Lakewood Chamber of Commerce Announces 2012 Business Person of the Year
Congratulations to Mr. Matt Fish, owner of Melt Bar & Grilled, who has been selected as the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce 2012 Business Person of the Year.
Since September of 2006, Lakewood’s Melt Bar and Grilled has offered gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches - and a plethora of beers to please any palate - in a relaxed, comfortable and often full-to-capacity atmosphere. The menu ranges from simple – the plain grilled cheese sandwich called the “Kindergarten,” which can be dressed up with almost anything you can think of – to the immensely popular Parmageddon, which adds pierogies and fresh Napa vodka kraut to the basic grilled cheese.
As owner Matt Fish would say, eating at Melt is “truly an experience.”
Fish, who’s been a chef for 17 years in area establishments like Johnny Mango and Fat Fish Blue, opened Melt to specialize in what he terms “comfort food dressed up.” The idea evolved from his lifelong appreciation for the grilled cheese sandwich. “It’s simple, it’s good, it’s filling,” he says, “and it’s easy to keep bread and cheese around.”
His concept for Melt evolved over the years—from learning the ropes of restaurant management in the classroom and in the kitchen. Fish 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—especially as a few more important components had to be assembled. 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. Furthermore, having fresh, top-quality, local ingredients was important, too. Melt’s suppliers include Cleveland-area butchers, produce suppliers and beverage distributors. And Melt also takes part in a number of local festivals, charitable events and community-building functions, including the Taste of Lakewood.
Most importantly, 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’s original Lakewood location has more than doubled in size in five years, and two more locations have been added: in Cleveland Heights on the East Side and in Independence to the South. A fourth location is slated to open this fall in Mentor. It should come as no surprise that Melt regulars are numerous and visit frequently, from locals who might stop in twice a week to the monthly patrons who drive from as far as an hour away. Word has spread about Melt, a regional repeat-winner of Best Restaurant and Best Sandwich awards, and Melt is now nationally known and has been featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and the Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food.
Serving an average of 500 grilled cheese sandwiches every day (along with Melt’s other menu options and beer, of course), 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.
Please join the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce (www.lakewoodchamber.org) at its Annual Awards Luncheon at Around the Corner on Friday, June 15th for the presentation of this well-deserved award to Mr. Matt Fish.