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Ottawa
ON
Canada

Ottawa Uncovered.

Mello's Gets A Temporary Takeover, Forever.

Stories

Lex Magazine Ottawa blog. Ottawa Uncovered.

Mello's Gets A Temporary Takeover, Forever.

Barry

All I had was an extra skinny latte for lunch today. There’s five minutes left in my shift and all I can think about is food. My glucose levels must be dipping below arctic ice shelf levels because as I gaze blankly at the clock, it starts going in reverse.

My mental food-compass is going haywire and I need to navigate my way into a therapeutic meal post haste. Twenty minutes after the five minute warning and the second hand still hasn’t moved. Fuck it -- the fire alarm is the only way out. Will my E-Cig vapor set off the smoke alarm? There’s only one way to find out...

The alarm triggers and chaos ensues. I walk out of there like Tyler Durden during Project Mayhem. It’s pitch black outside (fuck you daylight savings) and the thought of going back home to another Delissio dinner is too gut-wrenching for my already tortured intestines to consider.

You’ve probably heard of Mello’s. And because you are an astute, cultured, pretentious Lex reader, you might assume it would be beneath you to saunter into a Dalhousie Street diner famous for its 5am prostitute rendezvous. Read forth to find out why you are an elitist asshole for bequeathing an Ottawa hold-steady.

Mello’s was born well into the second World War. While firebombs were igniting the streets of London, our little Byward Market was welcoming its newest addition: a small, quaint, understated diner which opened in 1942.

As decades passed and restaurants in the Market evolved, Mello’s stayed largely the same, until two years ago when something astonishing happened - modern artisan food culture intersected with a temporary “takeover” of the 70 year old diner by a new-to-Ottawa chef.

The two week takeover was so successful that it immediately became permanent. At the helm of this quiet revolution is Chef Michael Frank, a Toronto transplant that has made Mello’s his own. Today, the after-six menu is tailored to diners who want really good classics, modern twists, craft beer and cocktails at a reasonable price. Frank’s deceptively simple new plan is already paying off; customers are now clientele, and are becoming increasingly supportive.  

The ethos here is “food without ego.” This ethic also translates to the staff, who make this place feel welcoming to hipsters, scenesters, punks, millennials and social justice warriors alike.

Mello’s may have transformed into a modern, artisan diner, but the transition has been so natural that it feels as though nothing has ever changed. The combination of a 60s style diner, open cooking area and humble, timeless dishes with a dash of contemporary style is incredibly satiating.

As my teeth sink into a deviously rare bloody burger, time begins to move again. The latte jitters fade away and so too does my stomach lining’s bitter resentment.

Watching the ragamuffin trio behind the counter work their magic is endearing. “It’s the best place I’ve ever worked. We all love it here. We’ve become family,” Cook Colin proudly proclaims.

Whilst finishing my meal it becomes clear, the sense of family permeates every part of Mello’s. The food, the drinks, the atmosphere, the staff, the feeling of time moving at just the right pace -- it all melts together to create the same feeling of being with people you care about, being with your family. And that’s what Mello’s truly is, part of the Ottawa family.

Written and Photographed by Barry Z (@Bzeldis) and Steffi