We approached Melt Shop, the new Mall of America fast food shop purporting to serve "artisanal" sandwiches, with all the enthusiasm of someone who likes something good and is ready to get it even better. Grilled cheese? Yes. Made with care and high-quality ingredients? Hell yeah! Sign us up!
What we received was in fact a regular grilled cheese, on regular bread, with regular cheese (American and Wisconsin cheddar) with wan tomatoes and little more than lots and lots of butter and oil, which undeniably makes everything better.
It wasn't bad. But it was undeniably your mom's grilled cheese sandwich, and $6 would have bought her a week's worth of ingredients to make them every day. Maybe if she had called her sandwiches "artisanal" you would have appreciated them a little bit more, hmmm?
The word "artisanal" is pay dirt for marketers because it doesn't really have to mean anything specific. It's like "local" or "organic" before the USDA finally had to come out and give it an actual definition. I spotted an "artisanal" dry cleaning service the other day.
In spite of their name, Melt Shop's sandwiches do not in fact prominently feature cheese. Good cheese in a sandwich is never a bad idea, and the application of some "artisanal" cheese might arguably render a sandwich "artisanal" in itself.
For instance, truck on over to St. Paul Cheese Shop, where the simple act of squishing some of the world's best cheeses and meats (French Comte, Spanish Manchego, funky Taleggio from Italy, plus all sorts of carefully cured meat) between bread makes theirs some of the best sandwiches anywhere. And prices are roughly the same as those at Melt Shop.
Back at the mall, the addition of truffle oil on no fewer than three of their nine offerings tenders an illusion of gourmand. Has anyone ever missed truffle mayo on their BLT or their grilled chicken sandwich?
When they do serve cheese, it's cheap stuff you could pick up in any convenience store in America: American, "cheese sauce," Pepper Jack, Muenster, Havarti. They're making a big profit on pretending to be "artisanal." Contrary to the food-porny photographs on their site, the sandwiches do not arrive beautifully pressed or oozing good cheese.
Melt Shop is just a sandwich shop. And a good sandwich shop is a fine and mighty thing. Perhaps Melt Shop isn't confident enough in their sandwich-making prowess to call themselves what they are.
Mall of America
Culinary on North Food Court
60 E. Broadway, Bloomington