BOWLING GREEN — On Melt Shoppe’s website it boasts serving fine grub, a mix of Americana and fusion cuisine of the past. The restaurant concept, located in downtown Bowling Green at 145 N. Main St., is a tribute to the risqué days of prohibition where clandestine chocolate shops were covert intoxicating watering holes.
The concept conjures images of a lively restaurant, whooping it up while serving satisfying foods and chocolate shakes spiked with alcohol like the old days of prohibition. While the shakes are true, the food fell short of being fine and lively. It does do well in creating classic American pasta dishes swimming in cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches. On the bootleg side, the restaurant stays true to its name. It has a bar that runs the length of a classic dining room featuring top shelf spirits, wine, and craft beers.
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For dinner we sat on the covered outdoor patio that faces Bowling Green’s bustling Main Street. We started with mystery fried egg rolls called Brazilian Spring Rolls ($7). But there was nothing Brazilian about it. In fact what ingredients were stuffed inside remained a mystery, which posed a problem for others at the table since some had food restrictions.
The waiter seemed too busy to assist in helping us decipher what was what, and had to be reminded twice to serve us two appetizers we had ordered. Throughout the experience he was a blur, whooshing past us to ask if everything was “OK.” This miffed us since the main dining room was deserted. We were compensated with a slight discount for the oversight.
After cutting into the darkened rolls, we discovered that the mystery filling was nothing more than repurposed macaroni and dinner items, including white beans, red pepper, goat cheese, and red bean chili. We fought over the Truffle Potato Wedges ($7). Crispy potatoes are dipped in earthy truffle oil and then Parmesan cheese.
The Seared Scallops ($10) were sweet and tender, served on a bed of white beans.
Two of us ordered soups, broccoli cheddar ($3.50) and bourbon French onion ($3.50). The broccoli cheddar was stiff and the French onion was pitiful. At the bottom of the cup I found a glob of Gruyere cheese. For dinner I ordered one of the “signature melt” sandwiches, the Redhead ($9.50). It was like Sex and the City Part II. All the characters I loved were there: Beef strips soaked in a ginger based marinade, red peppers, a triple cream brie cheese, and sauteed onions. It also claimed to have apples, but I don’t recall tasting one. When it all came together on a thick, soggy bread it wasn’t satisfying and, unfortunately, the ginger outshined all the other players.
A friend ordered the 10-ounce ribeye strip steak ($17.50). A slab of thick beef was served with a side of mashed potatoes and the restaurant’s classic macaroni and cheese. All around the servings lacked a layer of flavor. It was beige; it needed a good dose of salt. Another friend ordered the Truffle Mac ($11.50), penne pasta and white beans smothered in a bechamel and Gouda cheese sauce. But here again the flavors were weak, and she added ketchup to liven it up.
Instead of dessert I finished my meal with a tall malt, the Apple Tree ($8). It was like fall in a glass. Intense apple, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and other spices blended together with Jack Daniels and topped with whipped cream. The waiter said the drink combines a slice of in-house apple pie with ice cream. For lunch the eatery shrinks its menu, offering no appetizers. It did feature a variety of salads, grilled sandwiches, and macaroni cheese.
I tried the Capone Mac ($9.50). Seashell pasta was pleasantly drenched in a sharp Asiago cheese, sun dried tomatoes, spicy sausage, and spinach. The creamy cheese created a consistent piquant flavor to the colorful dish and the salty tomatoes livened up every bite. A friend started with the grilled chicken and broccoli mac ($9.50). Apetina, Romano, and Asiago cheeses pronounced the peppery chicken breast and broccoli florets that freely mingled with linguine pasta. We then chose one of the signature melts. My Clark Melt ($5) was a cheese-filled dream, with mozzarella and cheddar cheese oozing out of the thick buttered bread.
My friend took the vegetarian route with the Higher Order ($9). It started with an avocado spread, followed by spinach, grilled onions, sprouts, slices of red pepper, tomatoes, and goat cheese. A cherry limeade vinaigrette dressed the fresh vegetables, but in the end the bread overpowered the whole ingredients. If you did get a mouthful of the greens, it tasted like an undressed salad.
I was so excited to visit the Melt Shoppe because I adore all types of cheese. Overall, the ingredients were there and the concept is right, but poorly executed.
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Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants. The Blade pays for critics' meals.