My [crotchety old man..?] friend D and I checked out Mel's Cafe on W. Main St today for dinner. From the reviews we read, we knew we were in for some real soul food. What we found there was that and so much more.
The parking space in front of Mel's can pretty much accommodate half a car (Okay, 3-4 whole ones in reality), but we parked in an adjacent lot which is entirely reserved for whatever the hell is behind this amazing place. The newly renovated sign is hard to miss, with an arrow blinking towards the establishment in all of its kitschy glory. When we were headed for the door, who I can only presume to be Mel himself greeted us with a warm hello. The staff inside was just as friendly and warm.
Inside, it's small and homey. The walls are saturated with framed photos of family and friends. There are also local community fliers (my favorite one was for a "STACKBOYZ" performance, featuring artists like Yung VA and C-RYAN™), a faded University map, and other memorabilia.
The menu is extensive. There are sections for breakfast, lunch, sides, salads, dinner and desserts. Items include The George omelette (Ham, cheese, onions, green peppers, diced tomatoes, topped with chili beans) for breakfast, Beef Liver with onions for dinner, and grilled donuts for dessert. Mel's also seems to have good burgers.
When our food was ready, the lady behind the counter brought us our dishes (she was also kind enough to give us silverware beforehand.. I don't know if we were supposed to get them ourselves because I'm a noob). D ordered the fried fish dinner, which comes with bread and 2 sides of your choice. He ordered onion rings and collard greens, the latter of which he doesn't really like but insisted on getting because it's "so soul food." He said everything was awesome and he'd be going back in the future.
I ordered the 2 pc. fried chicken dinner with mac and cheese and green beans. The chicken wing was nice and tender, but the breast was a bit dry. I'd say Wayside on JPA has better fried chicken, but I will never hate on or reject fried chicken. Ever. The crust on them was friggin tasty. The sides were really good and had that homemade feel. We both agreed that the bread was realllllly delicious. I believe it'd been heated up on the grittle before serving. Everything was served fresh and hot.
2 pc fried chicken and sidesD and I aren't big dessert people (savory > sweet), but next time I go, I'm going to try their sweet potato pie. And maybe some grilled donuts for good measure because I'm
Everything on the menu is basically $7 or less, and usually way less. Our bill came out to $14 and some pocket change, and that includes a drink. The portions were huge and made with love, AND cheap? My gracious.
In closing, I'll leave you with something D said: "its like i go and get excited about tipping." That's right, he was excited to leave a huge tip because he was happy to eat something other than frozen chicken and bbq sauce like he usually does.
If you're in the area and want some great soul food made by great people, check out Mel's.
719 West Main Street, Charlottesville, VA
M-F 11am-10pm, Sa-Su 5pm-10pm
Carry-out and catering available
click here for the menu
So I was googling Mel's to find operating hours and came across this review on tripadvisor:
"I reviewed the rave reviews on the food so I had someone meet me there for lunch. Evidently I didn't read enough reviews and missed the one where they said this place was a dive! Well how horified I was upon arrival. Worst of all, the people I was meeting had already gone inside.......We did not stay so to be fair to this restaurant, I can not comment of the food. The bathroom is located outside and around the corner in an alley and they give you a key to unlock the door!!!!!!"
Maybe the woman was meeting clients for business or whatnot, but dang. Do some research and use some common sense when you read that "the burgers are great" and "if you want fried chicken, go here." And don't judge the bathrooms! They serve their purposes well enough. :e-slap:
P.S. I'm not sorry if that was your review on tripadvisor.com.