by Jeremy Biello
For one year, smiling patrons have been walking out of Mel’s Café, located at 2539 W. 10th St., caring biodegradable to-go boxes full of comfort food. Typically, the food is untouched when the customer leaves. “I’m a to-go place, normally,” explains owner Angelo Lisak. “But I have a few tables where people can sit and eat.” That is exactly how Joe and Alison Alto chose to eat their late breakfast, in the café, off of to-go boxes instead of plates. Mel’s Café doesn’t provide plates but when asked if that made a difference Alison insisted, “As long as the food is good it doesn’t matter what it’s on.” Whether it was good or not could be determined by the simple fact that a to-go box was no longer necessary by the time the pair left.
“This is, so far, on par with some good breakfast I’ve had around the city. I’m being dead honest about it,” Joe claimed.
Many might remember a Mel’s Café of Cleveland that existed for six years in the Western Reserve building on W. 9th street. The Cleveland location was very similar to the present and operational Tremont location, but not always. When first starting out, Angelo was selling coffee and donuts. “I worked my way up and in six years I was making breakfast sandwiches, omelets; half the menu I have here I had down town.” The menu has kept growing on account of Sarah Ross, the Café’s Manager. “When we’d put up a special to run she’d put it on the board and say, ‘okay, we have this every day,’ and I couldn’t argue with her,” Angelo told The Tremonster. “I’m almost out of specials but that’s okay.”
It was moving from the Cleveland location, however, that nearly changed the café’s focus all together. When new management chose not to renew Mel’s Café of Cleveland’s lease, Angelo started searching for a new location. He spotted the W. 10th St. and Starkweather Ave. storefront and made inquiries, but the stipulation was that it remain a pizza joint as it was originally. To this Angelo replied, “I don’t want to sell pizzas. When the place is empty give me a call.” In two weeks, he received the call he was looking for.
Moving to a new location was a nerve-racking experience. That kind of a change can result in a devastating loss of patrons and then ultimately the death of a business. But thus far this year, Mel’s Café of Tremont is thriving and has found its niche: catering. The client list of usual customers requesting catering services continues to grow, and anyone interested in having an event catered can call Angelo or Sarah at Mel’s Café at 216-862-1196.
Though the storefront has limited seating, much would be missed by not stopping by the physical location for something like the Breakfast Potatoes, which are two-inch, triangular slices of potato, with onion and green pepper, that erupt with flavor on the tongue instantaneously. Those that choose the option to dine-in will do so in the company of Angelo’s 4-year-old Border Colley/Lab rescue dog named Zena. “She’ll never mess with people while they’re eating,” confirmed Angelo. Primarily because he feeds her a six-egg omelet two to three times a week. “She doesn’t go hungry.”