Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mel's drive-in - Seal Beach - First Impressions

Just when you thought that the nostalgia craze was over, Mel's drive-in restaurant opens in Seal Beach - just skipping distance from our doorstep. Mel's occupies the building that housed The Parasol restaurant which closed its doors 15 months ago under pressure to remodel from the folks who bought and renovated Rossmoor Town Center.

I remember The Parasol for several distinct family dining memories, but unfortunately, not for the food. Mel's serves up similar helpings of Americana fare, but adds the much needed element of flavor which was sorely missing from its predecessor.

While The Parasol held close its 1950's design and old-school charm simply due to the fact that the owners never remodeled the interior, Mel's spent significant time and money remodeling the inside to mimic a classic diner from the 1950's. "Excuse me, waitress, I'll take the Irony Burger with a side of humility please.

With such a small sampling as we had tonight it isn't fair to generalize about the quality of the food. I can say that so far, it's better than The Parasol, but, then again, such can be said about the majority of our local eateries and most, if not all, bait shops.

I had the Mel's Burger with fries, while Ema had the Santa Fe salad. Nick had a BLT and the two little ones had kids meals served up in cardboard vintage Chevy's. The burger was tasty, but not outstanding. The salad was dry, and although the chicken was cooked well, moist and tender, the iceberg lettuce bed left us wanting a greener, more flavorful lettuce variety.

Nick's BLT was very standard, but that's what people want when they come to a place like Mel's. People don't want surprises or exotic ingredients like Romaine lettuce. Mel's has taken a bold move to be. . .un-bold. Tradition is not only accepted at Mel's, but expected as well. Mel's does what any good greasy spoon should - it delivers what people expect.

We will eat at Mel's again soon, and I'll write up another quick review of that experience as well. I'm hoping it's a repeat of this one. I don't want or need any surprises.


Anonymous said...

My boyfriend and I had dinner at Mel's tonight, unfortunately we had a TERRIBLE experience. The food was OK but the service was beyond bad. We walked in and sat down immediately, however after 15 minutes of sitting around, watching how other people who had arrived after we did ordered their food, made us both very upset, we were being ignored! We were never acknowledged, so I politely got up and asked a manager if he could please send a server to our table as we were ready to order, he never apologized but asked where I was sitting, I pointed to our table and he said he would be with us shortly. Another 10 minutes passed by, he sure walked by, took orders from other tables, tables of people who had JUST got there... I got up and told him we were leaving because no one ever came to our table, he said "OOPS I forgot!!!" Yes, he did forget! He asked us to stay and said dinner would be on him for the mistake, he took our order and NEVER came back to ask if everything was OK.. When the food arrived it was brought out by a young lady she said said "Ummm we have here something with cheese" Are you serious? When we asked if it was a Turkey Burger as we ordered she said "Umm I don't know" and walked away. No one ever came back, we walked away.. having the worse experience ever!

Anonymous said...

A landmark has not been saved. Sir, the Parasol was not a 1950s design, it was late-1960s design, opened in 1967 (far beyond the poodle-skirt and doo-wop era) and maintained completely intact for 40 years.

Mel's Diner has once again replaced real with retro-imitation, and as with the equally intact before they ruined it Ben Franks on the Sunset Strip, the result is an homage to "American Graffiti" and tv's "Happy Days," not any sense of historical preservation. Yes, it's better than seeing the old Parasol completely demolished (though in truth all but the roof is gone now), but it's no more authentic than the 5-year-old Rubys Diner down the street.

Anonymous said...

I'm the anonymous user who left the last comment about Mel's, and I just re-read your blog posting. Please forgive me for misreading what you said. Clearly you understand the difference between the 1960s Parasol and faux-50s Mel's, and you pretty much said so. Please feel free NOT to post my comment (nor this one)...
Thanks and my apologies! I enjoy your blog...

Anonymous said...

I waited several weeks before going to Mel's for supper with my wife.

It was a bad experience. Noisey noisey -- the circular dome with no acoustic sound absorber magnified the clatter of dishes and amplified customer chatter.

Our hamburgers were dry, the salad skimpy.and the prices exorbitant.

The greeter shook hands with every entering customer and at one point directly went to handle food prior to it being served.

Never again!!!



Anonymous said...

I am eighty-five with fond memories of yesteryear. I looked forward to the Mels experience. The Hot-Beef-Sandwich was like a warmed over frozen-food or TV dinner.. The beef was like leather..Potatoes still somewhat frozen..veggies O.K. waitresses patronizing bunch of "strong feminist b's" Bad service..Doubt if anything will change..So much for the experience. Good luck to the rest of you.