It’s been several days since I first had the patty melt at Jonathon’s, but I can’t stop thinking about it.
This statue of meat, cheese and buttery mushrooms and onions has been following me around all week. It pops in my head during meetings. It’s like witnessing an original work of Hellenistic sculpture: If its likeness were carved in marble, it’d last for centuries atop a sparse hill. When the giant sandwich arrived on my table, it was a two-handed beast skewered by bamboo and actually spoke to me, saying “You don’t know the power of the dark side.” I submitted.
Thanks to floor repairs and foundation construction, Jonathon’s is temporarily housed in the Kessler Park Eating House for now. I went the day after the election, desperate for the something to soak up the bourbon from the night before and in serious need of comfort food. I sat at a wobbly two-top table situated in a blade of sunlight, ordered the patty melt and a side of their gossamer-thin sweet potato chips. Minutes later, there was the telltale hiss of the flat-top.
I love the comforting simplicity of patty melts. When I was an undergrad, a toasted rye-topped and cheesy patty melt, steak fries and a pitcher of Shiner Bock at Milo Butterfingers were regulars at my stomach party. It was my meal of choice when I turned 21. Owner and chef Jonathon Erdeljac took the most common patty melt ingredients and made slight variations: sautéed mushrooms and a garlic aioli. The onions get caramelized in brown sugar, salt and what Erdeljac calls "chill-spice." The aioli is a garlic confit, which are two words that need to get a room, already.
"I grill the bread and put Swiss cheese, onions, aioli and provolone on one slice," he says. "And I repeat that on the other slice, but replace onions with mushrooms. Then I place the cooked patty between the two, and give it a quick press on both sides to make the whole thing melt together." The patty is seasoned with salt, pepper and Worcestershire.
Jonathon’s sandwich construction is precise and majestic: Stretchy, melty Swiss and provolone cheese, sautéed-until-decadent mushrooms, buttery onions and the spread that adds a garlicky dimension. I felt heads turn around me when my melt arrived. A golden brown sauce ran from the onions. I think it may have glinted in the light, but that's neither here nor there.
My beef patty was medium rare, a blush red center that gave way to a seared crust, and each half was big enough to send me into a monthlong nap. This is exactly what a patty melt should do. You should be ensconced in butter and cheese and tender beef. You shouldn’t be able to operate machinery after consuming it. Find a bed or a flat surface: You're going down.
“I love my patty melt. I try to eat at least one per week,” Erdeljac says.
There’s griddled love in this sandwich. It tastes of warmth and winter, and it’s easily one of the most comforting in Dallas.
Jonathon's is (temporarily) housed at Kessler Park Eating House, 1619 N. Beckley Ave.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.