The Secret Fork Content Committee recently met at Secret Fork World Headquarters. Discussions were light and lively, until someone claimed to have identified the best patty melt in town. Well, those are just fighting words at a Content Committee meeting. Fortunately, injuries were limited to some slightly bruised egos and on the bright side, we adopted a new mission – pursue patty melt perfection.
Before we get to the results, let’s take a moment to consult the patty melt primer. The perfect patty melt is comprised of four simple ingredients: a ground beef patty, mild grilled onions, Swiss cheese, and grilled rye bread. That’s it. A patty melt is an exercise in restraint. Simple ingredients treated respectfully and combined to bring out the best in each other, creating something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Some places apparently make something they call a patty melt using different cheese sauces, toppings, and worse yet, Texas toast. That’s great and all, but that’s not a patty melt and anyone who says otherwise is in for more than a bruised ego.
As long as we are picking fights, let me add that a patty melt is a sandwich. And, yes, you caught that right. Sandwich, not a burger. And I can prove it. I get burgered-out from time to time. Usually, that coincides with the end of the annual Downtown Burger Battle. We go at it hard, trying as many of the burgers as we can. When we reach the end, I do not want another burger. However, I am usually down for a patty melt. Why? Because it’s not a burger. That makes it a sandwich. Solved.
Patty melts can generally be found wherever decent burgers and Reuben sandwiches are on the menu. We’ve got some great ones around here. And we’ve got some not-so-great ones around here. We’re still on the hunt, but here are the tasting notes thus far.
The West 12th Pourhouse & Kitchen gets high marks on social media for their patty melt. According to the menu, Pourhouse offers the same patty melt that west-siders enjoyed at Bogey’s. So we chartered a flight and headed way on over to West 12th and Marion Road to find out. We were glad we made the trek. Pourhouse had all the critical components with marbled rye bread, grilled onions, and Swiss and cheddar cheese. (Some cheese combo is permissible, so long as Swiss is involved.)
We thought the distinguishing factor was the fresh Angus beef patty. We suspect an open flame char-grilled approach to the patty preparation. The Secret Beer Mug noted a fresh-off-the-grill flavor, and I had to agree. Pourhouse also cooked the patty to a decent medium doneness. Overall, this is a solid example of a good patty melt, and (spoiler alert) our favorite of the tour thus far.
Rumor has it that the Pourhouse patty melt and those to be found at The Attic are practically one and the same. I can see why people think so. Indeed, The Attic makes a great patty melt. This is going to require some additional testing and analysis.
Meanwhile, we’ve had some mighty good burgers at Ode to Food and Drinks over the years. Ode is a formidable competitor in the annual Burger Battle. Needless to say, we were ecstatic to see a patty melt on the menu. Ode stuck to the code with a fresh patty, perfectly grilled onions, and plenty of melty Swiss between grilled marbled rye.
The distinguishing factor with Ode’s patty melt is their house-ground beef. I am a big proponent of that sort of thing, because grinding your own is the single best way to ensure a beefy end result. However, it requires a great deal of experience to gain some consistency in the fat-to-lean balance and ensure juiciness. I loved the flavor, but found the patty a tad dry, even though it was cooked to a nice medium. That tells me the grind needed just a tad more fat. I’d gladly order it again, though.
On the end of the dining spectrum where there are no silver utensils, no pressed white linen table cloth, and no table for that matter, is Burger Time. With a location over on West 12th and across town on East 10th, Burger Time has been cranking out burgers and fries for at least a couple decades. I recall some great burgers and fries from Burger Time, but then, I also haven’t visited one in a long time. It’s one of those places I drive by weekly, but don’t think to hit up. Two words on the sign changed that. Patty melt.
Although not necessarily on the main menu board, Burger Time at East 10th has a patty melt. I went for it. Sometimes you can find the best things in the least expected places. And sometimes not so much. I drove my patty melt and fries home with great anticipation of finding a hidden gem. As I carefully unwrapped my melt, my heart sank as I revealed (gasp) plain white Texas toast! According to the Queen’s Rules, this results in an automatic disqualification. Otherwise, I thought the patty was OK, using a pass-fail grading system. The cheese was nice and melty and the onions were good. If the Texas toast, not-quite-a-patty-melt patty melt is your thing, Burger Time is your huckleberry.
We’re still wearing our stretchy quarantine pants, so we are going to continue this quest and report back our findings. If you’re still wearing your quarantine pants and find yourself a bit burgered-out, give a patty melt a try. Works for me, every time.