by Eric Ginsburg
This may be Charles Jones Jr.’s first real beer job, but that doesn’t mean he’s a newcomer to the field. Not at all.
As he moves behind the bar — checking kegs, wiping down the counter, adjusting the wall-mounted television, popping bottlecaps — Johnson talks about beer effortlessly, and not just the assortment he’s lined up at Melt Kitchen & Bar in north Greensboro. He spills random facts about local bottle-share groups or why a brewery across the state is allegedly closing the way some people recite Bible verses. Jones consistently infuses his invited commentary with humor, or wonders aloud about things like whether he can get a shift covered to stop by a bottle shop’s anniversary party.
It’s exactly the kind of personality and social skills you’d want from a bartender, let alone the guy responsible for stocking your beer cooler.
Jones is part of a team that has helped make the small panini restaurant a hit over the last few months, enough so that the room is pretty full considering it’s Monday at 6 p.m. People keep walking in, a number of them with small kids in their arms, even though rain is starting to bludgeon the parking lot out front like a hail of buckshot.
Beer geeks may not think of Melt first, or even at all, when considering where to grab a pint. There’s no great wall of beer, just six rotating taps and a small fridge of bottles and cans. It might seem like the sort of place that more successfully trafficks in wine — there are 27 on the list, and two different daily specials that draw a crowd, Jones says. But it would be a mistake not to include Jones’ curation in the pantheon of Greensboro beer.
Two Foothills brews help anchor the draft options, which also include a red Carolina Belle honey hibiscus wheat beer from Beer Army and a very hoppy but sessionable 21st Amendment Brewing Down to Earth IPA. The list, written in colorful chalk on the wall, doesn’t list the prices, but it’s no surprise that Haw River’s rye trippel at 8 percent ABV is the most expensive, ringing in at $7 before tax.
And when that keg kicks, which Jones says will happen imminently, he already has an impressive red IPA from Preyer Brewing stashed under the counter, even though the Greensboro brewery is less than two weeks past its opening on May 8.
The bottled and canned options expand Melt’s selection considerably — while still lifting up North Carolina breweries — to include popular craft beers including Mother Earth’s kolsch, Victory’s Golden Monkey, the Boulevard wheat, Flying Dog’s amber and the enjoyable Colette farmhouse saison from Great Divide in Denver. And Stiegl’s Radler, a grapefuit beer that comes in a tall can and is a mere 2.5 percent ABV, does pretty well among the workday lunch crowd, Jones says.
The best time to enjoy Melt may be on a Wednesday, when drafts are just $3. Pull up a chair on the new wooden patio, or snag one of about 10 barstools and order the popular Granny sandwich (with turkey, apple, brie, bacon-onion jam and spinach), the Costello (hot capicola, salami, spicy cherry pepper spread and provolone) or the vegetarian Port City (portabella, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, mozzarella and arugula). It will make a pint that much more memorable.
If Jones — whose coworkers call him CJ — is behind the counter, chances are you’ll find yourself talking to him. And that can only be a good thing.
Visit Melt Kitchen & Bar at 2270 Golden Gate Drive (GSO) or at meltkitchenandbar.com.