Mel’s Diner is a locally owned
and operated American-style restaurant with five locations in
Southwest Florida. This home-style diner has it all: steaks and
seafood, pasta and salads, chicken and lamb and pork, holiday
dishes, lunch offerings, drinks and desserts, and breakfast. Mel’s
Diner has locations in Naples, Golden Gate, Bonita Springs, Fort
Myers, and Cape Coral. The atmosphere at Mel’s is fun, casual, and
big on nostalgia.
The five Mel’s Diner locations
are all close to Tamiami Trail and are easy to get to. The Naples
location, pictured here, is right on Tamiami Trail, just a few
blocks east of the Gulf of Mexico. The address is 3650 Tamiami
Trail North. There’s an old Studebaker perched in the restaurant
lot, and there’s plenty of parking. The daily specials are posted
on the marquee sign, and there are more listed inside.
The door’s open, so come in.
Breakfast starts at 6:30 am everyday, and runs till 11:30 on
weekdays, and much later on the weekend. Mel’s is open till 9 pm
Sunday through Thursday, and til 9:30 pm on Friday and Saturday.
The breakfasts served here would make First Watch blush, as Mel’s
has all that and then some, plus a few extras like mimosas and a
Bloody Mary. Plus, there are coffee drinks too.
Mel’s Diner has seating areas
for parties large and small. This seating area is located just
off the waiting area. James Dean and Marilyn Monroe figure
largely into the decorative memorabilia at Mel’s. Overheard on
the restaurant speakers are popular songs from the 1950’s, 60’s,
and 70’s. While some of the food dishes and drinks are from this
bygone era, Mel’s uses the freshest ingredients in town.
posters are all over Mel’s, but you’ll find Audrey Hepburn and
other big stars from decades past. The hostess seated everyone
quickly, even when there was a wait. The booths and the
seating are comfortable at Mel’s, and the wait staff are
friendly and thoughtful. The server seen in this image always
made sure water glasses were filled and that there were always
fresh biscuits and butter on each table.
The shrimp and roasted corn
chowder came with Mel’s warm biscuits and butter. With the entree
dishes like the half-pound shrimp there’s a choice of a cup soup
or salad in addition to French fries; Mel’s has shrimp chowder as
part of its seasonal menu. A bowl is $4.99. The biscuits were a
tasty cross between buttermilk and yeast biscuits. The soups and
salads arrived less than fifteen minutes after ordering.
All-You-Can-Eat fish fry comes in at $9.99. This basket includes
cole slaw, Idaho-cut fries, and tartar sauce. The fish in the
basket is a mild white fish, which arrived hot, crispy, and
moist. The French fries were perfect in every way. The cole slaw
was not distinctive, but delicious nonetheless. Two servings of
fish are plenty for a hearty appetite. According to Mel’s
website, the food is fried in soybean oil, which is free of
cholesterol and trans fat.
Shrimp a la Roma Parmesan came in at $12.59. From the menu:
"Fire roasted shrimp tossed with linguini in a light and creamy
marinara sauce with grilled tomatoes, parsley and shredded
parmesan.” Sounds yummy and it was. The garlic toast was so good
that it was almost a side dish in itself. This dish is on Mel’s
regular menu and not the seasonal offerings. Dishes like this
make it easy and fun to trade bites with other people.
The lamb chop dinner
special was $15.99. It came with a huge baked potato and real
butter and sour cream, plus a salad. (A Caesar salad was
swapped out for an additional dollar.) The veggies added a lot
of flavor to the meat: carrots, tomatoes, and celery. The bay
leaf added a minty touch to this meal, as lamb dishes often
have mint sauce or mint jelly. Budget-concious diners should
know that tax on restaurant food at this location is seven
Mel’s Diner has
its own dessert guy and the desserts here look and taste
great. This is Mel’s homemade Key Lime Pie. (This lists for
$2.99 on the menu, but on the check-out receipt it was
billed as $3.99.) Mel’s has a dozen items on its dessert
menu, and ice cream can be added to some. Mel’s has desserts
of varying sizes, too. The Mini Creme-Brulee is $1.99, and
Rice Pudding is $2.99, while the Mile High Coconut Pie is
$6.99 a slice and is meant to be shared.
A slice of
chocolate cake is $5.99. This is steep for cake, but it’s
absolutely delicious. (The slice looks small in the photo
but it is indeed a thick slice.) Mel’s desserts are great,
but sometimes it’s a good idea to have one or two back-up
choices when ordering. For instance, on a
no-busier-than-usual Wednesday evening in mid-March during
the 2022 season, Mel’s was out of the Coconut Pie and the
Funnel Fries. The hand-dipped milkshakes are always a great
second choice, though.
As the evening of March 10th draws to a
close in Naples, Florida, so does the 2021-2022 snowbird
season. Food and beverage spending by tourists in Florida
amounted to $22.2 billion dollars in 2019. Figures for the
latest season remain to be seen, but Mel’s seemed to have
its fair share of guests. The wait at suppertime was about
15-20 minutes, but the host or hostess will be happy to
let folks peruse the menus in the lobby. (And yes, the
Prime Rib is really good.)
has been up and running for 33 years, according to its
website, which means it’s been in business since 1989.
Times have changed since then. Mel’s fans can order food
online and pick it up curbside; or, it can be delivered
through one of its four delivery partners. It began in
an old truck stop, and now has over 300 employees and
300 menu items. The food here is best described as fresh
and come-as-you-are home-cooked dining.