The Melt New Montgomery
115 New Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
Grilled cheese. American classic. So utterly simple. Get someone like Jonathan Kaplan, founder of the Flip camera, to complicate it and make it simple all over again. This guy made several hundreds of millions of dollars when he sold Flip to Cisco. The camera may now be long gone but Kaplan has reinvesting his bounty. On what? The classic grilled cheese, simply called The Melt.
Grilled cheese is grilled cheese, right. Slice of cheese between two pieces of bread, warmed, sliced diagonally, and voila, a simple tasty snack, or meal if you please. Being a tech guy, this is basically grilled cheese with techy pizzazz. The experience begins with how you place your order – online through their website and via The Melt app. Don’t be alarmed, the traditional way of ordering food by way of walking up to a counter and picking your choices from a menu board is still available. If you do order online, order, payment and all, you will get a QR code which you will then take to any The Melt establishment (I hear Kaplan is planning on opening 500 of them nationwide in the next couple of months). They have a code reader wherein you’ll scan in your order, and that’s the only time they will prep your food.
The tech application follows with the way your grilled cheese is made. After your sandwich is assembled, they cook it in this custom machine that Kaplan designed, which according to the server at New Montgomery was about $5,000 a pop. This feat of engineering toasts your bread and melts your cheese in about 2 minutes. In truth I didn’t think making grilled cheese takes me that long anyway, but I’m all for anything that can make our lives more efficient. I imagine this would help when it’s really busy. At New Montgomery, they have 3 of these, which apparently can cook 4 sandwiches at a time. However, one should not discount the human factor of this process, which is the assembly of the sandwiches before you end up with The Melt. You’re only as fast as your slowest factor, so it doesn’t matter how quick your machine can cook your food to perfection if your workers have so many to assemble. When your food is ready, they call you by your initials, which I think is an unnecessary way to be different. It’s impractical, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
The techy piece pretty much ends there. Everything else is all about the product. The menu is very simple. Five types of bread, five types of cheeses, and five types of soups. They have set melts with specific breads to cheeses, but I was told you can mix and match however way you want. Of course, right, because why shouldn’t you be able to since they’re assembling things there and then anyway. Not to mention, they’re all the same price. Each melt costs $5.75, with the combo of melt and soup costing $8.75. The price tag is a bit hefty for a simple grilled cheese, I believe. Perhaps to pay for the custom bull clips they hand with every take-out order. However, it’s not like it disappoints for the price. It’s actually really good. My favorite is the Jalapeño Jack on Sourdough bread. This I ordered with tomatoes and bacon, which is free to add (yey!). Just the spicy flavor with the fresh tomatoes were such a good balance. I must note, however, that the bread was a little bit on the salty side, which I think is sad because I heard there’s a Melt-Salt secret ingredient they add that’s parmesan based. I’m thinking they could go a little easy on that.
I must talk about design, of course. Once again, the simplicity continues. Just with the name, The Melt. When you add “the” to anything, it becomes the one, even if it’s not the only. I love the orange and white them, because last thing I’d like to see is an overwhelming yellow. They brought in the organic brown/beige of breads and paper bag both in the website and at the store. I love how the menu is posted but seems to have been held on by a magnet. Easy thing to replace when needed. The design is screaming simplicity to translate its product, and to me, it works fabulously well.
All in all, try it once, have it once in a while, don’t make it your daily meal.