The Hippo


May 26, 2020








Mel’s Diner

Where: Mel’s Funway Park, 454 Charles Bancroft Highway, Litchfield
Anticipated hours: Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. (breakfast will be available all day)
Call: 424-MELS (6357), or search “Mel’s Diner Litchfield” on Facebook

Diner days
New Jersey, Philly-inspired eats coming to Litchfield

By Matt Ingersoll

 Coming from southern New Jersey, Nashua resident Jeff Bono grew up near a dozen diners and just a half hour away from the where original rib-eye cheesesteak sandwiches were created in Philadelphia. Now he’s bringing these comfort foods to New Hampshire.

Mel’s Diner opened Feb. 12 in the vacant restaurant space on the grounds of Mel’s Funway Park in Litchfield.
“South Jersey is essentially the diner capital of the nation,” Bono said. “I grew up in the diner age … and also on the original Geno’s and Pat’s cheesesteaks in Philly. I’ll be using ribeye and slicing my own, so you’ll be getting the original cheesesteak from Philadelphia.”
Bono said the name being similar to the adjacent park’s is a coincidence that “just stuck.”
“The name is actually from an old TV show from the ’70s and early ’80s called Alice,” he said. “Mel’s Diner was the diner in Phoenix, Arizona, on the show, and it just happened to be one of my favorite shows … and then when we found this place and came in, that’s just what we decided to go with.”
In December, Bono took over the space, which was most recently occupied by the Gale Motor Co. Pitstop and has been the site of several eateries over the years. But despite the tough history for businesses, the food Bono will be offering and the prices attached to them are what he hopes will set him apart.
“We’ve actually been reaching out to people around here to see what they would like us to offer, and the answers have often been ‘breakfast all day,’” Bono said. “So that’s what we’re going to be doing, and everything will be made from scratch.”
The plan is to serve breakfast and lunch seven days a week from opening day through the end of February before working toward a dinner menu that may be unveiled as early as spring.
“It’s all comfort food,” he said. “For breakfast, I’ll be doing flat-top omelets that will be loaded. We’ll be doing scratch-made biscuits and gravy, Belgian waffles, French toast, pancakes and steak and eggs.”
The menu will also include “dessert as breakfast” options.
“We’ll be doing things like the inside of a cinnamon bun that’s deep fried, sprinkled with cinnamon and served with a dipping sauce,” he said. “Another thing we’re working on is going to be like mini waffles with ice cream in between and then it’s going to be drenched in maple syrup and chocolate sauce.”
In addition to rib-eye cheesesteaks, the lunch menu is going to include comfort food staples like American chop suey, chicken pot pie, mashed potatoes, club sandwiches and burgers, and double cheeseburgers.
“Up here, people often think of a double cheeseburger as two patties with cheese on a bun,” Bono said, “but down where I come from, a double cheeseburger is two whole burgers on a plate, with fries, so you’re actually getting two burgers.”
Mel’s Diner is Bono’s first full-serve restaurant as owner, but he has worked as an executive chef at several restaurants around the state for years, including the Angel’s Kitchen inside Penuche’s in Manchester and the former Travers Tavern in Goffstown. When Mel’s Funway Park reopens for the season, he said he’ll likely offer late-night dinner service that will follow the hours of the park. 

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