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A New York City institution for over thirty years, J.G. Melon is best described as the upper-crusty Upper East Side's version of McDonald's, only with waiter service.

The kitchen is in the middle of the restaurant. One can see the cooks prepare meals through the large opening through which the finished plates are passed.

Tables are small and crowded together. The walls are littered with all manner of melon artwork. The color scheme of the restaurant was chic about fifteen years ago, but admittedly is still charming today.

Yuppie Haute Cuisine

This place is a destination for burgers, plain and simple. Cottage fries are quite good, as well. Grilled cheese with tomato and bacon is another good bet.

George, the managing partner, is a local celebrity. He's friendly enough when greeted with compliments about the food and/or atmosphere, but has an annoying habit of turning around without so much as an "excuse me" when he spies one of the many celebrities who dine there entering the room.

If good, friendly service is your bag, by all means avoid the tables and take your meal at the bar. Sadly, the signature drink, the Bloody Mary, is now resting on its laurels. Recent samplings of this concoction are nothing like the familiar hangover cure we'd look forward to Sunday mornings many years ago. On a better note; there are no drunks here. Just power drinkers. Those rare folks who can down three six-ounce martinis in an hour and not change a bit. Even at table, the power-drinkers are there. Now, there are no power-drinkers in my crowd any more. Perhaps that's why the empty glasses which once held iced tea and soft drinks went unchecked for the duration of a recent meal.

Conversation at the bar is often quite interesting. If not, conversation with the bartenders certainly is. These are New York City pros who have the uncanny ability to tell what you want to drink before you order. Maybe it's the tone with which one says, hesitatingly, "Ah, uhm, I'll have a..."

Waitstaff makes the servers at Boston's Durgin Park seem downright friendly

Now back to the good, friendly service. It's neither. Unless, of course, your TV series has just been picked up by HBO, or your movie box office gross was on somebody's top ten list for the week. I'd hazard a guess that if one came walking in with the likes of Woody Allen, George would shine your shoes with his tongue. All us other regular folk must put up with long waits for a table, and downright surly waiters and waitresses. Woe betide the customer who's unhappy with his/her meal. The waitstaff seems to be programmed to say "I'll be right back and take care of that for you." Then they disappear as surely as would an object in Penn and Teller's Las Vegas magic show.

The Case of the Missing String Beans

A trip to this landmark eatery recently confirmed what we'd always suspected. The simpler one's order, the better. On a gamble, a Salade niçoise was selected. Romaine lettuce was drowned in an insipid bottled dressing. The namesake olives were nowhere to be found. Plain, black, pitted California olives (four - count 'em - four) took their place. No biggie, better to buy American than procure from those nasty French, anyway. A quartered boiled egg was strewn about. Chunks of canned tuna formed a crude centerpiece, littered with desiccated parsley bits. But there was not a string bean in sight; much less the haricots vert that ought to have been there. When asked if they'd forgotten the string beans, George mumbled something about the place "not being The Four Seasons" and again performed his disappearing act. The chef behind the kitchen counter, when asked about the string beans, told us that there had never been string beans in their niçoise salad. The ersatz salad set us back over eight dollars.

Why, the reader may ask, would this writer bother putting fingers to keyboard to comment on the place? The answers are manifold:

  • It's a good place to stalk minor celebrities, if that's your thing.
  • It's a good place to people-watch; especially to observe the bumblings of the nouveau-riche chatting on their Blackberry cell-phones, dropping names, and discussing the very latest in fashion.
  • Soupy Sales thinks the place is just wonderful. He can often be seen in the company of minor jazz celebrities there.
  • If you're really lucky, Katie Couric will stop by.
  • Finally, if you're really, really lucky, you'll get to witness a visit from the obscenely wealthy socialite (who will remain un-named herein for fear of legal repercussions) who orders a glass of wine, salad, and a hamburger, drinks the wine, leaves the salad untouched, and feeds a half of the burger to her Cocker Spaniel.

J.G. Melon
Third Avenue at 74th Street
New York, New York
Phone Number not necessary; reservations are not accepted.
Open 7 days for luncheon, dinner, and late supper.
Cash only, no credit cards.

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