Melt Bar and Grilled

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Melt Bar & Grilled Owner Matt Fish Named Business Person of the Year by Lakewood Chamber of Commerce

CLEVELAND, OHIOMatt Fish, owner and creator of Cleveland’s popular Melt Bar & Grilled, a local and national favorite for gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, has been named the 2012 Business Person of the Year by the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce.

Fish will be recognized at the Chamber’s annual awards luncheon tomorrow at Around the Corner on Detroit Avenue in Lakewood.

Fish opened the first Melt Bar & Grilled in Lakewood in 2006 and the restaurant is now one of Cleveland’s most popular. Fish and his team serve an average of 500 grilled cheese sandwiches per day, along with Melt’s other menu items, from homemade soups, salads and desserts to a plethora of beer and ale options.

According to the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce, “(Matt) Fish has spurred local economic growth and has put Lakewood on the map as a food destination. Six years later, Fish is still managing to meet his goal: to have fun.”

Fish has been in the food business for nearly 20 years. Before his Melt days, he worked as a chef in area establishments like Johnny Mango and Fat Fish Blue. He opened Melt to specialize in “comfort food dressed up,” with the idea evolving from his lifelong appreciation for the grilled cheese sandwich.

Fish’s concept for Melt evolved over the years—from learning the ropes of restaurant management in the classroom and in the kitchen. He coupled his ideas with the many experiences with food he encountered while touring as a musician on the road. About four years before opening the first Melt location, the restaurant’s concept was mostly finalized, from the comfortable atmosphere to the family-like staff, right down to Melt’s menu.

Following culinary school, Fish was in no hurry to establish his longtime goal. He knew doing it right would take time, and the last thing he wanted was to rush into a plan of action that didn’t match up with his vision and dream. For one, Fish wanted his restaurant to be an active contributor to the local community, not just a place that slaps down a no-frills grilled cheese sandwich and run-of-the-mill beer in front of its customers. And the choice of Melt’s staff—the Melt Family—was extremely important to Melt’s overall charm and success. The Lakewood location employs 50 locals, and Melt’s second and third locations—Cleveland Heights and Independence—have added another 200 jobs to the local economy. Melt’s upcoming fourth location, set to open in October, will employ 50 team members as well.

Melt’s business plan also involved another important component—offering fresh, top-quality, local ingredients. Melt’s suppliers include Cleveland-area butchers, produce suppliers and beverage distributors. Melt also takes part in a number of local festivals, charitable events and community-building functions, including the Taste of Lakewood.

Adds the Chamber, “Fish wants his guests to feel like part of the “Melt Family” along with the staff and Fish himself. From the close interaction Melt maintains on its website, on Facebook (with over 49,000 fans) and Twitter (with over 8,500 followers) to the “Big Cheese Club” monthly e-mails, the Melt Challenge and Melt tattoos, the restaurant epitomizes the word ‘engaging.’”

Melt has become both a local favorite with weekly regulars to a destination location for travelers from around the country. And Melt’s allure has almost gone global, as the grilled cheese mecca has been featured on national television shows such as The Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” and “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” as well as The Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food.”

The restaurant group has also been a regional repeat-winner of Best Restaurant and Best Sandwich awards, both from Cleveland Magazine and The Cleveland Scene, and has been recognized by a multitude of other grilled cheese lovers, including PETA, who praised Melt’s “Kindergarten” grilled cheese sandwich as a top vegan choice; “ESPN The Magazine,” which named Melt one of the top 10 best sports bars in the country; and “Field and Stream” Magazine, which featured Melt’s Lake Erie Monster walleye sandwich in a full-page spread. Melt was also named the “Best Sandwich Shop” in the 2011 Fox 8 Cleveland Hot List, and has a slew of other awards and honors from both local and national publications.

Melt’s web site at www.meltbarandgrilled.com is a place for everything Melt, from rave reviews to the story behind the popular restaurant chain to an online store for dedicated Melt aficionados. The new Melt site is a central hub for all three Melt locations: on the Westside at 14718 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood, on the Eastside at 13436 Cedar Road in Cleveland Heights, and in the South at 6700 Rockside Road in Independence. Melt’s fourth location in Mentor, Ohio, is slated to open in mid-October 2012.

Melt Bar & Grilled is a local favorite in the Cleveland region, but has also garnered national attention from The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and The Best Thing I Ever Ate, USA Today, ESPN The Magazine, The Boston Globe, FOX News and The Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food. Accolades for the ground-breaking menu items include Best Restaurant kudos from Cleveland Metromix, Scene Magazine and the Akron Beacon Journal, as well as Cleveland Magazine’s Best Sandwich for the past five years and Esquire’s One of the Best Sandwiches in America list.