Q: Who around here makes the best patty melt?
A: This is not a question upon which I often muse, largely because to the extent that I have a patty melt need, The Rarebit has always met it.
But there’s apparently a new rage for patty melts that inspired me to revisit my prior conclusion. Maybe “rage” is overstating the situation, but right around the time your question showed up, Workshop opened Chuck & Patty’s, where beef-on-bread constitutes one-half of the food stand’s name and one-third of its menu.
At Chuck & Patty’s, the patty melts feature rye bread, Swiss cheese and griddled onions, per tradition. But its defining ingredient is “boom boom sauce,” a peppery mayonnaise-based condiment that tastes determined to be Thousand Island right off the salad dressing shelf. Since grilled bread is sturdier than the average hamburger bun, it’s laid on thick. The familiar patty melt flavors of sweet onions and salty beef are wiped out by spice.
That’s a defensible artistic decision, but what’s secured the patty melt a place in the American sandwich canon is it doesn’t need any gussying up. In addition to covering a gamut of flavors, bread, beef, onions and cheese should hit harmonic texture notes.
Thinking about how patty melts are balanced, I decided to revisit a patty melt I’d enjoyed at The Royal American. Note I didn’t say The Royal Swiss. At the Morrison Drive bar, the standard Swiss is subbed out for more malleable orange cheese.
It tastes great, but much like Chuck & Patty’s version, it comes across as an adulterated version of something else. If the question raised by the melt at Chuck & Patty’s is “Who put my burger on sandwich bread?”, the melt at The Royal American could prompt an eater to wonder, “Why does my grilled cheese sandwich have a burger in it?”
At that point, I realized I was going to have to keep ordering patty melts, at least until I found one in which each member of the ingredient quartet played an equal part. It should have been a tipoff that I’d found a melt that fit the bill when my order at Meeting at Market arrived cut into four same-sized portions.
Dainty presentation aside, Meeting at Market has assembled an excellent patty melt, distinguished by charred beef and sharp Swiss. There are cooked mushrooms in there, too, although they ultimately get caught up in the patty’s umami. Still, it’s a patty melt of such stature that I never touched the accompanying Thousand Island dressing – or pined for anything called “boom boom.”