The concept is smart: Two complementary businesses share a space, but not operating hours. One business is a simple sandwich shop, Melt; the other, 2 Cupcakes, is a cupcake store.
The folks on the Melt side previously owned some other successful sandwich shops here in Tucson, so it's no surprise that most of the sandwiches are done well.
The room is spare in design. Simple wooden tables fill the room; small photos of American cities hang on an exposed brick wall. A counter and several refrigerator cases line the opposite wall.
Since there is only one breakfast item—a fried-egg sandwich with American cheese on a choice of breads, $3; if you want ham, bacon or sausage added, it's $5—we decided to skip the morning meal. Instead, on two Saturday visits (which didn't give us a picture of how busy it can get during a weekday lunchtime), we sampled four sandwiches, a lunch salad and a couple of sides.
We also sampled four cupcakes ($3 each). They are sold during Melt's hours, too.
Both hot and cold sandwiches are available, and all sandwiches are named after U.S. cities, with ingredients supposedly reflecting said cities. All sandwiches are $7, with one exception: the vegetarian Memphis is $6.
Our cold sandwich choices were the New York City (pastrami and Swiss on rye) and the Hoboken (ham, capicolla, Genoa salami, pepper ham and provolone on an Italian roll). The hot sandwiches were the Chicago (chopped rib eye in marinara sauce with American cheese on an Italian roll) and the Los Angeles (pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss and Thousand Island dressing).
For the most part, the cold sandwiches were well-built and full of flavor, although the Hoboken fell short of our expectations. This is a hoagie or a submarine or whatever they call a meat-centric sandwich in Hoboken—but even with the addition of tomatoes, mustard and pickles, there just didn't seem to be enough to the sandwich.
The New York, on the other hand, worked wonderfully. It's supposed to come on rye, and that's what we ordered, but we got white bread, for some reason. No matter; this pastrami was tender with little fat and sliced to the perfect thinness.
On the hot side ... "melt" is no exaggeration regarding the Chicago. The cheese—which is advertised as American, although it did not look or taste like American—was hot, like a creamy sauce. Maybe there could've been more meat, but this sandwich was quite satisfying.
Our fave was the Los Angeles. Basically, it's a Reuben sandwich with pastrami instead of corned beef, and the elements came together wonderfully. The pastrami, as mentioned earlier, was great, but the toppings really rocked. Again, the cheese was creamy and hot, and there was just enough sauerkraut. The dressing was more Russian than Thousand Island, but tasty.
The one lunch salad we tried was the Hollywood ($7), with romaine lettuce, chopped ham and turkey, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, a hard-boiled egg and tomatoes. Dressing choices were balsamic vinaigrette, Thousand Island and ranch; we opted for the vinaigrette. Every bite held a mix of tastes and textures; this salad is most certainly a meal in itself.
The two sides we tried—the potato and macaroni salads ($2)—were nice versions of these standbys. Some may think the portions are small, but alongside a sandwich, they were just right. Both tasted amazingly fresh and were not over-seasoned or drowning in mayo.
And now, for the cupcakes: They are just plain delectable. I've never really understood the cupcake craze. Sure, cupcakes look pretty, but they're often too dry, too small or too bland. However, the 2 Cupcakes offerings were moist and popped with flavor. All of the frostings were creamy, smooth and wonderfully rich.
The cupcakes are kept chilled in a glass case, which is practically the first thing you see as you walk in. (All the better to tempt you with, my dear.)
Our two favorites: the chocolate peanut butter, and the chocolate with vanilla frosting. On the first, a hefty chunk of peanut-butter cup was placed artistically on top; then there's the thick, creamy, peanut butter/chocolaty frosting; then there's moist, not-too-sweet cake. Utterly fantastic! The choco/vanilla was a perfect blend of these basic flavors. Call it the yin and yang of cupcake-dom.
The lemon cupcake was our least-favorite, but it was still damn good and very pretty, with a lemon slice twisted across the light-yellow frosting.
On the Melt side, the service was ... well, kind of spacey. The person at the counter had a tough time getting the name on the order right—and that name was "John." There also seemed to be a lot of people working for such a small space.
Melt makes me wish I worked in one of those offices nearby. I could stop by once a week or so, grab a tasty sandwich, and then dive into one of those luscious cupcakes—waistline be damned!