Long time friend, and Orange Lake residents Jim and Mary O'quinn emailed the GLOB Master and told me to meet them at Sweet Mel's and they would buy me the Sweet Mel's Meat Loaf Lunch Special. Now who would pass up an offer like that. A good size slice of meat loaf sliced and charred to a crispy crunch on the corners, and flavored with a secret spice that made the chopped meat protein special. What surprised me was when Jim and Mary arrived Jim didn't shake my hand, he shoved a coupon into my palm and said, "You have to pay for your own lunch but this coupon will make it almost free." It seems like Mr. O'Quinn has become North Florida's leading coupon carnivore. "If Jim doesn't have a coupon we're not eating there," said Mary. "He has all of his coupons stacked by expiraton date in his truck," Mary added. "When I ask what's for lunch he points at the dashboard and says, what ever coupon is on top." Sweet Mel's makes an excellent meat loaf. The three cheese mac & cheese is very good. Ihe chopped bro-co-li was fresh and vibrantly green. And that's the first time the GLOB Master paid just thirteen cents for a lunch special.
Let's hope this lunch stop makes it
By Jon Roosenraad, GLOB Historian
(Editor's Note: Dr. Jon Roosenraad is a University of Florida Professor Emeritus of Journalism. Dr. Jon loves sports, a good cigar, and the smart economy of a cheap, tasty lunch special.)
That is what the GLOB Master and I felt after eating a great lunch at Sweet Mel's downtown.
This is a location, despite being at the hub of Gainesville at University and Main, that has been
A graveyard of eateries and bars – Porter's Dining, Bar One, The Library, Bishop's Tavern, and Good Fellows. About the only place that did well for several years was Danny's, going back to the 1980s. I remember the Danny's tradition that, on April 15, if you went to the downtown post office to mail your tax return, you could get free beer afterwards. Sadly, that downtown post office has recently closed so that is one tradition that will not be revived.
Sweet Mel's, named for the wife of the couple who own and run it, Pat and Melinda Crawford, has been open for close to year in a very tough spot in regard to parking. What hits you when you enter is "wow, what a great bar"; very inviting, as is the entire décor. They did a nice job of redoing this more-than-century old building. Sitting along the windows facing University Avenue is great entertainment, especially if eating alone. But with a companion, the busy intersection and people passing by made for interesting conversation.
One comment I have heard is that "It is just like Friday's." So what is wrong with that? The point is that it is NOT on Archer Road., but in good old, downtown Gainesville. It is also NOT a chain, but a local-run business by a family who moved here from Columbus, Ga.
The menu features burgers, true, but also has salads and soups, a variety of interesting appetizers and their version of sliders called "Chubbies." They lived up to their name, as they were a nice, fat small version of the big ones.
The "big ones" include such choices as Guido, photo at top of this feature, with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese; Three Amigos with guacamole; and The Boss, a foot-long bacon cheeseburger on a hoagie roll. I chose the works – BBQ sauce, cheese, bacon, and onion rings. At least a three-pounder and cooked just right. All burgers are $8.99 with fries.
The Daily Special, as it is the first day of each week, was meatloaf, and everyone knows how the GLOB Master feels about meatloaf. Well it WAS like what mama made and, at $7.99, he was stuffed with a large slice topped with gravy and such special sides as Loaded Smashed Potatoes with cheese and bacon and fresh, bright green broccoli flowerets.
One special feature is a Wing Bar. From 11 to 3 each day, and all day on game days, you have a choice of seven or eight varieties, but owner Pat said, if you wanted to try something not there, they would make it. The wings are served with individual orders of fresh French fries.
Mel's does have outdoor seating but it is along busy University Avenue. Parking is really not an issue as there is a large city lot one block west on the U that costs .50c for an hour.
Sweet Mel's owners and staff very friendly.
As several other restaurants sit vacant around downtown, it is noteworthy that these visitors from Georgia are willing to give it their all to make it a go in downtown Hogtown. Besides the normal lunch/dinner gatherings, Sweet Mel's looks like a great place to drink the night away as it has at least 10 beers on tap plus a full bar.
The Pluses and Minuses of Sweet Mel's:
Sweet Mel's (+) indicators: – Great burgers; large portions on all choices; daily specials and wing bar; nicely done décor.
Sweet Mel's (-) indicators: Service a little slow if you are looking for a quick lunch.