It’s clear that Melt, located in a Cypress strip mall, is focusing on doing one thing really well: making magic out of humble, buttery, grilled cheese sandwiches. Then again, most of its sandwiches are far from humble — arriving on your plate with at least two types of cheese and some kind of delightful, artery-clogging element such as crushed Cheetos, maple syrup or a glazed doughnut “bun.”
Take, for instance, the King Thong, easily one of the most eye-catching sandwiches on the menu. It’s stuffed with a behemoth of richness: mac ‘n’ cheese, brisket, bacon and cheddar, and features wide penne noodles interspersed with the shreds of brisket. It’s a striking creation, but maybe the kitchen was having an off day during our visit because my dining companion commented that the hearty, fatty bacon strips overpowered the hard-to-find chunks of brisket, while the macaroni was a bit overcooked and lackluster.
Melt is Joe Duong’s second restaurant venture, after The Shack Burger Resort, and right now vegetarian options are few. Earth, Texas — the plain Jane grilled cheese with cheddar, havarti and jack cheese — and the Texas Dolly (strawberries, jam and mascarpone cheese) are the sole meat-free options save for the kids’ menu, but the cashier informed us Melt is in the process of developing a few more vegetarian-friendly menu options.
For now it helps that the Melt folks are exceptionally accommodating when it comes to alterations. I asked for the Brie melt (brie, mango chutney and “thick bacon”) minus the bacon, and that wasn’t a problem. In a more complicated order, I tried getting the Fat Witch (rib eye steak, grilled onions, mushrooms, cheddar and fontina) on a waffle and subbing black pepper potato chips for the steak, and my request was almost fully accommodated until the kitchen informed us that it was out of waffles.
The waffle shortage wasn’t entirely surprising considering the tiny space Melt has to work with. Walking into Melt kind of feels like entering someone’s garage — albeit a very patriotic garage home to an enthusiastic painter who decided to splash murals all over the slatted wooden walls. Retro pop music played in the background of the nearly empty room as we took a seat at a deeply stained picnic table. A glimpse at the cheese-centric, meat-heavy menu quickly revealed a core principle at Melt: excessive indulgence.
From our table, I glimpsed an employee generously slathering butter on a tall stack of white bread (made fresh daily by Slow Dough Bread Co.). These buttery endcaps are substantial but not so thick as to overcome daintier fillings like the Fat Witch I’d ordered minus the steak. A luxuriant layer of cheddar that tasted almost like frico (typically, cheese crisps fried until lacy and chewy), lying along one slice of bread, was a salty, decadent foil against a thin layer of delicate grilled onion and too few juicy mushrooms buried in melted fontina cheese.
An even layer of crushed black pepper potato chips added grittiness and extra salt. My dining companion noted there was a balanced ratio of good-quality chorizo to the onions, jalapeño and cheddar.
Each sandwich comes with a side of either coleslaw, potato salad or kettle chips. All do the trick of adding more carbs and some textural contrast to the meal (the coleslaw is a finely shredded cabbage-and-carrots mixture in a light, acidic dressing that leans more Deep South/Carolinas than traditional Texas barbecue coleslaw).
One continuing critique I had concerned a problem of distribution: The delightfully juicy grilled mushrooms were plentiful on one triangular half of the Fat Witch, but barely anywhere to be seen on the other half. In the Brie melt, the majority of the cheese had been gathered up into a knot in the center of the sandwich, leaving nearly naked (save for some sticky jam) crusts. In addition, the promised chutney was really more of a texture-less jam that imparted a balancing sweetness but could have come from a Smucker’s jar for all I could tell.
Melt’s over-the-top approach to well, gluttony, extends to the dessert-esque sandwiches. The S’mores is one of Melt’s best-sellers, with marshmallow, Nutella, thick bacon and graham cracker. Generous clouds of melted marshmallow bulge out of the golden, toasted sides, and while the layer of Nutella could have been slightly thicker, the thick layer of graham cracker crumbs lent a satisfying crunch to each bite.
The question arises, though: Who is Melt trying to cater to? A $6 kids’ meal consisting of a mini grilled cheese, ham and cheese or PB&J sandwich with a side of chips seems like a pricey version of an average school lunch. Surely the thrill-seeking yuppies inside the Loop would shell out $8-$11 for these criminally decadent sandwiches, but are there enough daredevil patrons in Cypress to sustain Melt?
A meal at Melt is a commitment. The large sandwiches are a sure ticket to a food coma even if you limit yourself to eating just half. And yes, it is undeniably gimmicky, but it executes well with fabulous-tasting sandwiches. Melt is best enjoyed in a state of ignorant bliss where calories and fat don’t exist. And cheese is king.
14030 Telge, Cypress, 832-653-2150. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Brie melt $8
Frito melt $9
King Thong $11
Fat Witch $11