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Mel’s Country Cafe
24814 Stanolind Road
Tomball, TX 77375- (map)
See you at the crossroads (so you won’t be hungry)-
Deep in the heart of Tomball lies a secret. A secret that only those willing to make the trek past the little, white church and over the railroad tracks can know. My first week at my new job after the great American Burger Tyme road trip, the group I was joining, coincidentally, was planning a summer “Burger Tour”. This would involve us all meeting for lunch at a burger place close to work. Once they learned about Burger Tyme, they asked for my input as to which burger places to include. They already had the usual suspects, Five Guys, Becks Prime, etc. I wanted to contribute a little bit of unknown potential to the mix. After some light googling I came across many positive reviews for Mel’s Country Cafe, in Tomball, TX (Just outside of northwest Houston). It was highly praised by the venerable Texas Burger Guy, so I proudly tossed it in the mix for the Tour. Well, the schedule for the tour was put together and Mel’s was set as one of the last places to visit. I decided to do some preliminary scouting prior to the rest of the ‘Tourists’. A friend and I, who started at this new job together, arranged to meet an old co-worker at Mel’s for lunch. It wasn’t until 11:15, when I pulled up a map to get to Mel’s that it hit me just how far Mel’s is. From anything. This only increased my anticipation. If it was so highly praised yet so hard for the average diner to get to, it must be AMAZING! So, we set out. We traveled through neighborhoods, past baseball fields, beyond pastures, around a church, and over railroad tracks. We arrived at 11:45 and this place was packed. Fortunately there was still a table right by the front door. We took our seat and began perusing the menu. I know that we came for burgers but this place had so much home-cookin-goodness that it was a tough choice. The burger options were plentiful and there was even the “Mega Mel” challenge which was a monstrous burger. If you completed the challenge you got a shirt and your name on the wall.
The Country of Mel Welcomes You, Burger Tyme Ambassador-
This is a traditional, sit down type of restaurant, so our waiter gave us a few minutes to think about our orders. The consensus was burgers. I have to confess that this first trip I made to Mel’s, I was seduced by the chicken fried steak and fried okra while everyone else ordered burgers. Never fear Burger Tyme nation, my second and third (yes third) trips to Mel’s yielded a burger order. Each time I opted for the 1/3 lb cheesburger, with everything on it, added grilled onions. For the side I ordered tater tots. A few people that I’ve eaten with ordered the Mel burger. While not as big as the Mega Mel, it was still a full 1lb burger with 1/2 lb of bacon (see photo on the right). The wait for the burgers is as long as expected given the large numbers of people there each time that I’ve eaten here. Once the burgers arrived we were all at the peak of hunger due to the many delicious aromas wafting around the dining room. These were hefty burgers. Even the 1/3 lb required a two handed approach. I dug in. The beefy patty was in the forefront with everything else playing a supporting role, as they should. These were hand formed patties and the cheese was perfectly melted but there was very little juice to speak of. The bun was plain, store bought type, but nicely toasted. The veggies were a mix of really nice tomato slices and below average shredded iceberg lettuce. The grilled onions were not as flavorful as I hoped. While I can’t say that there was any one aspect of this burger that was spectacular, they all seemed to work together to create a great overall burger flavor. As a side note, the tater tots were great, but here is a Burger Tyme top tip… Order the fried okra for a side. I was so excited that it was an option. I love fried okra!
The Wrap It Up-
What can I say. I like the food at Mel’s. The burgers were great on two occasions, and just okay on a third. Granted, we did have 12 people at our table on the third trip, all ordering burgers. The cook may have been a bit overwhelmed by the vast differences from our orders. Overall, something about Mel’s seems magical. Perhaps it’s the long drive that takes you progressively farther away from a life that moves to0 fast. Perhaps its the friendly service that hearkens back to a time and place when people where friendly, even to strangers. Perhaps it was food reminiscent of what your mom used to cook for you when you were too young to appreciate it. I don’t know. All I know is Mel’s has very good burgers for when you want a burger. And for those times you want something else? They probably have something for that too.