Another Look at Melt Shop’s Grilled Cheese (& Tots!)

There’s been lots of talk about the brand new outdoor stand Melt Shop here on ML and Blondie gave their unique fried chicken sandwich a glowing review last week. So I was eager to find out what all the fuss was about and since I’m always a sucker for a good grilled cheese, I decided to make the trip east. I arrived around 1:00pm and found it amusing that the line was maybe thirty people deep yet nobody was sitting in the neatly provided tables and chairs in the courtyard – even with the nicest weather we’ve had so far this year. People clearly think of this as strictly a take away spot for the time being.

The line moved very slowly at first, but they must have gotten into a groove because the last stretch went quickly. While waiting in line, I observed the Chef out and about hob nobbing with the customers, which seemed to be comprised mostly of his friends or former co-workers. I overheard him giving food recommendations to the girls behind me and since he didn’t mention the tempting Beef ‘n’ Blue (roast beef and blue cheese), which I planned to order, I opted instead for the more conservative Three Cheese Melt. I figured I should see how they do with the basics.

In truth, this sandwich is a little more complex than your basic grilled sandwich of American cheese (which will run you $5 here). This one costs $7.75 and as the name implies features a trifecta of cheeses (gruyere, fontina, and goat) on sourdough with roasted tomatoes.

Amazement sunk in as I opened the box and discovered what I would have guessed to be a kid’s portion. The sandwich was quite small and flat. There was no way this puny sandwich would fill me up, so I was glad I splurged and also ordered the Shop Tops. The two items together (without any drinks) pushed this meal just beyond the Midtown Lunch $10 price point. So before I tasted anything, I immediately agreed with all the comments from last week complaining about the price. It shouldn’t cost this much for grilled cheese and tater tots.

But instead of tossing the food (and my money) in the garbage, I ate it all up. And it tasted pretty good, but the portion sizes kept bugging me. The bread itself was perfectly grilled and was crispy without being greasy or too heavy. But the cheese inside was rather scarce and I couldn’t quite place the difference between the fontina and gruyere. And while the goat cheese imparted a nice creamy, funky contrast, I wished there was more of it. I also wished there was more of the sweet and tangy roasted tomato, which added a nice touch.

The Tots were golden and crunchy with a tender interior. The garnish of fried parsley, while adding some refinement to the fried potatoes, got me thinking that a squeeze of lemon would have brightened things up perfectly. In its place was a smoky secret Melt Sauce, which I imagine to be something along the lines of a chipotle mayo. This was really good and made the tots seem rather lonely and bland without it. Yet I still managed to finish every one.

So Melt Shop is definitely churning out some quality food, but it leaves something to be desired in terms of portion size. My guess is the more experimental sandwiches are a better, more filling option. If I’m going to come this close to spending $10, I’d like something more than just a bit of cheese, bread, and tomatoes.

Melt Shop, 601 Lexington Ave. (at 53rd Street), 212-759-MELT


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