Foodie Friday: Central Melt
Welcome to Foodie Friday, a new TB Reporter feature during which our resident chef Joe Bonanno chats with a local chef and asks five questions. This week, Chef Joe talks with Ed Allen, owner of Central Melt on Central Avenue in St. Pete. If you own a restaurant or know of a restaurant you’d like to have featured in Foodie Friday, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FOODIE FRIDAY: CENTRAL MELT
By Joe Bonanno, TB Reporter
I’m a Floridian by circumstance, but a New Yorker born and raised. Whether I like it or not, city is in my blood; so I had high hopes when checking out downtown St. Pete’s newest specialty restaurant, Central Melt (685 Central Ave.). The long, narrow space with its graffitied wall and subway tiled signage was reminiscent of the New York City subways stations I remember so well. Casual eats are available at the diner-esque counter seating where you can order just about any type of grilled cheese sandwich imaginable.
The owner, Ed Allen, cut his teeth in the restaurant business when managing the popular Bodega On Central. He opened Central Melts nine months ago. Why grilled cheese? He modestly answers laughing, “It’s basically the only thing I could really make.” It appears that when you stick with your strengths, you wind up with a darn good grilled cheese sandwich.
The following is Foodie Friday’s featured five quirky questions. You can listen to the answers in full on the podcast.
TBR: “What’s the strangest thing that has ever happened in your restaurant?”
CM: “We have our regulars, but one day we had one lady come in three times in one day, so that was pretty bizarre for us.”
TBR: “Maybe she was interested in more than just the grilled cheese.”
CM: (laughing) “Yeah, possibly. Possibly.”
TBR: “Give me your best grilled cheese tip.”
CM: “Everybody loves butter, but don’t go too crazy with it. What’s gonna happen is it’s gonna give color to your bread, but it gonna color faster than your cheese melts. The second thing would be – maybe the most important thing – would be the heat. You don’t want the heat on too high, ‘cause the next thing you know you’ll have a casualty: burnt bread and not so melted cheese.”
TBR: “St. Pete has a lot of local really great craft breweries; if I ordered one of your bacon grilled cheese, which beer would you recommend to go with it?”
CM: “All the breweries around here, they’re really doing what they’re doing and they’re doing it really well. I’d suggest a porter or a stout. Cycle Brewing has a great cream and sugar dark beer. You also have Green Bench; they kill it with one called Happy Hermit. St. Pete Brewery has a nice, refreshing orange wheat, and 3 Daughters has an oatmeal stout that is really good. You know, we offer delivery – we use Uber Eats – and I was actually at Cage Brewing a couple weeks ago and sure enough, one of the customers drinking beer at the brewery had order one of our grilled cheese sandwiches.”
TB: “No kidding.” (laughing) “That’s great.”
TB: “Everyone loves a good theme song; which song would you say represents your business the best?”
CM: “Man, what’s that Sinatra song: New York, New York that would definitely represent the restaurant really well. Maybe even a little Jay Z, a little hiphop ‘cause there’s a little hiphop funk in here, ya know. Jay Z and Alicia Keys: A New York State of Mind.”
TBR: “If you could have anyone, living or deceased, movie star, fictional character, historical figure, anybody walk into your restaurant and order a grilled cheese, who would it be? What would you make him?”
CM: “You know, I’d definitely say my dad. My dad passed away about 15 years ago, so it’d be nice to see him walk through the doors.”
Central Melt, 685 Central Ave. St. Petersburg, is open for lunch seven days a week, and to 11:00 pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
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