While some Akron-based restaurants aspire for expansion to Cleveland, one Cleveland-based chain has furthered its efforts by setting up a new location in the Akron area.
Melt Bar and Grilled recently opened its seventh location in Fairlawn this summer, and the combination of grilled cheese and craft beer seems to hit a sweet spot with local customers. “Everybody can relate to that grilled cheese sandwich,” says owner Matt Fish, whose unique spin on this nostalgic sandwich started on a shoestring budget but now feeds a million people a year among its seven locations.
“I love comfort food, I love bar-type food. I wanted to open a bar that had an eclectic, weird and cool and funky menu,” he says, adding that 10 years ago, he only sought to represent Lakewood with a neighborhood feel. Throughout the process of creating a number of menus, Fish says he kept gravitating toward a grilled cheese side menu. So he threw caution to the wind and decided to focus on craft beer and grilled cheese.
“People can relate to the grilled cheese, it’s very nostalgic. It’s the first thing that I cooked personally as a kid,” says Fish, adding the ingredients used are extensions of plated entrees that people are also familiar with, like mac n’ cheese, meatloaf and barbecue.
The restaurant’s eclectic decor includes an Akron-specific mural, featuring rockers Chrissy Hynde and The Black Keys, along with Devo and the Goodyear Blimp, as well as Soap Box Derby memorabilia and a number of historic photos unique to Akron
The restaurant also is known for its fervent customer base, some of whom get Melt tattoos (one of three approved logos), which are then honored with 25 percent off menu items for life. The inked up fans are known as the “tattoo family.”
“Akron has been on my radar for a really long time,” he adds. “The stars aligned and we found this location in Fairlawn.”
Fish says the restaurant also prides itself on being a “non corporate chain.” He and his management team make a point to stay unique, whether it’s the menu items, advertising and social media or the tattoos.
He says he also sees more of a focus on chef-driven and local restaurants. “All across the country, people are going back and going micro and saying, ‘What’s in my backyard, what’s in my neighborhood, where’s this food being grown? Let me trace it back.’”
Melt Bar and Grilled is located at 3921 Medina Road in Fairlawn. For hours, menu and other info, visit meltbarandgrilled.com.