Morningside has food niches vacated and sort-of filled every few years. AmCaf, beloved steak sandwich locale in the early aughts, became a fancy tapas bar that no one you know eats at. The fabled West End became mediocre Havana Central, a shadow of its former Kerouac-hosting, drunk-makeout-and-beer-pong-haven self. You could get full and drunk for less than $20, and sometimes much less, and that’s all we really ask for (until Mom and Dad visit– then it’s beet bowls for everyone!)
Bwog ate dinner at Mel’s Burger Bar last night, and we’re delighted to report that you can indeed get full from good food and drunk on good beer for not very much money.
Mel’s looks great. The floors are black-and-white marbled, there’s lots of wood paneling, hanging lamps, red booths, exposed brick, huge chalkboards with beer, food and dessert menus, and six flat-screen TVs showing the Yankee game. The hostess and server were friendly, and the bathrooms spacious and unisex– ooh la! There are 140 seats, with 18 chairs on an outdoor patio.
Bwog and our dining companion sampled two of Mel’s punches ($8-9): the Hook, which was a not-too-sweet alcoholic orange juice, and the Haymaker, which was Grey Goose, Bacardi, and some other stuff that got us properly tipsy. There’s also a promising-looking “unusual lemonade” with homemade lemonade, Jim Beam, and mint for $8, and a slew of other mixed drinks that aren’t as embarassing to order as a vodka cranberry.
There are 18 beers on tap ($4-8), 5 cans from PBR ($4) to 21st Amendment Back in Black ($8), and 10 bottles ($5-10). The Southampton White Beer is delicious. The fancy drinks are expensive-ish but strong, the regular beers are roughly 1020-priced. A good way to get a lot of beer: order a 32 oz. or 64 oz. (!) growler to go, from $7-30. There are also stacks of burgers and wings to go.
The food is good. For sides, Bwog tried the onion strings, which were thin and crispy and very good, a generous portion of zucchini wedges which were thick and crispy and very good, filling and well-seasoned, and chicken meatballs, also very good, with lots of tomato sauce and some cheese. The meatballs and wedges were also both excellent for breakfast this morning. The Buffalo wings were not quite crispy enough, but spicy and appropriately messy.
The entrees were pretty good: the Classic Burger was modeled on the first ever hamburger at Louis’ Lunch (which you may have eaten, like Bwog did, after your college visit to Yale, disillusioned but oddly relieved by the experience) which was made with two pieces of white toast instead of a bun. Our bad for ordering a burger on white toast, since the bottom piece got soggy and the burger hard to eat sans bread. Burgers are on buns for a reason. The burger itself, made with Pat LaFrieda beef, was really good, and the soggy toast still made for good solo eating, soaked as it was with burger juice and herbs. The Fall Off the Bone Baby Back Ribs did indeed fall off the bone, and were perfectly sauced, but lacked some crispiness we like with our ribs. Bwog and dining companion suspect that the 6 hr smoked brisket sandwich is the entree to order, along with a regular hamburger (which comes with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onion). Report back if you try either.
Desserts were fantastic: the Red Velvet Whoopie Pie was two thick slices of red velvet cake with icing, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. The Mint Oreo milkshake, thick, with big pieces of Oreo from the extensive shake menu (you can get them spiked or regular) was, in the words of the dairy-enthusiast sitting across from us, “the best milkshake I’ve ever had in my life.”
Mel’s has a weekend brunch menu with $9 croissant french toast and pancakes, and two omelettes for $11 and $12. Mel’s is open until 2 AM Thursday through Saturday nights. There’s good soul music and classic rock, and would be good for dancing if tables in the front or back of the house were moved around, Campo-style. We recognized two bartenders from class (Major Debates discussion section <33) and Joyce Jackson, housing goddess, came in to peruse the menu. You’ll still want to bring your parents to Kitchenette or Deluxe, but we think Mel’s will be good for 1 PM brunch with booze, an 11 PM burger with booze, and onion strings and booze at 1 AM.
Mel’s officially opens for business tomorrow night at 5.