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
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
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.
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.