.  We need more knowledgeable consumers to support thoughtful businesses, but it takes time and energy on both sides to make it happen.

If there was anything we'd love to see, it'd be a way to share more of this info on the menu board (which is already packed!) and the to go menu, so that folks don't have to dig much on the website to learn about Melt's great practices.  But, this is really a small thing.

Thanks for what you're doing, Melt - you're a model for other Cincinnati restaurants!

The Story, Setting, & Service:  We ordered to go, and at 5:30 it was a quick 10 minutes.  They get quite busy at more peak hours though, so add another 10 minutes or so into your expectations if you're planning to grab something on the fly.

The full name for Melt is Melt Eclectic Deli, and that is a perfect explanation.  With mix-matched decor that is comfortably hipster, even for the uninitiated, Melt's indoor space is fun, but can be on the cramped side of cozy when it's busy.  On the plus side, it makes you feel like you're in a big city!  They've also got a great outdoor space to take advantage of while this weather is so nice.

Service is consistently friendly at Melt, and you count on some love going into all your dishes.

Melt, like Take the Cake, Slims/Vout, and Honey, is another local option that we are blessed to have within such close proximity, and a place that we plan to be sampling from for a long time to come.  We're wishing them the best of luck with Picnic and Pantry as well, and hoping for another successful enterprise in the community.



Melt on Urbanspoon

11 comments:

Ryan said...

Hey, Gavin (and Sarah).

Thanks for the nice mention -- we love Melt and are really excited about Picnic and Pantry.

One quick note: Pints run $8.50 to $10 in our own shops (the majority towards the latter), depending on the flavor; so while you may end up paying a buck and half or so more for a couple flavors, for most it's the same cost as in our Columbus shops.

Thanks again/cheers.

intuitive eggplant said...

Great post about Melt. Would also love to hear your take on Picnic and Pantry. As for Jeni’s ice creams, they are the height of deliciousness combined with intriguing flavor combos – a must anytime I’m in Columbus. How wide a range of Jeni’s flavors does Melt offer? And does Melt also offer tastes by the spoonful to help you decide among your options the way Jeni’s shops in Columbus do?

Gavin DeVore Leonard said...

Ryan - thanks for the catch. I apologize for the error and it has been fixed. I was out of town for the holiday and am just getting back to a computer.

I'm assuming you work for Jeni's (or are just a huge admirer), so any thoughts/education/cajoling for Cincinnatians on why it's worth it to spend double the cost of a pint of Graeter's, for instance? I could use a good sales pitch myself :).

Thanks again.

Gavin DeVore Leonard said...

intuitive eggplant - thanks for your comment! We'll be putting up a post about Picnic and Pantry after we get a chance to swing by, take some photos, and write it up. Should be soon. First take though - we bought produce and a couple other items there this weekend and thought it was awesome - great variety from day 1.

As for the number of flavors that Melt has of Jeni's, I honestly don't remember. There were at least 5 the time that I inspected the case. I'm not sure if they do tastes either, that's a good question.

Ryan said...

@Gavin: No apology necessary, but thanks for updating the post. No sales pitch -- except but to say it's an artisanal product, and, in that sense, it's analogous to being at the cheese counter where you can get some Pecorino Tartufello for $12.99 a lb., or you can get some Parm-Regg for $19.99 a lb (often more). Same as the wine section. Sourcing and production methods vary widely and influence the complexity in flavor, taste, and texture -- what we like to call 'lickability.' E.g., What happens when your tongue makes contact with the ice cream? Does it come off little by little or in one big gulp? Does the flavor bloom? Etc.

@intuitive eggplant: Melt/Picnic and Pantry's last order included ten flavors -- including some ones that weren't in the case before. And our latest seasonals...

Gavin DeVore Leonard said...

Ryan - thanks for the thoughts. It's funny how there are products that I, mostly without thinking, assume it is ok and actually makes sense to pay widely differing prices for(like the cheese example you used). I don't know why, but ice cream simply hasn't registered for me in that way yet. Thanks for sharing your insight...

Sara Leah said...

Great post! Melt has become one of our favorite places to eat. My husband and I are both vegetarians and were very excited to see the multitude of options available to us. I don't eat dairy, so I lean towards the vegan options. The vegan melt is fantastic.

The service is great. We often order (to-go) at the counter and sit in the Northside Tavern courtyard to eat. The staff will bring the to-go order over to us. Nothing better than a Bell's Two-hearted and a vegan melt with a side of veggie chili.

Gavin DeVore Leonard said...

Much appreciated, Sara Leah! I'm glad you mentioned the option of eating at Northside Tavern, in part so that you can add an alcoholic pairing...

Ryan said...

@Gavin: We see a movement within modern American artisanal ice cream that's akin to what you see with American craft beer, wine, cheese, and chocolate -- freezer cases with carefully-curated selections of artisanal ice creams from smaller regional producers, etc.

Less of the big brands, more of the good stuff.

Gavin DeVore Leonard said...

Ryan - sounds good to me! Now, if ice cream could somehow magically become 100% nutritious and good for you, then we'll be all set!

intuitive eggplant said...

Thanks, Gavin (and Ryan), for responding to my questions about Jeni's ice cream. So glad to know I can find it at Melt and Picnic & Pantry. Gavin, I'll definitely look forward to your P&P post!