Okay, if the hot dog mobile car to the left does not set the stage for this review then nothing well. Upon exiting I-275 we saw a billboard advertising Mel's, which is the first road side billboard I have seen funneling people to a hot dog joint. After laughing at the brilliance of a hot dog VW bug, we walked in to a full Mel's. Most restaurants would hope to be full at meal time, but we stopped in at nearly 2 in the afternoon. Just a 9 iron shot east of Busch Gardens, it has probably had many amusement park guests filling their stomachs after emptying them on the roller coasters. Mel was working this day, and it seemed that he did this with regularity. The thing is, this place is legendary. How many owners of a place this cool, and this well known still greet patrons, refill drinks, or bus tables? I had two dogs on the day-a Chicago Dog (because I am a sucker for a good one) and one of Mel's Special Hot Dogs. Mel himself is a Chicago native, so he brought the taste of Chi-town with him. Every dog is an all beef dog, and EVERY dog comes on a poppy seed bun. Mel got every detail down to perfection on this Chicago dog including some good peppers. I polluted it with a line of mustard, but don't tell Mel. The Mel's Special Hot Dog had your run of the mill ingredients (mustard, onions, relish and sauerkraut) but no ketchup. You really don't think someone from Chicago would put ketchup on ANY dog do you? B+
Atmosphere- Yes there is a VW bug on the front lawn corridor, but when you go inside you see the scores of pictures of people in Mel's t-shirts around the world (ala Yesterdog in MI.). Included in the pictures of patrons are shots from the Sydney Opera House, the Antarctica airport, and the Kremlin in Russia. The tables and chairs look like something out of a 50's diner, but reproduction versions of it. But the car, OHHHHH the car. It does not get much better than that. B
Value- The Mel's Special cost me $3.25 while the Chicago dog was $3.75, which are both fair prices. Had I decided to make these a basket, which included fries, it would still have been in the $5 range. Authentic Chicago dogs over 1,500 miles south of the windy city is a bargain.
If you think about it, a lot of traffic comes from the theme park, so gouging prices could easily happen, but these are very reasonable. Fork it over to Mel's, or maybe Mel himself. He might work the register that day. B+
Side Dish Jody says... There were many non-hot dog options above and beyond the normal hot dog joint menu items including burgers and various types of sausage sandwiches. I ordered the char broiled chicken breast sandwich which was a nicely seasoned grilled chicken breast on a soft white bun. I asked for it without mayonnaise or honey mustard, as the menu indicates however I wish I would have asked for barbecue sauce or another condiment I like to provide a little moisture to the sandwich. Hot dog guy and I split a large order of fries which was a good value at 1.49. B-