Big Cheese: Meltkraft

11/06/2013 4:00 AM |

Photo by Austin McAllister

442 9th Street, Park Slope
3 L’s

At this friendly lunch counter and gourmet shop, cheese is king. Jersey-based Valley Shepherd Creamery, known for its old-fashioned sheep-farming practices and artisanal cheeses, runs Meltkraft, where the house specialty is grilled cheese. A creamy-salty-mild cheese blend mellowed the pungent punch of the Brie in the Brielle, which includes a scattering of tart cranberries, sweet caramelized onions, and crunchy pine nuts, making each bite a little different from the last. The Melter Skelter pairs a slightly tangy Raclette-style cheese with scant pinches of tasty (but slightly soggy) barbecue potato chips, pickled green tomatoes, spicy jalapeños and a couple of sprigs of wilted watercress. While some eaters might enjoy the different and delicious flavors in each bite, I think this inventive grilled cheese probably would’ve been even better if all the layers of flavor came together at once. As for the Sasquash, I loved the sweet bites of roasted butternut squash, tender bits of pork loin and crumbles of blue cheese; plus, finding a toasted walnut in there felt like a lucky surprise—like discovering the baby in a Mardi Gras king cake. My favorite of the bunch, the Valley Thunder, packed mac n’ cheese into a sandwich with hearty brisket and bold cheddar, and it felt like less of a treasure hunt than the others.

Meltkraft is just a counter-service spot, but vintage glass milk bottles fashioned into light fixtures and steel cheese graters hanging from exposed brick walls give the dining area some character. There’re a handful of indoor tables, bar stools lined up along 10 well-curated beer taps (ready for pint glasses or growlers), additional seating on the sidewalk and in the sliver of a backyard, and high chairs for the little guys. It’s the sort of cheap-and-easy spot that could become a neighborhood staple, and it already seems to be
aging well.

On our first visit, the sandwiches were double-filled with cheese, which oozed onto their serving vessels, rustic wood slabs lined with parchment paper, to form buttery lakes. On our second visit, cheese cutbacks kept the gooey-goodness inside the sandwiches,
making them much easier to eat. The kid-sized Lil’ Shepherd (cheddar on brioche) was consistently burned on one side, though, and our two-year-old taster opted instead for a Bakery of New York mini-pretzel croissant and a housemade chocolate chip cookie. Don’t be fooled by their deep-brown, misshapen appearances—these cookies are unspeakably delicious. With Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream in the freezer, Cowgirl Creamery cheeses in the fridge, Founders Breakfast Stout on tap, and strong La Colombe Coffee on the burner, everything about Meltkraft is
in good taste.