Don’t try to define Matt Fish as a restauranteur. Or a grilled cheese mogul. Matt is, and always will be, a musician first.
His connection to music is significant because it guides his vision and permeates every aspect of Melt Bar and Grilled. Matt sees Melt as a rock band and wants every visit to feel like attending a concert – the anticipation, the excitement, and the memories; and every menu item to be like a song – unique, meaningful, and special in its own way.
Matt Fish started his culinary journey in 1992 when he started working at a restaurant in his hometown of Parma, Ohio.
He fell in love with the business, and it derailed his plan of becoming a teacher. He enhanced his self-taught, on-the-job training with a degree in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management from Cuyahoga Community College and worked at several popular Cleveland-area restaurants, but always wanted to open his own place.
“I was a touring musician for about ten years,” says Matt, “and every night I saw a different restaurant, every night I saw a different bar, a different city, and that’s how Melt was created. I took advantage of everything I saw because I was trying to create the ideal restaurant in my head.”
He wanted something different and a unique restaurant concept, so he turned to a fond memory from childhood: making his go-to food of choice – grilled cheese – with his mom.
UNIQUE AND DELICIOUS. NOSTALGIC CHILDHOOD MEMORIES.
Musicians are passionate people and do what they do because they love it.
Matt is still as passionate about creating great food as he is about music because both are art. His gourmet grilled cheese is real and authentic, just like a great band, and each sandwich has a story to tell, just like a song.
It was really just an innocent idea that I had. I wanted to open a restaurant that was completely different than anything in the city. Grilled cheese was always a big part of my life and I had always dabbled in making unique grilled-type sandwiches with tons of great cheese. Bread and cheese have always been two of my favorite foods on earth. My last meal on earth will hopefully include some great artisan bread and some really sharp cheese!
Hell no! I had no idea that the restaurant would be as popular as it has become. I thought I was opening a little bar that served great beer and also had this really silly and unique gourmet grilled cheese menu. Right after that first opening weekend I realized that I had something pretty special.
I’m inspired by classic American comfort foods. I try to convert them to create a grilled cheese sandwich from the idea. Melt offers a special sandwich every month that really has taken on a life of its own. I am constantly trying to outdo myself every month and all the specials have been really well received by our fans.
The sandwich of the month started sometime during our first full year of operation. It was something that I wanted to do from the beginning but I realized that I was just too busy to pull it off. I worked open to close, 7 days a week for the first 2 years so finding time to create a special was difficult, but I eventually managed. I think the very first special was in July of 2007 and it was the Firecracker Chicken.
I think my favorite sandwich on the menu is The Godfather. I am a freak for Italian food and that sandwich is really awesome. It combines all the elements of food that I really love. Great bread, pasta, sauce and cheese. It is so huge though that I can only eat one about once a month.
Being vegetarian and vegan friendly has always been part of the Melt concept. We are actually becoming more vegan friendly than ever. I make it a point to try to create a vegan version of every special that we offer. The vegan version of the Gyro Melt is incredible!
We actually look at personality first and work history second. I really want the entire staff to be filled with very interesting individuals with a strong personality. You can teach and train most people to do what you need them to do but you can’t teach someone to have an outgoing personality or a strong work ethic.
Yes. I believe that the atmosphere of the restaurant needs to be as interesting and colorful as the food and staff. I wanted to visually overload guests with fun things to look at and listen to. Melt is all about comfort and nostalgia.
I never dreamed that the tattoo promotion would grow as fast and large as it has. I originally thought that maybe 20 people would do it and then it would fall off. We are up to over 700 Tattoo Family members so far! I really think that is incredible! The idea came from my favorite band Rocket from the Crypt. They have a rocket logo that they began suggesting their fans get tattooed to get into shows for free. It has grown into a world-wide tattooed fan base with hundreds and hundreds of tattoos. They created a family around the tattooed fans. I always loved that idea and I actually have a RFTC tattoo that I got many years ago. I wanted to capture the same family idea for Melt so I launched the Melt tattoo promotion in September 2009.
That is a common question and the answer is no. In the tattoo world, getting the name of your parents, significant other, etc., is bad luck. I choose to not get a Melt tattoo for that very reason. I don’t want to welcome any bad luck into Melt.
That was an idea that I came up with right before opening in 2006. I was looking for a unique way to present the menu. All the ideas that I had were boring and overused. My father’s girlfriend at the time (now his wife) mentioned that she had been to a restaurant that used records to present the menus and that was all the information I needed to start the ball rolling. I actually raided my own record collection for the first two generations of the Melt menus. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was the first menu that I made.
It was quite odd. I really did not know what to expect so I hoped that I did not make a complete ass out of myself. I was very happy with the way both shows came out. I happen across the reruns every now and then on late night cable and it is still a bit weird to see them.
It is like reliving all your favorite childhood memories again… Only better! It’s the ultimate comfort food fantasy-land where all your grilled cheese dreams become a reality!