Melt Shop: A taste test in four parts
There are enough burger shops in this world, but there aren’t enough grilled cheese shops. For now, it looks like Melt Shop (located near the intersection of 19th Street and L Street, near the Farragut North Metro stop) is the only carb and dairy spot D.C. needs. And who doesn’t love grilled cheese? Four of The Eagle’s staff were more than enthused to collaborate on a grilled cheese tour at the downtown shop. Check out each of our mini-reviews below to see if Melt Shop is right for you.
Lifestyle editor Jordan-Marie Smith, Truffle Oil Sandwich, Shop Tots
Arugula, truffle oil and havarti make the Truffle Oil grilled cheese sandwich. Shop Tots and Sriracha on the side. Photo by Jordan-Marie Smith.
After waiting, ever so long, for the rest of the team to arrive, I promised myself I would order anything I wanted--no matter the price or obviously high caloric content. If I had my way, the fried chicken sandwich, chili tots and a milkshake would be on the above roster. Alas, I watched my wallet and waistline and settled on the Truffle Oil grilled cheese and shop tots.
Havarti, truffle oil and arugula mesh well for the simple sandwich, but the butter soaked into the bread is what hit my tastebuds first. You’d think that oil on butter might complicate the experience, but neither distracted from the other. Even though I could easily consume three servings of my favorite All-American sandwich, I wanted to savor the Truffle Oil sandwich because that’s exactly what it was — savory.
The Shop Tots, at around $3, were unavoidable. I am all about tots. These were crispy, rich and buttery. The outside is perfectly crunchy and took me back to public school days when the arrival of tater tots was a worshipped occasion. The inside was meltingly wonderful, but a tad soft. Tots are close to perfection.
Sidenote: I did have a few cheese tots from Bryan and I was not a fan at all. It tasted like fake cheese, cheese whiz. I’ve never had cheese whiz, but I’m assuming that people are okay with it? At least Aly Seidel, a Philly native, was okay with it. They love fake cheese.
Lifestyle assistant editor Freddy Rodriguez, Classic with Grilled Chicken, Shop Tots
Classic grilled cheese sandwich with grilled chicken. Photo by Freddy Rodriguez.
Nothing brings a team together better than cheese and bread. So when we decided to try out a new grilled cheese restaurant, my mouth salivated from knowing that I would not be eating alone. Finally, I would have people around me during my dining experience.
This group aspect attracted me to the establishment at first, but after filling my stomach with Melt Shop’s classic grilled cheese with grilled chicken and tater tots, I felt a different attraction to the restaurant.
Once we received our food, I allowed myself to attack the sandwich, essentially forgetting to converse with the friends around me.
As I bit into the Classic, I inspected the contents of the grilled cheese. Melt Shop made this sandwich with toasted sourdough bread, cheese, butter and pleasantly surprised me by adding mayonnaise and roasted tomatoes. I also ordered my sandwich with grilled chicken. I couldn’t deal with simply ordering a plain Classic— a boy needs his meat. The contents literally gushed into my mouth as I took bite after bite. The cheese and butter gracefully flowed over my taste buds, leading to an explosion of tastefulness in my mouth. Some may call this explosion overwhelming — I call it intoxicating.
The sandwich engulfed me to the point that I stopped talking to my team and focused only on the impressive grilled cheese on hand. I’ve had plenty of grilled cheeses throughout my life, but I’ve never had one this good.
As for my order of tots, I tasted nothing particularly special. Melt Shop sprinkled parmesan cheese, which did add to my already cheesy experience, but a touch of parmesan can only go so far. The tots pleasured me, but they didn’t move me like the main course.
Sidenote: I also had a few of Bryan's fake cheese tots, and I actually enjoyed them. They reminded me of something you might eat when you just really want something heavy.
Features editor Aly Seidel, Grilled Chicken
Grilled chicken, sans roasted tomatoes and truffle mayo. Photo by Aly Seidel.
Melt Shop was a letdown.
I don’t want to say that but it was. Online reviews were solid, menu looked delicious— as I piled into the N6 bus with my friends, there was little doubt in my mind that I was going to have a delicious Friday night.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it panned out.
I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich- which, according to the menu, was supposed to include grilled chicken, Havarti cheese, roasted tomatoes and truffle mayo. I got two out of four. My sandwich was both mayo and tomato-less, which was my first, but not last, disappointment of the night. The cheese was cold, coagulated and didn’t stick to the chicken. In a restaurant called Melt Shop, there seemed to be a severe lack of, to quote my colleague Freddy Rodriguez, “gooey-ness.”
I looked over at my friends’ sandwiches — Arugula! Truffle oil! Caramelized onions! — and felt the pangs of jealousy. Or maybe that was hunger. Either way, I had obviously made the wrong menu choice. They chowed down, gushing effusive praise while I wished for a time machine to go back and order the BLT.
I added ketchup (my foodie heart reeling the entire time) and even Heinz couldn’t save this sandwich.
Sidenote: I tried both the Shop Tots and Cheesy Tots. Shop Tots were crispy and buttery but not much to write home about. The parmesan cheese blend sprinkled on top didn’t do much to assuage my middle-school lunchroom flashbacks. I liked the Cheesy Tots better. The thick, Velveeta-like cheese overwhelmed the tots, which was fine by me.
Multimedia editor Bryan Park, Classic, Burger Melt Sandwich, Cheesy Tots
The Classic Melt. Photo by Bryan Park.
Knowing that I would be visiting a grilled cheese restaurant in the evening, I was okay with starving myself prior to making the trip. And my ravenous hunger was well worth being able to taste a few selections of Melt Shop. Upon reaching the store, I ordered the classic, burger melt and cheesy tots. It was twice the amount that everyone else in the store was eating, but from my experience they were missing out.
The classic is exactly what you expect from the simple yet perfect grilled cheese sandwich: Crunchy, buttery toast that melts in your mouth, and mixes beautifully with the soft cheese on the first chew. An excellent choice for anyone visiting Melt Shop longing for that nostalgic childhood flavor.
The mighty Burger Melt, a hybrid between a burger and grilled cheese. Photo by Bryan Park.
The burger melt was the highlight of my visit to Melt Shop. The selection on the menu caught my eyes because I had never even thought of combining the classic burger and grilled cheese together. But boy, did it work. With a soft beef patty, caramelized onions, aged cheddar and pickles nestled between two slices of crunchy sourdough, the explosion of flavor from this hearty sandwich made it a sad ordeal when I eventually had to down the savory contents. Easily one of the best sandwiches I have ever eaten.
The cheesy tots were something I ordered in order to fill out those small pockets of room that I knew were going to be present in my stomach after eating the sandwiches. Everyone else was eating tots, so I thought I’d go the extra mile by ordering some cheese on them. I was fairly surprised when I received my tots, as it looked quite messy with a mountain of cheese sloppily poured over the tots. It was far more cheese than I had anticipated, and the taste also confirmed that cheese was overwhelming the flavor of the tots. The cheese itself was too rich, and at one point I felt that I had simply order cheese, with a topping of tots. In hindsight, ordering the normal tots might have been the better choice.