The Burger; we all know it as the quintessential defining American food. At Mel’s Burger Bar in the Upper East Side, they succeed in bringing it front and center and making a quality casual dining experience. When you first walk into Mel’s the thing that stands out is the giant lighted sign in the back and it is foreshadowing the big flavors and portions to come.
This is the second Mel’s location and they pride themselves on their burger creations and selection of over 50 Beers. It blends the burger place and neighborhood bar effortlessly. One intriguing aspect is that if you have all 50 beers you will be inducted into Mel’s Brew Crew where you will be immortalized via plaque and actually baptized at the bar. This along with other perks which are listed here http://www.melsbrewcrew.com/.
The evening began though with some of the star appetizers. First off was the Mac and Cheese Balls. These are a sure fire winner. The elbow macaroni filling was tasty and not overly salty with a crispy bread coating surrounded with Marinara. In some instances I’ve had fried Mac and Cheese Balls where they overly absorb oil and these did not suffer from that misfortune thankfully. I would actually compare the flavor to a fried capellini cake; something that is quite fond from my childhood. The Spinach Artichoke Dip that was passed around the table was among the better that I’ve had. In many cases this type of dip is overly salted and heavy on the dairy. This one in particular felt actually lighter in density and flavor. You could actually taste the earthiness of the spinach and Artichoke which I was pleasant.
Now there are certain things I must always order if they are on a menu. Fried Pickles are one of those items or aka “Frickles” as a fellow reviewer made me woke to. I was genuinely pleased with Mel’s. The Pickle chips were thinly sliced, lightly breaded and had a slight bite to them. Paired with a horseradish dip was a nice cooling contrast to the salty vinegar nature of the pickle.
Now onto the headliners; the burgers. On the menu there are 18 burgers that range from classic to extravagant. It is also noted that you can substitute any beef patty for Turkey, Veggie Burger or Chicken Fingers; and you can also opt for lettuce instead of the potato bun (because I’m sure you’re counting those calories here…) . went for a classic selection known as the Back Yarder; which was topped with cheese, lettuce, onions, pickles, ketchup, mayo and crushed Potato Chips. Simple and satisfying. The first thing I noticed is the high quality of the meat and how well seasoned it was and above all not greasy. Nothing worse than grease overpowering everything. The addition of chips was a nice and simple crunch that will always remind me of childhood. My friend had one of the elaborate creations called The Widowmaker; which was a beef patty topped with Bacon and Mac and Cheese. It was artery clogging goodness in short.
At Mel’s, the fries are hand cut and have to be ordered separate; one order can easily serve two people. We sampled the Jalapeno Parmesan Fries and the Sweet Potato Fries. The jalapeno Fries were good but did not have an ample amount of Jalapeno for my liking and maybe needed the pepper to be chopped smaller to be effective. The sweet potato fries on the other hand were excellent and paired well with the BBQ sauce they came with. Although I would recommend a side of Sriracha Mayo as well, the combo is almost too good to beat.
Now if you still have some room for dessert and wanna be really over the top, treat yourself to a Deep Fried Oreo or Deep Fried Chocolate Chip Cookie. These are not anything unique but let’s be honest they are damn good and if you still have managed to not have one you should change that. Although the chocolate chip cookie was a first for me (their shakes are great too!)
Overall I enjoyed my dinner at Mel’s Burger Bar. It’s a solid Burger joint where the main attraction isn’t outshined. I look forward to my next venture there. Mel’s has two locations- one in the UES and the other in the UWS. For more information and menu please visit here.