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Review: Mellos Diner

290 Dalhousie Street, Ottawa  (613) 241-1909 

Date of Visit: July 24, 2012

Mellos Diner is something of a fixture in Ottawa, having been in operation since 1942. I came across it while searching the internet for restaurants prior to my July trip to the capital and it wasn’t until I arrived at the place that I realized I had eaten there some 3 or 4 years ago. As on that occasion, my experience this time was fairly agreeable but not especially memorable…

Ambience and Service

Mellos is a bit of a hole-in-the-wall type of establishment. It is shotgun-narrow and seats about 30 or 40 people at maximum capacity. There is very little in the way of decoration, save for some very nice photographs of Ottawa circa 1920 or so, and the walls are a rather drab gray. It is a bit scruffy, and the ambience is not helped by the unrestricted review into the dishwashing area. Still, it is not without a certain charm and the newspapers lying around, which seemed a bit messy and sloppy at first, are obvious left there for the use of patrons.

I arrived just shortly after 8 o’clock in the morning and, though it was not very full, it was clear to me that this is an establishment with a lot of regular clientele. Several people arrived and the waitresses greeted them with obvious familiarity and a lot of good-natured banter. I was a little taken aback, then, when the service I received was rather abrupt and unfriendly…

It wasn’t until I had been in the place for fifteen minutes or so before I realized that the source of the stand-offish reception was the fact that I had taken several photographs after sitting down and then made some notes on my I-pad. Usually, I try to do this as unobtrusively as possible in restaurants but, even when I do get noticed, it usually arouses no more than a mild curiosity. On this occasion however, my photography seemed to spark a reaction of immediate suspicion and one of the waitresses eventually wondered aloud to the other (but clearly for my benefit) whether I was ‘making some kind of report’. She eventually asked me what I was doing and when I told her (with admittedly incomplete honesty) that I would be sending the pictures to my wife, she immediately mellowed and the atmosphere became distinctly warmer. She asked me where I was from and, when I told her Nunavut, she and her colleague expressed obvious interest and asked quite a few questions. After that, the remainder of the meal and the service was very pleasant and welcoming.

The Meal

The breakfast menu is very short and simple, with all the standard sorts of combinations and few frills. Beyond the items you can see in the picture above, one can also order a variety of sides such as home fries, toast, bagels and baked beans. The most expensive item appears to have been the steak and eggs, which comes in at a pretty reasonable $12.95. I didn’t see any other menu, but one of the desk-clerks at ‘Les Suites’ hotel told me that the place has a new cook and that it is well worthwhile trying the place in the evenings as well.

I opted for one egg scrambled with ham, sausage, and home fries. With coffee and toast, the whole meal was under nine dollars and was quite decent for the price. The ham, egg and sausage were unremarkable but the potatoes were very nice. They didn’t have the heavy garlic-salt taste one often gets and I rather think that the very delicate and tasty seasoning might have been a proprietary blend.

Overall

Mellos, as one reviewer has already noted, is a true diner. It doesn’t ‘try’ to be so with fake furnishings and decorations, rather it achieves the atmosphere simply by actually just being a diner in the most traditional sense of the word. It is an obvious favorite for some people and, while the food is very plain and not especially exciting, it is simple, hearty, and filling fare at a very reasonable price. For some who venture to visit, it might just become a place to return to again…

Mello's on Urbanspoon

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Honestly when I looked at your pix first, I didn’t feel like reading your review. I am glad that I did and had a good laugh about your story of in the diner. I took pix of food all the time when I traveled but nobody really suspected me. I used my iPad to take pix and then was always on line with my iPad. It seems nobody really cares or suspects me . Nobody will think that I am a critic or a food blogger writing for food magazine. This is an interesting phenomenon….I just don’t look like one! I will try again next time…

    Thanks for sharing your story. Your review is also fair. I like your conclusion. It is simple …indeed simplicity is a plus!

    August 3, 2012
    • You are quite a bit less conspicous taking food pictures when you are with someone rather than eating alone, as I was on this occasion.

      August 3, 2012
  2. sounds like you were taking your life into your hands with that camera! breakfast prices by standards where I live were expensive

    August 3, 2012
    • It’s funy that this is really the only time I have exerienced any sort of significant reaction photographing food in resturants.

      August 3, 2012
  3. Sometimes it’s what a place doesn’t have that makes it special. It sounds comfortable and unpretentious. I like that. Nice piece. xo

    August 3, 2012
  4. Hi John,

    Good honest review there. I too used to get worried about taking photos in restaurants or shops but simply ask the staff if it is ok and say I like to take photos of all the best places I visit…no problems then for some reason…

    August 3, 2012
    • That’s good advice. Taking photos of your own plate is okay but asking for premission to take a pic of the interior is probably a good idea. I have adopted the ‘cover’ story so that if I am asked (while alone), I can say that my wife and I always e-mail each other pictures of places we eat. I don’t want to say it is for a blog otherwise you may ‘influence’ how you get served.

      August 3, 2012
  5. We all find places that are OK but finding memorable restaurants seems to be getting harder. By food prices in New England, the price is high for breakfast.

    August 3, 2012
    • Really? I’m surprised actually…. it seemd quite reasonable to me even given my northern perspective!

      August 3, 2012
      • I’m sure that your northern perspective definitely makes a difference. Where I live, you could get that meal for $5.99 U.S and it might come with a side of pancakes. But you know what they say, it is all relative.

        August 3, 2012
      • Pretty much… in a hotel restaurant in the arctic… were there would be little other choice… the same meal might easily run you $20 – $25 … and you would likely have to make your own toast.

        August 3, 2012
  6. I sometimes take pictures of my food in restaurants, too, and I think no one is watching…I wonder if I make someone uncomfortable! :-) I see your response to Karen, and I wondered the same thing…the prices seem high, but of course, I am sure all food costs must be much higher. The diner looks like a place I would enjoy…it’s almost out of a movie set it’s so retro! I’m glad you shared those sneaky pictures! Debra

    August 4, 2012
    • I didn’t actually get called ‘honey’ by the waitresses but apparently it happens!

      August 4, 2012

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