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Avocado Bliss: choice of baked tofu or chicken, fresh avocado, roasted garlic, Roma tomatoes, shallots, white cheddar, and mixed greens / Image: Brian Planalp // Published: 1.13.18

Melt At The Contemporary Arts Center Is A Bright And Healthy Revelation

Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with Cincinnati’s restaurant scene. Sometimes it’s just plain confusing.

See if you can follow me here: In 2016 OTR’s Picnic & Pantry and Northside’s Melt were acquired by Wellmann’s Brands, which moved Melt to an expanded location in Northside then renamed Picnic & Pantry to Bottle & Basket. In 2017, they closed OTR’s Bottle & Basket after opening a Bottle & Basket location in the Contemporary Arts Center downtown, whose name they promptly changed to Melt. Northside’s Melt reopened in July 2017, while Melt at the CAC opened in August, just a month later.

Tricky provenance aside (we kid because we love), both Melts are absolutely wonderful. The Northside location we profiled last August, in case you missed it. As for the CAC location, well, that’s why we’re here.


Melt CAC is located in the Contemporary Arts Center lobby. No, scratch that, Melt CAC is the Contemporary Arts Center lobby. In either case, the line is blurry because Melt’s clean, open design and funky decor play into the CAC’s contemporary and artsy vibe.

The restaurant functions pretty well there too, doubling as a meeting place and downtown workstation (the WiFi is clutch). Yes, the cafeteria-style ordering of Collective Espresso (a previous tenant) is absent. But even having gone full-on sit-down mode, the feel at Melt remains casual.

That’s what you’d expect from a place that is, at bottom, a sandwich shop. But frequenters of Melt Northside know these aren’t your everyday sandwiches. These are sandwiches elevated, freshly baked with artisan bread and thoughtful ingredient combinations.

Best of all for the herbivores among us, tofu, seitan, and tempeh substitutions are permitted throughout the menu. So you can get Melt’s oh-so-delicious cheesesteak vegetarian style. And who’s to say it isn’t better that way? (It isn’t, though that doesn’t mean it’s not still really, really good.)

The party doesn’t stop at the sandwiches, either. The wraps, salads, soups, and (vegan) chili are all healthy, delicious options, perfect whether you’re just passing through for some grub or filling up before going full nelson on some 21st-century expressionism.

Because, as everyone knows, you should never look at modern art on an empty stomach.

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Melt Eclectic Cafe CAC is located at 44 E. 6th Street (45202).