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Epic grilled cheese at The Melt food truck

The Melt makes grilled cheese sandwiches that are gourmet expressions of dairy love. These are definitely not the sandwiches you remember as a kid made with white bread, a schmear of margarine and a slice of American, or the toasted cheese sandwiches you made with an iron in college.

Find this sweet yellow food truck weekdays in the parking lot of the old Elks building in Medford, except Thursdays, when The Melt rolls to the Medford growers market.

The Melt’s signature sandwich, The Standard at $8, is a two-cheese savory experience of fresh Muenster and Tillamook cheddar with just a smear of whole-grain mustard on sourdough, crusted with Parmesan if you want that little bit of extra for $1.50. These sandwiches are soaked in butter, griddled to brown and melted to ooey-gooey cheesy goodness.

Create your own grilled cheese at $6 with a choice five different cheeses and four different breads (including gluten-free), and there’s lots of add-ons to change up the tastes flavors at 50 cents each. Select from pickle slices, pepperoncini, jalapenos and sautéed mushrooms or onions.

Included with each sandwich is your choice of French fries or potato tots, which come hot and crispy, or cole slaw — shredded cabbage and carrots with a thick, sweet celery seed-and-mayonnaise dressing. One thing I would have loved to see on the menu was a nice big kosher dill or garlic pickle. No slices, no slivers, but a nice big pickle that crunches when you bite into it and fills your mouth with sour and salt. I craved that pickle while eating The Standard.

“We have a create-your-own, and people go crazy with that. I’ve had people put every cheese and every single topping on that sandwich and Parmesan crusting, too,” reports Hailey Coffee, who with her partner, Dale Melson, runs The Melt. “We’ve had vegetarian and vegan requests, too, so we just make a vegetable grilled cheese without the cheese!”

There are Melts and Gourmet Melts on the board, but all sound gourmet to me. The Patty Melt uses Cherry Street Market’s Emerson beef ground specially for The Melt, a blend of chuck and rib eye, with caramelized onions and mushrooms and a spread of garlic mayo at $12. Also on the regular menu is the Apple Gouda Melt at $11 served with or without bacon. And if you are just getting out of bed or want breakfast all day, try the Eye Opener at $10, adding a fried egg and your choice of ham or bacon to the cheeses.

The Melt has a Daily Specials board, so look out the Monte Cristo, an early favorite that Coffee and Melson will bring back on occasion, and the Bacon Cheddar Blu made with Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue at $10.

Dessert specials are also featured, like their grilled cheese-style donut, which is a grilled Puck’s donut with mascarpone cheese and strawberries or a sweet s’more grilled sandwich with Nutella.

“We haven’t done a calorie count — what are you talking about? This is not the healthy truck,” laughed Melson. “I’ll bet the BBQ Melt is about 1,000 calories; the bread is 200 calories, then you add the cheese which is probably 300, the meat about 700, then coleslaw and sauce.”

The Melt has a good-tasting tomato soup every day even in the summer ,with a rotating selection of soups offered in cooler weather. You can get the half Standard, called The Junior, at $6 with a cup of tomato soup that’s just right. The bright tomatoey flavors fill the mouth, and summery basil aromatics tantalize the nose. The soup is thick and textured, sweet and spicy with a finish of shaved Parmesan. Ask Coffee to cut that half Standard in half again so you don’t have to lose the experience of lovely, melty strings that ooze out of each side when you pull the sandwich apart.

If you can work it out, consider pairing The Standard with a drier wine that will enhance the taste and complement the mouth feel of the dairy and clear your palate. You might try Awen Winecraft’s albarino or Weisinger’s sauvignon blanc, both varietals that have a higher acidity and respectively, notes of citrus and herbs. And I like the The Melt’s Patty Melt with a lighter beer, like Walkabout Brewing Co.’s Worker’s Pale Ale.

It’s best to order your grilled cheese sandwiches and eat them right there on the spot when the bread is crusty and the cheese nice and melty. Don’t wait to take it home or back to the office because the sandwich gets cold, and you lose out on the melty fun of the cheese.

The Melt operates from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday from the food truck pod located in the parking lot of the old Elks building at 237 N. Bartlett St. in Medford, though on Thursdays, they set the truck up at the Medford growers market in Hawthorne Park. For daily specials and events, follow The Melt on Facebook. For catering and advance orders, phone 541-622-5333.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at mbattistellaor@gmail.com

The Bacon Cheddar Blu with coleslaw. Photo by{ }Maureen Flanagan Battistella