Matt Fish, chef/owner of Melt Bar and Grilled, is terrified of werewolves. Deeply and viscerally terrified. And not that fake, showy terrified, like when people claim to be scared of clowns. (Stephen King’s “It” was published 25 years ago and you’ve never read it. Grow up.) You can see it in his eyes when he talks about it. Or, I should say, when he’s trying to change the subject. He is terrified of werewolves the same way someone being chased by a lunatic brandishing a meat cleaver is terrified of meat cleavers. I begin my review saying that because, really, what else is there to say about Melt that hasn’t already been said? By “Man vs. Food”? By “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”? By every media outlet in the region? What else is there to say about this local boy who made good that all of northeastern Ohio doesn’t already know? “Yeah,” said Fish, trying to veer the conversation away from red eyes, white fangs and full moons. “I guess I saw ‘The Howling’ a few too many times as a kid.” He’d rather talk about what he loves. Gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches. His customers. What it means to be from Cleveland. And what the future holds. When he opened the first Melt in Lakewood in 2006, Fish knew what Cleveland didn’t need. Fine dining was dying. The national economy was in a nosedive and Cleveland’s economy crashed and burned so long ago weeds were sprouting from the char. What Fish wanted to do with Melt was create the dining experience people just like him were clamoring for, but didn’t know they were clamoring for. “Everyone has a memory or a story about a grilled-cheese sandwich. Their mother used to make them. Their father,” he said. “My goal was to make comfort food that people are used to and put it on a sandwich.” And so The Parmageddon is a grilled-cheese cut with fresh-made pierogi. The Dude Abides features homemade meatballs and fried mozzarella. Bratwurst and kraut make Municipal Stadium Magic taste like a day at the ballpark. What Fish was offering up, in short, was comfort food stuffed with even more comfort food. The impact was immediate. “It wasn’t about survival. It wasn’t about making money,” Fish said of the early days of Melt. “I wanted to create the bar I wanted to go to. I figured if I put a good product out there, and if I worked my butt off, everything would work out.” Obviously, it has. The Lakewood location was such a success, Fish opened a second Melt in Cleveland Heights — and it, too, was a success. October 7 will mark the grand opening of a third Melt Bar and Grilled, this one in Independence. And if past is prologue, its success will somehow make the other two locations even busier. “I think what brings people through the door is a new experience,” said Fish. “What keeps people coming back are the elements that come after that.” (Fish calls those elements “the little things.”) We live in uncertain times. And one of the few certainties Cleveland residents have is that there once was a time where their city, long ago, was one of the those bright, busy corners of the earth. A city where teams won championships, where hard work was rewarded, where what you’ve always wanted out of life didn’t seem so far away. To a large degree, Melt’s success can be attributed to how what it does so well nourishes the dual nature of the Cleveland psyche. The grilled-cheese part reminds people of better times. The gourmet part — breathing new life into an old idea — reminds them of the possibility of better times ahead. When you say it like that, the little things don’t sound so little. “People in Cleveland don’t talk about the future,” said Fish. “Cleveland loves its past glories.” That’s because, for far too long, that’s all Cleveland had. But things are changing. Being from northeastern Ohio is becoming less and less about what was, and more and more about what might be. And so long as there aren’t any werewolves around when we get there, Melt Bar and Grilled and Matt Fish are going to be a big part of that future.