Melt — Birmingham, Alabama

The Mac Melt is a grilled cheese with mac and cheese.
The Mac Melt is a grilled cheese with mac and cheese.

There are so many things in life that shouldn’t work out but do. Like Jimmy from “Degrassi” being a successful rapper and dating Rihanna. Or the 2013 Iron Bowl. Or Canadian tuxedos.

One more item to add to that list: Melt’s mac and cheese + grilled cheese sandwich, also known as the Mac Melt.

Yes, you read that right. Melt – located in the Birmingham neighborhood of Avondale — gets a boatload of mac and cheese and sticks it between a grilled cheese on Texas toast. On its own, each item sounds pretty tasty – everyone loves mac and cheese, everyone loves buttery bread, everyone loves grilled cheese – but together, it doesn’t sound that appealing.

I ventured to the brick-and-mortar restaurant with a friend on a recent lunch break to try it out (sometimes Melt’s food truck, Matilda, can be seen roaming around town if you can’t make it to Avondale).  Just a warning: If you want to spend your lunch break with the good folks of Melt, you better get there early. The place fills up quickly.

About 10 minutes after ordering, my mac-and-cheese sandwich and side of fruit ($9 combined for both) arrived. (Yes, Mom, I do eat some fruit. Don’t worry.) The fruit was fresh and delicious, but let’s start real talk here: No one cares about fruit when you have a mac-and-cheese melt in front of you. It’s like choosing to eat a Big Mac when you there’s a Hamburger FonFon beside it — it just doesn’t happen.

Proof that I also ate fruit.
Proof that I also ate fruit.

The melt was indescribable. No, really: I have no way to describe what it tasted like. My friend sampled the sandwich and felt the same way. It was like nothing we had ever tried before. The penne pasta was excellently cooked and covered in lots of gooey cheese, and the restaurant definitely didn’t skimp on the mac. And the bread never got soggy despite all that cheese weight. It was a perfect combo. Seriously, y’all. I know I have a love of bold statements, but really: If sandwiches were Beatles songs, this would be the chorus in “Hey Jude.” It’s fun and triumphant and oh-so-good.

And pro tip: If you’re not in an adventurous mood or just want to get something else on the menu, you can still get plain ol’ mac as a side item for $5. It may not have you singing the Beatles, but it’ll be well worth it.

Should you order it? Yes, yes, yes.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Want to go?

Melt, 4105 4th Ave. S, Birmingham, meltbham.com, (205) 917-5000

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Fife’s Restaurant — Birmingham, Alabama

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Fife’s Restaurant, 2321 4th Ave. North, Birmingham, 205-254-9167, Facebook
Hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday thru Saturday

Fife’s is a Birmingham institution. The restaurant has been serving up soul food since 1956, and for good reason: the food tastes like it was prepared with love — like your granny cooked it. The fried chicken, the squash croquettes — there’s no need to try to imitate. You’re not going to get close. And the community knows that as well — there’s almost always a steady stream of cars parked outside the restaurant, from breakfast to nighttime.

So when a co-worker recently announced he was going to Fife’s and was willing to pick up lunch, I decided to take him up on the offer. Why not start the blog on a high note? I’d never tried the restaurant’s mac and cheese before, but it had to be good, right? Precedent and all.

Ten minutes later, my colleague came back with lunch (for four people, so Fife’s shovels the food out quickly) and man oh man, did the mac and cheese look good. It was baked to perfection and there was a huge chunk of crust on top — my favorite part. Oh, and did I mention the portion? Fife’s gives you a hearty scoop of the cheesy noodles — so much that it overflows the portion of the take-out container meant for sides. It was a bit dry, but I attributed that to the fact it’s a take-out meal.

But was it any good?

The quick answer is … no. It was flavorless, bland and lacked seasoning. It tasted like how Britney Spears’ and Iggy Azalea’s “Pretty Girls” sounds: Before you listen to the song you want it to be terrific, like “Toxic” terrific, but by the end  you’ve already kind of forgotten you listened to the thing to begin with. It’s the same with this mac and cheese. It’s blah and forgettable.

So should you go to Fife’s? Absolutely. The price point is good — a meat-and-three dish is under $10 — and most of the dishes are down-home heaven. But skip the mac. Absolutely skip the mac.

Final score: 3.5 (out of 10)