Ah, the melt -- the heftier, meatier sibling to the hallowed grilled cheese sandwich. A plain scoop of tuna salad is easily elevated to next level status with the simple addition of melted cheddar, while the patty melt transforms a typical cheeseburger by using sautéed onions and griddled rye bread. (Accounts differ on the patty melt's exact birthday -- which ranges from the '30s, '40s or '50s -- but most suggest it was created at a former Southern Californian coffee shop down in L.A.) I've sampled many melts throughout the East Bay that transcend the sandwich's humble origins -- such as Oakland's Kronnerburger that serves their patty melt with onion confit, mixed melted cheese and hot mustard (shown above). Here's five other options that will warm your soul and belly this winter (and I've excluded other unique variations on meat-and-melted cheese sandwiches such as the Reuben, hot pastrami, Croque Monsieur, Cubano and the like.) Please let us know your favorite spots in the comments.
Ham and Cheese, Please
Located on the main drag that runs through downtown Danville, the newer, year-old location of the Sideboard now resides in a quaint gray building with a front porch and spacious back patio. As their menu features locally-sourced, seasonal comfort food, now's the time to order their open-face ham and cheese melt. Aged white cheddar oozes over slices of flavorful ham and a large housemade English muffin that's split in two. A side salad garnished with feta cheese and cherry tomatoes makes this a perfect lunchtime meal (which is the only time it's served.) If you're in the mood for dessert, there's also plenty of tasty housemade pastries to choose from to satisfy your sweet tooth.
90 Railroad Avenue [Map]
Danville, CA 94526
Ph: (925) 984-2713
Hours: Sun-Mon 8am-8pm; Tue-Sat 8am-9pm
Facebook: Sideboard Danville
Price range: $ (Sandwiches $10 and under)
A Classic Patty Melt with a Californian Touch
A charming throwback to the lunch counters of yesteryear, Sequoia Diner opened its doors this past May in Oakland's Laurel District. While they focus on producing good old-fashioned American breakfasts with a Californian sensibility, the star of their short lunch menu is their exceptional patty melt, which rises far above what you'd find at your average greasy spoon. Beginning with two buttery, thick-cut slices of housemade rye bread, a juicy hamburger patty (made with humanely raised meat) rests on top of a solid layer of grilled onions, melted Swiss cheese and Russian dressing. Not that you'll need the additional sides of a baby arugula salad, dill pickles and home fries, but those accompany your sizable sandwich as well. Save room for dessert if you can as their cookies and pastries are also all baked on the premises.
3719 MacArthur Blvd. [Map]
Oakland, CA 94619
Ph: (510) 482-3719
Hours: Open Wed-Sun 8am-2pm, Thu 5-8pm
Facebook: Sequoia Diner
Price range: $$ (Sandwiches $11-$17)
You Won't Miss Tuna With This Seafood Melt
We've complimented the The Cook and Her Farmer's picturesque, slow-cooked grilled cheese in a previous post. But their "Big Sur Melt" takes it one step further by adding tender bites of Florida Gulf shrimp, slivers of green onion and housemade seasonal mostarda to the mix of melted aged Gruyère, dry Jack and pecorino cheeses. It's arguably tastier than its sibling sandwich and puts most other seafood-based melts to shame. (Although two other restaurants I mentioned in that same write-up, The Sacred Wheel and Stag's Lunchette , certainly have noteworthy tuna melt contenders.) If you're able to polish off this entire sandwich, you may find yourself curling up for a nap underneath your table afterwards.