New! Shiny! Hype! Maybe it’s the exclamation points that have drawn you into yet another trip down food lane with yours truly, but, I think we can all agree that the hype surrounding a new restaurant is hard to ignore, especially when the sparkling newness comes with an already sterling reputation.
In the last month, two Cleveland originals have made their way to Fairlawn (because Akron is the best but that’s besides the point…or is it the whole point?!): Bomba Tacos & Rum and Melt Bar & Grilled.
Tacos. Rum. Grilled Cheese. Beer. There’s really not much more a girl like me can ask for.
First on my list of destinations was Bomba, because what goes better with a 90 degree day in July than a mojito? I’ll tell you, not much.
Because I am constantly cultivating a charmed food life, I promptly ordered their July Drink of the Month — a watermelon basil mojito — and proceeded to work as hard as possible to nurse it for the rest of the evening. It was so welcome and refreshing after a relentlessly sunny day that I had the urge to finish it all in under a minute, but I was good at refraining for once. Though I did not refrain from also indulging in Ryan’s Rum Punch, Bomba’s staple drink.
Easily the highlight of the menu for me is the craft-your-own guacamole option, not only because it is a stellar idea, but also because the add-on ingredients are just so damn mouthwatering- even without the prospect of guac! After much strategizing and deliberation, we settled on chipotle honey, spicy peppers, and queso fresco. We certainly accomplished the hot jelly vibe we were aiming for. Shout out to the plantain chips included in the medley of guacamole vehicles. They were my favorite.
When it came time for tacos, we each ordered three with the intent of trying all of them. Of the six, I have carefully narrowed down my favorite two:
First, the crispy fish. The fish itself was fried well, it wasn’t greasy and didn’t fall apart as soon as I bit into it. The soft sweet of the mango with the jicama crunch was perfect, but beyond everything, the jalapeño remoulade stole that taco. It was creamy, spicy, so delicious- perfect with the fish.
Second (if you are a seasoned follower you may have already guessed): the pork al pastor. I go crazy for tacos al pastor. I get them every time I see them. At Bomba, the addition of pickled onions and pickled jalapeños gives a subtle vinegar tang to the pineapple slaw. Just as in the case of the crispy fish, the balsamic aioli sauce really brought everything home.
Frankly, I don’t believe my cheese quota this issue has been met. Lucky for all of us, that’s exclusively all I’ll be talking about from here on out. Ready? Break.
I hadn’t eaten for seven hours before I went to Melt. That doesn’t sound like a long time, but it certainly was for me. Hot damn, I was craving those sandwiches. I wanted to go into this shindig ready for battle. If I was going down eating, I was certainly taking some melted cheese with me.
With a Corona in hand (it felt right for the heat, but Melt has a pretty extensive and impressive beer selection with many craft brews) it felt wrong to not get an appetizer, despite the impending monster grilled cheeses soon to be ours.
Our little party asked our server, “What’s your favorite appetizer on the menu?”
With little to no hesitation, she responded, “Mac and Cheese Bites.”
It was a done deal.
“Bites” may be the biggest understatement of the year. The glorious hunks of deep fried mac and cheese that were presented to us were anything but bite sized. Affectionately described as “cake slices” by a friend who could not have been more right, these things were equal parts massive and massively delicious. I was pleasantly surprised by the lightness of the fried exterior. It didn’t weigh the “bites” down but rather did what it was supposed to do: snuggle the mac and cheese into a solid formation while providing both richness and texture to the mac. It purely enhanced and all was right in the world.
Deciding on one grilled cheese was agonizing. I can’t tell you how many different scenarios of cheesy goodness played out in my head. I will tell you, it was a game time decision, and that decision was spot on: The Big Popper.
Let me lay this out: thick slices of bread, herb cream cheese, cheddar, fresh jalapeños. Deep fry that whole thing. Dust it in the tiniest amount of powdered sugar. Serve it with a berry preserves dipping sauce.
This thing was massive. I’m talking both halves stacked on top of each other were easily half a foot tall, probably taller. Spoiler alert: I could only make it through half. Was I disappointed in myself? A wee bit. But did I still feel human when I left? Yes.
The tang of cheddar, the rich cream cheese, and the crisp spice of the jalapeños was everything you love about jalapeño poppers in sandwich form! Once again, the deep fry was remarkably light. I had my doubts about the berry dipping sauce, but damn, the good people of Melt know what they’re doing. Not too spicy and not too sweet, this sandwich was exactly the right call.
Special shout-outs go to: the Fried Green Tomato BLT and the Smokey Russian. Tried, will try again.