“It has always felt like home to me,” she said.
The Mel-O-Dee is like a home away from home for many of the regular customers, some of whom eat there two or, even, three times a day. Some start their morning with coffee and the Mel-O-Dee ultimate omelet and finish the day with the Mel-O-Dee baked Swiss steak hot shot, on the menu since 1965.
Newt Litteral has been a customer for as long as he can remember.
“This is the best place around,” he said. “Great food and great service. People here really care about each other.”
Such care and concern was evident in 2017 when the restaurant sustained significant damage from a tornado. The restaurant’s air conditioning unit was blown off the roof and into the parking lot, a load bearing wall was damaged, and the awning was found in the woods miles away. It took more than a month to get back up and running, but re-opening was never in doubt.
“We have generations of customers that have come in here,” Childers said. “This community depends on us.”
The commitment to the community was clear during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when the staff quickly shifted gears to provide the same delicious comfort food their customers had come to expect as carry-out meals. Carry-out sales remain higher than pre-pandemic as customers continue to enjoy the Mel-O-Dee’s specialties on State Route 235 or at their own kitchen table. Even those who eat in frequently add a pint of the house coleslaw or a loaf of the fresh baked bread to their order to enjoy later.
While things are admittedly old school at the restaurant – with traditional paper ordering pads and a handwritten specials board – the restaurant has undergone two expansions, originally seating just 30 and now able to accommodate close to 200. They have also added several menu items over the years – including the popular lasagna dinner – but traditional items like the beef liver with steamed onions & gravy remain.
“If we change something and our customers don’t like it, they tell us,” Childers said with a smile.
Complaints, however, are few and far between at the restaurant whose slogan is, “At the Mel-O-Dee, our food will put a Mel-o-dee in your heart!”