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The diner has been around for over 21 years but it really put itself on the map when Mel Bilbo and his wife,  Liz bought it nearly ten years ago. He added "Mel's" to the name continued the tradition of singing servers and worked to improve the food quality and advertising. 

Happy diners at Mel's
Brandon Norris oversees the diner operations as the manager. He also has selected the team of cooks (diners usually refer to them as "cooks", not "chefs" and of course Mel's has a great team of "soda jerks" for the soda fountain, putting together those awesome desserts).

During the busy hours there will be four to six cooks working the front and back lines and one to three soda jerks.

The service is fast but with those talented waiters bursting into song every few minutes, you wouldn't mind waiting.


A sampling of Mel's appetizers
Mel's offers a number of traditional items that one would expect from a 1950s era diner, including burgers, fried chicken, and blue plate specials such as pot roast and fried shrimp. Their sandwiches make any diner proud. Two special treats are the Reuben and a double decked BLT.  I sampled the Jimmy Cracked Corn Chicken Chowder and a half of a Chicken Salad Sandwich. Both were winners. The chowder was so thick and delicious it could have passed for a stew instead of a soup. The chicken salad was one of Brandon's secret recipes.

In addition to the traditional 50s diner food, they feature some special items likeone of Mel's childhood favorite a peanut butter and banana concoction, includes raisin bread, peanut butter, and bananas along with caramel and brown sugar. It is served with fries and some caramel for dipping the fries.

One of the Singing Waiters
There's a good mix of the traditional diner food and specials. For example you can get that traditional grilled cheese you expect at a diner but you could choose to try it "Mel's Way" which adds bacon and ham to make a tasty, filling sandwich.

Their desserts are over the top: great shakes and malts (still served with the extra in the tin), awesome sundaes and banana splits so huge I defy anyone to eat one by his/her self. Then there is the Avalanche with enough ice cream to feed a small nation or at least  4 to 10 people.  

I enjoyed one of the chocolate ice cream sodas and can attest to never tasting a better one (and I lined up at those 50s and 60s soda fountains with the best of them.)

What makes Mel's Diner truly unique is the diverse group of singing servers. Over the years, two of the servers climbed high on American Idol, one making it to 44 and one to 20. But all of the singing servers must audition for their position. Many also sing in Branson shows, shows outside Branson, and on cruise ships.

The genres of music include gospel, country, pop, show tunes and even opera.

My chocolate soda
During the time we spent there, we heard five or six great renditions of well known songs. I'll Fly Away sung by Kelly will inspire you. The guy who sang Just to be Your Man could do a voice over for Josh Turner and no one could tell the difference. Everyone of those singing waiters had so much talent it will blow you away. The music is just as good as the food. 

Mel must have done something right as Mel's Hard Luck Diner is now high on the list of "must see" spots for most Branson visitors.

Mel's Hard Luck Diner is part of the retail / dining family which also includes Kringles Christmas Store (where it is Christmas all year), Reflections Thomas Kinkade Gallery, and T Charlestons Books and Gifts Shop. All are located in The Grand Village at the heart of Branson's renown entertainment strip, 2800 W Hwy 76.


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