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 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.
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…