Mom's old standby melts anew in Moorpark
Not the average grilled cheese
By JR Grant 05/30/2013
6593 Collins Dr.
It is not often that one goes to a sandwich shop and later remembers not only the well-prepared food but also the attentive and personal table service. That, however, is precisely the take-away at Custom Melt in Moorpark. Opposite Moorpark College, and just celebrating its one-year anniversary, this hidden treasure is the brainchild and passion of owners Phil Adler and Tom Gallo. Gallo cooks and designs the sandwich ideas, and Adler pitches in with hosting, table service and generally making all customers feel welcomed and gastronomically sated.
Very soon after you’ve found a table, a server appears with a basket of fresh potato chips and a gooey cheese (smoked Gruyère and Havarti) dipping sauce. This serves as a delightful amuse bouche for the meal to come.
An old-fashioned grilled cheese sandwich always satisfies a comfort food yearning, but foodies can rejoice at Custom Melt’s many versions. The simplest has a four-cheese combo of Gruyère, cheddar, grana Padano and Havarti, oozing out of a grilled honey wheat roll topped with a roasted tomato. Or, for an island interpretation, the Cuban Reuben, which has slow-roasted pork, pastrami (or corned beef), mustard, pickles, mayo, Swiss and jack cheeses, and caramelized onions, is served on a Cuban loaf.
All of these clever variations on the grilled cheese theme are well-crafted and uniquely designed. I’ve eaten several of the sandwiches and not been disappointed in any thus far. Actually, the concept invites return visits because each description has some unique appeal. If you are a blue cheese fan, order the Smokey Blue, slow-roasted brisket topped with gorgonzola, caramelized onions, walnuts, Kalamata olives and other smoked cheeses on ciabatta.
South-of-the-border fans can order the Green-Go, which has avocado, applewood-smoked bacon, roasted turkey, poblano/jalapeño spread, cheddar, pepper jack and queso fresco on sourdough. One day, a vegetarian friend of mine couldn’t stop raving about the Veggie (squash, roasted tomatoes, grilled peppers, pepper jack, caramelized onions and chipotle aioli on sourdough). As good as it was, next time my friend is going for the Fun Guy — crispy portobello mushroom, Gruyère, Havarti, grilled red onions and lemon garlic aioli on brioche.
The descriptions of all the sandwiches and ingredients are intriguing, and of the ones thus far sampled, right on target for dining delight. The other day at lunch, I was in a French dip mood, and ordered the Custom Dip, thinly sliced Italian beef, caramelized onions, smoked Gruyère and Swiss cheeses, horseradish mayo, all melted onto a chewy pretzel roll.
The dipping au jus was greatly enhanced by the addition of thinly sliced scallions. It was a most satisfying variation of the traditional French dip.
If sandwiches do not appeal, one can always opt for Custom Melt’s various versions of macaroni and cheese. One delightful-sounding offering is the truffle with sausage variation. Apparently, the “Mack” sandwich version has crispy grilled macaroni and cheese with bacon on sourdough. So many selections on this menu make choosing difficult, but also make returning a much-looked-forward-to probability.
A quick note about beverages: The lemonade is freshly made, the water is Vivreau (sparkling or still), and on tap are several pulls from local brewery Enegren’s celebrated taps. Firestone is also represented, and the wines by the glass are from both Semler and Summerland wineries.
Chef Gallo was creating a dessert sandwich the other day and brought me a sample: homemade peanut butter with grilled bananas on gilled white bread with a delicious whipped cream and mascarpone fluff. I was so full from lunch, but how could I resist? It was well worth it and likely to be included on the next menu rearrangement.
Great cheese, great ingredients and clever design do not come at bargain prices, but the attentive service and delicious food certainly make a trip to Moorpark worth it. The owners have just opened a pizza parlor next door, Custom Pie. The menu is enticing, and I look forward to sampling these two entrepreneurs’ latest creation.