Melt Satisfies Comfort Food Cravings


Melt serves cheesy fare for lunch and dinner. 

by Jan Walsh     

Photography by Beau Gustafson

 

Birmingham’s popular food truck Melt opened a full-service eatery in a former garage in Avondale. Melt is a family owned restaurant that uses local products whenever possible and serves casual lunch and dinner menus of apps, salads, and sandwiches on Tuesdays through Saturdays. 

 

The Place

In the former location of Stephens Garage, on the corner of 41st Street and Fourth Avenue South in Avondale, Melt recently became a food truck with a restaurant—Avondale Melt and Truck. Architect Dungan Nequette transformed the garage into a restaurant with assistance from local artists, who sourced and reclaimed Alabama wood and steel. The open, stainless steel kitchen is the focal point of the restaurant—and keeps with its automotive theme—and anchors the front dining space to the dining room to the left. There is also a screened-in porch, where we choose to sit tonight.

 

The People

Harriet Reis and Paget Pizitz paired in the Melt food truck venture in 2011. Reis previously co-founded two successful Birmingham restaurants, Ocean and 26. Pizitz returned home to Birmingham in 2009, wanting to open her own business. The two partners found a food truck in Miami named Matilda and decided to open Melt the food truck. Chef Joey Dickerson has been a cook and chef in Birmingham for 20 years. Prior to Melt, he had stints at 26, Ocean, Billy’s Sports Grill, and Renaissance Ross Bridge Resort and Spa. The Melt food truck has been serving its cheesy fare to Birmingham since February 2011 prior to the Melt restaurant’s 2014 opening.

 

Favorite Fare

Those who have grabbed a sandwich from the Melt truck will find much of the same in the restaurant. Tonight we start with a look at the specialty cocktail and drink menu, which includes a small selection of specialty cocktails, wines, and beers. Melt-arita and Siren Song were our favorite drinks. The delicious margarita is served in a tall glass on the rocks with a salty rim. And the Siren Song is served in a low ball, topped with a jalapeno chili. We chill over cocktails and apps (PG’s Pimento Cheese and Matilda Rolls). The pimento cheese arrives in a paper-lined basket with long, crisp lavash crackers, which break easily for scooping chunks of the cheese, one creamy bite after another. The thick pimento cheese is not “watered down” by mayo in the mix, allowing the cheese to shine through in both its flavor and its hearty texture. Another tasty treat are the Matilda Rolls, made of mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, and red pepper flakes wrapped in wontons and flash-fried. These crisp and creamy rolls are aptly sized for dipping into their accompanying marinara sauce by hand. The rolls were so good that I wanted another order. 

Our favorite sandwiches were the Flying Hawaiian and the Southern Tomato, with sides of chips, fries, and slaw. The sandwiches also arrived hot in baskets lined with paper. Interestingly, the Flying Hawaiian is served on a pretzel roll. The sandwich is bursting with smoked ham, habanero Jack cheese, and Cajun grilled pineapple. The dense bread stands up to the sandwich’s fillings without falling apart in this delightful taste of the tropics. The Southern Tomato is down home, just like the sandwiches I grew up eating in the summertime (minus the coleslaw, but great idea). Thick slices of Alabama heirloom tomatoes and coleslaw are layered inside the melted Monterey Jack cheese on Texas toast.  Our side of fries is golden and cooked to our liking—not too crisp, but chewy. The house-made chips are thick and crunchy. And the slaw is super, adding some green to our meal.

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