An award winning Route 66 diner packed full of positive vibes, where the cheese flows like liquid gold. The Meltdown Diner. Who is the owner of such a utopian cheese heaven? Jim Hardcastle, a hilarious ex-pianist with a glowing personality. When I walked into the restaurant with my friend Jackson, I said, “Hey, I talked to someone named Jim on the phone?” to which he replied, “Was he mad at you?”
I was laughing right off the bat.
His wife Sara handed us a couple menus, got us our drinks (Jim yelled “Mountain Dew, yahoo!” when I ordered it), and we were on our way to cheesy bliss. I ordered the classic grilled cheese, and Jackson ordered a classic with ham and bacon. Jim started cooking up our orders and promised to sit down and talk with us as soon as he was done. The service was extremely fast, and it felt like a friend was cooking us lunch. He seemed to genuinely enjoy making the food.
We received our sandwiches, complete with chips, a cookie, and a pickle. Jim came around the counter and sat in the booth next to ours. He told us all about how he opened this place last August, and they’ve already gotten loads of praise. “Best use of a property on Route 66,” “best facade,” “best small business,” and they’re up for statewide awards to be announced this summer, just to name a few.
Then we talked about the crown jewel of The Meltdown: the cheese. Almost every sandwich on the menu is based on the classic grilled cheese. They use a signature blend of five cheeses. American, Swiss, Monterey Jack, Colby, and Cheddar.
“It’s something that Mom at home, she’d never do. She’d never put five cheeses,” he said, snickering.
They also have gourmet sandwiches, like the Whole Hog. It definitely earns its name with ham, bacon, pulled pork, and their very own barbecue sauce, made in store. They make montecristos, they make guacamole… There’s really a lot of diversity. And with the tried-and-true classic grilled cheese always on the menu, even the pickiest eaters can be satisfied.
“What sandwich would I eat for the rest of my life?” Said Jim. “Everybody likes grilled cheese, from a two year old kid to a ninety two year old kid.”
I couldn’t agree more.
This seemed to be a recurring theme in his business. Nostalgia. With distinctly 50s decor, a small and cozy interior, and an owner/chef that feels like your favorite uncle after one conversation, there’s no denying the feeling of being at home.
“We make a lot of home-cooked meals, like meatloaf, that people grew up eating. They relate to it… Food’s always good when you don’t have to cook it yourself.”
And it seems that this whole vibe is very effective. The Meltdown sits quaintly in a manufacturing district. The place gets packed. He told me how, at lunch, all the workers come from their jobs and form a line that goes straight out the door and around the side of the homey diner.
With every sandwich, you get a soda (Pepsi products only), chips, a pickle, and a frosted oatmeal cookie. And this combo, with the classic grilled cheese, is only five dollars. Unbelievable, right? Every sandwich combo other than the classic is either seven dollars or eight.
If you visit The Meltdown, you gotta talk to Jim. Within the 45 minutes to an hour we were there, he had me laughing so hard I could barely eat my grilled cheese. With jokes like “I named this place after my ex wife,” (remember the place is called The Meltdown), he’s just a great guy to sit down and have a sandwich with.
Seriously. Go. Right now.