Restaurant Re-creations: The Ugly American

We built this sandwich on rock and roll.

Downtown Jersey City used to have a little restaurant called Melt whose specialty was grilled cheese sandwiches;  it may not surprise you that grilled cheese is one of my favorite things.  Unfortunately, it was only around for about a year before it fell victim to urban neighborhood mid-gentrification roulette:  which cutesy niche shop will close next, and which will make it? Stay tuned!

One of the worst things about Melt’s demise, other than the fact that it happened before I got the last punch on my Melt card and claimed my free sandwich, was the loss of one of my most beloved brunch locales.  For a cutesy niche restaurant, Melt was pretty unpretentious, had amazing thick shakes, and the sandwiches were excellent – fresh bread from Balthazar daily, excellent cheeses, interesting sandwich combos.

If I was in a savory mood, I would usually go for fontina and aged cheddar on whole-grain and some silky-sweet, fresh tasting tomato soup.  But if I was in the mood for sweet – which I usually was – I was all about the Ugly American, so named because (1) the combination of ingredients seems somewhat hideous, and (2) the sandwich turns you into an actual ugly American; it was the one dish I was never, ever willing to share, and I share everything.

I bring you the Ugly American: Peanut butter, fig jam, sliced bananas and American cheese on white bread.

Don’t knock it ’til you try it: this is one f’ing good sandwich.  The sticky sweetness of the peanut butter and fig jam, the oozy saltiness of the cheese, bananas, excellent bread, pressed in just the right amount of butter to just the right degree of golden-brownitude… heavenly.  Without the cheese, it’s just a cloying mess.  Without the peanut butter, jam or bananas, it’s just a grilled cheese sandwich.  Put them all together, and you better get out of my way because I am going to EAT THAT FRICKING SANDWICH.


Anyway, after almost 2 years of missing this sandwich, a light bulb went off: why don’t I make this sandwich at home? So I did, with only one small change; the market was out of good white pullman loaves or levain bread when I was there (it was late in the day), so I got some challah rolls instead.  The challah is actually a little too much for this sandwich, but otherwise, it was every bit as good as I remembered.

And I still wouldn’t share.

Much like actual ugly Americans, this sandwich is scorned by the French.

The Ugly American

Courtesy of defunct eatery Melt

Smear some bread, preferably a hearty white, with peanut butter and fig jam.  Add as many slices of American cheese as you like.  Top cheese with a layer of sliced bananas.  Grill with generous amounts of butter until golden and oozy.  Consume immediately.  Send me an email telling me how horribly you’ve misjudged this most noble sandwich.

7 thoughts on “Restaurant Re-creations: The Ugly American

  1. I honestly believe that there is no way to explain how f’ing good this sandwich really is. It sounds disgusting when someone describes it, but when you eat it you find out that your imagination just couldn’t handle it. I loved Melt, and I love this frickin’ sandwich.


  2. It’s like ….hmmm….like…nothing like I have ever had but I totally trust that it works! Why? My favorite way to eat pasta is with parmesan, chicken and a dab of fig jam…totally trash, totally finger licking good!

  3. Don: In some circles, yes. As more and more of us declare our love of the jam and cheese combo, the easier it will be to eat in public.

    Tartelette: That’s totally how I’m eating pasta the next time we have it.

  4. Wow I’ve never heard of this sandwich before! I’m having a hard time imagining cheese with peanut butter, jam and bananas. But if I’m feeling adventurous one day I’ll try it. Maybe just a corner of the sandwich with a bit of jam and pb.

  5. oh how i do miss Melt, even if i’ve only been there once…
    i trusted them, i trust you, and i trust this sammich. any sammich on challah photographs oh so well. it takes every fiber of my being to stop myself from tasting this screen. dell tech support would kill me.

  6. Initially I was repulsed, then somewhat intrigued. I kept revisiting this post again and again – bewitched by the sandwich. BEWITCHED.
    I took the plunge on the weekend… And ended up making and eating three in quick succession. I may/may not have gained about five pounds.

    Like I said, bewitched.

  7. Pingback: James Starmer - Food » The Ugly American

  8. Pingback: thursday night smackdown » Ceci N’est Pas Un Grilled Cheese

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