A Visit to Melly Mell’s

melle mell09I put aside my healthy eating habits last week to fully indulge in the ultimate soul food during my first visit to Melly’s Mell’s. All the reviews I’ve ever read, including this one by Isthmus food reviewer Andre Darlington, have been glowing. But I also knew that Melly Mell’s is notoriously hard to find. Luckily I had my expert navigator along for the ride. And honestly, it wasn’t too bad. Just take the Rimrock exit off the beltline, a right onto Badger Road, and Melly Mell’s is in the Genesis complex next to the building housing EZ Pawn and Pitchers Pub. The entrance is a nondescript metal door with very little signage on the left side of the building.

Once we made it in the door and down a flight of stairs, we were in soul food paradise. The expansive seating area is decorated with eclectic artwork and proudly-hung family photographs. A Luther Vandross CD was playing on the stereo. There were just two other diners there during our visit (also for their first visit), and Larry overheard them calling Melly Mell’s a “mythical place,” and a “pot of gold.” They struck up a conversation with us, and immediately began gushing about the fried chicken they had just devoured. In fact, it was so good, they had just placed a second order to take home.

Now I was really getting excited.

Melly Mell herself then pulled up a chair at our table. It’s difficult to find the right words to describe Melly Mell. She’s the kind of person whose presence fills a room.  She’s a gifted storyteller, and sat and talked with us for at least 45 minutes over the course of the evening, sharing stories about her family, growing up in a military family, and her past work mentoring underprivileged kids. Family obviously means the world to her, and her children and grandchildren popped in and out during the evening. Melly Mell proudly introduced us to all of them. As Larry guessed, Melly Mell got her nickname during high school from the rapper in Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. She’s the kind of person who can’t go anywhere without running into people she knows—and her conversations are rarely brief, something she admits drives her kids nuts.

Soul food is what Melly Mell does best, although she admits she can only eat it once a week these days. Although we were tempted to try the specials (tacos and enchiladas on Tuesday nights), we decided to stick with soul food for our first visit. We ordered the fried chicken and waffles, a catfish filet, and sides of black eyed peas, mac & cheese, greens, and yams. Everything was excellent. But the fried chicken was other-worldly—crispy and perfectly seasoned. Served next to a fluffy waffle dripping in maple syrup and melted butter put it over the top. It’s the kind of meal I now dream about. We were great eaters. Melly Mell admitted that we had ordered quite a lot of food and joked that the only way she was going to get us out was by rolling us out.

Melly Mell’s is the kind of gem I can’t wait to share with my family and friends. I just want to scream it from the rooftops—if you haven’t been to Melly Mell’s, then you haven’t truly lived! melle mell15

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Category: Restaurant Reviews 2 comments »

2 Responses to “A Visit to Melly Mell’s”

  1. Marsha K

    Thank goodness you were smart enough to order the chicken and waffle. Heaven isn’t in Iowa; it’s at Melly Mel’s!

  2. Slow Food UW Cafe Lunch – 10/23 | madcity girl

    […] involved with this week’s Slow Food UW Cafe, I knew it was a meal not to be missed. I took my first trip to Melly Mel’s restaurant this past summer, and it was a transformative experience—the chicken and waffles were […]


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