A new book celebrates grilled cheese, poster art and the New Bomb Turks.
How do you turn a monthly sandwich special into an event? One approach is to promote it with a large, colorful poster as if it's a concert tour or a blockbuster movie.
For the past eight years, illustrator John Greiner (aka John G) has provided such a service for Cleveland-based gourmet grilled cheese restaurant Melt Bar & Grilled, which has Central Ohio locations in the Short North and at Easton. Greiner's designs are as imaginative as Melt's sandwiches: an apron-clad humanoid hippo peering into an oven to promote Mom's Meatloaf Melt, a spiky-haired punk in a gas mask overlooking the pierogi-based Parmageddon, a recurring Big Bad Wolf character for the Melt Pig Roast.
A new book, “Sandwich Anarchy,” collects all those posters into a hardbound, 200-page volume. Greiner will be at Melt's Short North location for a book signing Nov. 4 during Gallery Hop. “It's an opportunity to get all this artwork that we promoted heavily for a month and then it was gone,” Melt founder Matt Fish says.
The poster series began when Fish noticed Greiner had drawn Melt's Lakewood location into a page design for Cleveland Scene's Best of Cleveland issue. Fish inquired about purchasing the original drawing just as Greiner was seeking to expand his business beyond concert posters. A fruitful partnership was born. “John's brain works kind of like my brain works,” Fish explains. “He takes a lot of his influence from old movies, cartoons, comic books, that kind of thing.”
One example of their creative chemistry transpired when Fish concocted a lasagna sandwich. Greiner envisioned an Italian dinner table, “but I wanted to make it all kinds of cliché gangster characters, almost like a scene from ‘The Godfather'—but then make all the characters robots and weird animal-type people.” They called the sandwich The Godfather.
Other designs emerged from a midnight movie series Melt sponsors. For instance, “Tremors” inspired a sandwich called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon that has necessitated multiple posters over the years.
But no sandwich has appeared more often—or required more designs—than the New Bomb Turkey, named for the legendary Columbus punk band New Bomb Turks. “That's always been our Thanksgiving sandwich,” Fish says. “It's always been our November feature since day one.”
Fish's old band, the Chargers Street Gang, used to tour with the Turks, and he liked the idea of a name that would appeal to both punk fans and movie buffs (the band is named after Newbaum Turk, a character in “The Hollywood Knights”). The name also gave Greiner a lot of leeway.
“I've had a running list of ideas,” the artist says. “At first they were plays on the word ‘bomb,' like all the different meanings of the word ‘bomb.' … Last year I did this thing I've been wanting to do forever, which was the move that they do for kids where you trace your hand and turn it into a turkey. And I colored it in with crayons, and I wrote my name, like ‘John G, age 37.'”
Both the sandwich and the posters were a hit with the band. Turks singer Eric Davidson says his mom even ordered him a New Bomb Turkey poster for Christmas one year. “For certain family members and certain people you run into, you tell 'em you're in a band, and you've toured all over the world 60 times, and you've put out 10 albums and all this, and it's kind of like, ‘Oh, OK,'” Davidson says. “Then you tell them you've got a sandwich named after you, and they're just blown away.”