A reminder of why I do this
If this place had a title it would be the "King of Dives." I'd always walk past this place to & fro work. Immediately you notice its drab look, dirty yet chic. What kept me from going though is the fact that the shady owner only took cash. My advice to him: "If you're going to take advantage of hipster culture at least be up to hipster standards for dives." We all know it was most likely an IRS tax dodge scheme anyway.
Recently it went from "Little Mel's" to "Mel Jr.'s" & with that change came new management, a more modern menu & equipment as well. The Visa & Mastercard logos in the windows let me know they took the good ol' plastic debt guillotine (who still carries large amounts of cash in 2014 anyway?) With the acceptance of credit cards, they have a lot more customers too (who would've thunk?) I stopped in & decided to start with the usual for dives which is a Philly Cheese Steak & a Pizza Puff. If they can't get at least the puff right then you know a dive is a no-go, if the steak is good then the place is heaven.
As always, the wait for the food gives me a chance to check things out. There used to be a few standalone tables, now there's one standalone table, some wall seating & an HD television (ooo la la la Mr. fancy pants), along with a cheap plastic looking stool over by the trash. The place is a bit cleaner, but the tables still look like they're covered in grease & are wiped down with an old dirty towel...yum. The guy at the register whom I think is the owner asked me if I can move since he knows I'm leaving & he has customers going to eat there. He proposed I sit at the stool (I'm assuming he thought anybody over 50lbs wouldn't break that thing somehow?). My food was coming up shortly so I just stood instead.
While he was packing up the food, I had another laugh since he had just put it in the bag & it ALREADY soaked through. He threw in a ton of napkins as well because he just knew it would be a mess. One way you can describe the food at this place is it tastes like it's been in the fridge for a while before they just take it out & cook it. The steak looked great, but was the thickest cut Philly steak I’ve ever had. Everything tasted old & the bread was something I can only describe as old cheap bread that was going to be made into garlic bread, but they stopped halfway through. In the end the Philly steak was only ‘meh.’ The pizza puff was great though & the fries as well which prompted a 2nd visit since the pizza slices looked extremely delicious.
During my second visit I ordered a ground beef burrito & slice of pizza. Both were just ok. I suggest you order pizza when he has to make it fresh or just after it’s made. I got a cold slice & by then it lost it's appeal.
3 out of 5 stars
Little Mel’s Hot Dogs
2205 N California Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
b/t Lyndale St & Palmer St
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