Melt n your Mouth

The trick to success in the world of sandwiches is to stand out from the rest with superb ingredients, service and atmosphere. Melt, a new sandwich shop on Northwest 21st Avenue, is out to do just that.

The trick to success in the world of sandwiches is to stand out from the rest with superb ingredients, service and atmosphere. Melt, a new sandwich shop on Northwest 21st Avenue, is out to do just that.

Melt opened recently after owners Sarah and Nick Medici decided to quit the fine dining industry. For the past 25 years, they’ve run high-end restaurants—like the Italian-styled Paparazzi Pastaficio—and they were ready for a change.

“We’ve always been in fine dining,” Sarah Medici said. “We decided it’s time to be more funky and artistic.”

The shop certainly has an artsy touch. Corrugated aluminum siding accounts for half the walls and warm, colorful light fixtures hang from the ceiling. A column at the bar is painted black and artfully used as a chalkboard for updating the day’s specials. Scrawled on a low-hanging wall in chalk is the word “duck,” a friendly, you-should-feel-at-home-here restaurant touch.

Inspiration for the restaurant came from the Medicis’ experience living in New York City in the 1970s when musical and artistic movements were transforming the city. They feel that Portland is undergoing the same sort of changes, particularly in music. With previous experience hosting jazz music in their restaurants, the Medicis hope to host bands and musicians at Melt when some nicer spring weather rolls around.

Wanting to create something more economically accessible, the Medicis came up with the idea for sandwiches from watching the gourmet sandwich trend spread across Portland. Their sandwiches seek to be creative and unique without coming off as pretentious.

The crab burger is a favorite at Melt, accompanied by a homemade slaw. The chicken sandwich boasts sweet onion marmalade and orange jalapeño mayo—two examples of Melt’s condiments, which are all made from scratch. These sandwiches are artful skyscrapers, a tower of house-smoked meat, cheese and veggies on hearty ciabatta bread. The top bun rests diagonally against the rest of the sandwich, unable to hold itself aloft, waiting for a hungry customer to place it on top and take a big, juicy bite.

For washing down that tasty feast, Melt offers plenty to drink. The rotating selection of microbrews on draft features local favorites like Laurelwood Porter and Hops Urban Brewery lager, which scale down to $3 a pint at happy hour. The bartender can fix up any drink from Melt’s full bar, but they have a few special cocktails. The Manhattan West is popular, taking its name from the fact that it uses Northwest-based Pendleton Whisky. Another cocktail hit is the Weed and Lemonade, which stirs up Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea Vodka with lemonade and soda water. That’s a drink to keep in mind for a summer day.

Speaking of summer days, Melt is prepared to make guests comfortable in all seasons. The big sliding glass windows can be opened for summertime, allowing eaters to enjoy the fresh air. In the winter, of course, they’re shut, and the restaurant makes sure to stay cozy.

Aside from a delectable sandwich menu, this joint’s happy hour provides a fair selection of foods, from mini sandwiches to poutine, all floating at the range of $3 to $5. With a happy hour twice a day, six days a week, it’s hard to miss.

The desserts are also tempting, waiting under glass displays to be eagerly consumed by sweet-toothed clientele. Sarah whips up the baked goods, which rotate on the menu and will be refined based on customer feedback. Anything from berry pies to fudge brownies can be found on a given day.

Reception from the public has been good, so far. It’s not surprising, considering the friendly service and quality fare. Melt can already boast repeat customers with menu favorites and it’s likely that the shop will fare well on the shopping-central Northwest 21st Avenue strip.

“It’s about being casual, affordable and comfortable,” Medici said.

That’s not a bad idea in a dwindling economy where people want to go out to eat without having to spend a bundle of cash. With a menu made from scratch, a decent happy hour and possibly some live music in the coming year, Melt just might stand out as one of the finer gourmet sandwich shops in town.