Coming soon to a street near you: grown-up grilled cheese on four wheels. American Meltdown, a Durham-based food truck, has made quite a name for itself since it got its start in 2012.
The owners, Paul and Alycia Inserra, got the idea to start a food truck after they both lost their jobs. Although they knew they wanted to leave New York, they didn’t know where to go or what to serve. Realizing they were at an impasse, they gathered their friends and had tasting parties. Between noodles, gourmet hot dogs, and grilled cheeses, the sandwiches won every time.
It was the friendly reputation of the Triangle and the community’s embracement of the Durham’s Food Truck Rodeo that solidified their decision to move to North Carolina and start American Meltdown in March of 2012.
Customers are constantly raving about American Meltdown’s signature flavor. Ted Middleton, a junior at Durham Academy, is quick to comment that “their cheese is next level and their service is unparalleled.” According to Paul Inserra, Meltdown’s griddle-toasted bread and melty cheese have been a core part of the food truck since the beginning. When coming up with the name, Paul told his wife that ‘Melt’ had to be included because “we were going to serve just melty, cheesy sandwiches.” Meltdown sources locally when possible, with bread from the popular Durham-based bakery, Guglhupf and cheese from Goat Lady Dairy (Lindale Gouda, Goat Cheese).
When running a food truck, hitting bumps in the road are inevitable. “We’ve had all sorts of hiccups. Just last week the wheels fell off the back of the truck while driving, and we ripped up the gas lines,” said Paul.
American Meltdown has seen a lot of success too. In 2013, they were highlighted in the New York Times article, 36 Hours in Durham and a few years later, Paul was invited to be on the Food Network show Cutthroat Kitchen. Most recently, American Meltdown was chosen for a spot in the food court at Southpoint Mall. “We were looking for our next move. Similarly to the truck where it was a cheap startup, moving into that mall was a cheaper startup compared to a stand-alone location,” said Paul. Their Southpoint location follows mall hours and has a slightly different menu for the more mainstream crowd.
A key part of the American Meltdown experience is the fun vibe, energetic staff members and dedicated service. All this hard work goes a long way with the community, especially with Meg McNall, a local science teacher. When asked what she loved about Meltdown, McNall enthusiastically stated that “their brussel sprouts are like a work of art, each leaf is perfectly fried and brown and crispy and they serve it with an awesome lemon garlic aioli.” The brussel sprouts are so popular that American Meltdown goes through 150 pounds of brussel sprouts a week. But the brussel sprouts alone didn’t cultivate her love of the truck, the caring staff did too. “They are really nice and seem to remember me,” she said after sharing a story in which a staff member called her by name out of line to tell her that they had run out of brussel sprouts. Almost every customer has a story like this when they talk about American Meltdown, the Inserra’s love the Triangle community, and their customers love them back.
What’s next for American Meltdown? Hopefully a stand-alone brick and mortar location. As a loyal customer of the food truck, I’m willing to wait until that day comes… as long as they don’t stop churning out sandwiches in the meantime.
Track the truck here for more cheesy goodness.