HORIZON WEST — Carrie Landis takes a lot of pride in the menu she has created for 33 & Melt, a grilled cheese bar on the ground floor of The Retreat at Windermere in Summerport Village.
So much pride, actually, that when the new restaurant opened in June, she took it upon herself to make all the sandwiches for the first two months — all 4,076 of them. That experience allowed her to get an even better feel for the menu she had created, making improvements where needed.
Even more impressive: Although her co-owner and husband, Matt, comes to the business with decades of experience in the hospitality industry at places such as Hard Rock Cafe and Seasons 52, Carrie’s background in the industry isn’t what one would expect.
“I was a mom,” the Summerport resident said with a laugh. “I was professional mom. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, and I’ve always enjoyed going out to eat.”
Together, the two have combined their respective strengths into a business that has a growing following and has earned rave reviews on forums like Yelp! and the popular “Winter Garden — Rants, Raves, and reviews” Facebook group.
The secret, Matt said, is putting an emphasis on culinary creativity with a tried-and-true favorite.
“Carrie came up with an amazing menu that blended both comfort — grilled cheese, what’s more comforting than grilled cheese and tomato soup? — and then she put in gourmet elements to it,” Matt said. “We ended up with a comfort concept with a gourmet touch to it.”
What’s more, the menu — which offers appetizers like the popular “Pizza Fries” and the ability to customize your own grilled cheese melt — also has signature sandwiches of a variety that hopes to please food lovers of all kinds with melts such as The Porkster (Kansas City BBQ pulled pork), Buffalo Blue (buffalo chicken), Fuggedaboutit (pepperoni pizza) and the Slowpoke Rodriguez (fiesta taco beef).
“Even if somebody is not in the mood for a classic grilled cheese, we can still accommodate them,” Carrie said.
Other sandwiches feature gourmet touches such as brie, cran-raspberry preserves, smoked gouda and stone-ground mustard. Bread is delivered fresh daily.
The Landises settled on the location in Summerport, which they live above in The Retreat’s apartments, because of the growth of the area. After living in the Dr. Phillips/Williamsburg area previously, the couple believes they have set roots in the right place at the right time.
“It was exactly what we wanted,” Matt said. “We wanted to be part of a community with a local feel and to use local merchants. … We’ve seen the community grow leaps and bounds in the past few years. … It’s really terrific.”
Those local merchants include Central Florida-based breweries such as Crooked Can and Orlando Brewing, whose brews can be found on 33 & Melt’s rotating tap.
Thanks to the business’ growth, Carrie doesn’t have spend her evenings in the kitchen anymore. She and Matt make sure to greet customers while their three sons, two kitchen employees and a rotating waitstaff help man the operation.
In addition to the quality of the food, Matt and Carrie have also worked hard to create an inviting, neighborhood-hangout feel at 33 & Melt where guests often compliment the music selection — a blend of 1980s, 1990s and contemporary tunes that keep the spirit lively and upbeat.
Matt said the restaurant exceeded sales expectations on the first day it opened — and has done so every day since.
As for Carrie, the one who created all of the melts, picking a favorite isn’t easy.
“That’s like picking a favorite child,” she said with a smile. “It’s really difficult. I like them all.”
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Although the “Melt” part of the name 33 & Melt might be obvious, alluding to the melty-grilled cheese sandwiches the restaurant is known for, the 33 might be a mystery to some.
“(The number) 33 came from the year 1933 — the year the 21st Amendment was ratified and expelled Prohibition,” Matt says. “After we got our special exception (to serve alcohol), we were driving home and Carrie said, ‘Boy, it’s like Prohibition ended.’ We giggled and Googled some facts about it.”
The couple’s search led to their deciding on a prohibition theme for the restaurant, with Edison Lightbulbs and steel accents to give it an urban and industrial feel. Fonts on the menu have a typeface from Prohibition times, and even the sandwich names are tied into the theme.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].