WHO’S IN CHARGE Even when a blizzard blanketed the region, the family who runs My Diner in Melrose were on duty – and taking delivery orders.
Dedication is a word that comes to mind for this modest, old-fashioned diner, which opened in January on Main Street. Owners Ela and Ben Bashllari of Malden had previously run My Diner on A Street in South Boston for 12 years. (They had both quit other jobs to go to work for themselves.)
Open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., My Diner had welcomed the working folks of the neighborhood and allowed the Bashllaris to get home in time to greet their kids after school, as daughter Monika McCain recalled. That is, until the forces of condo development sweeping through Southie did what a major storm could not do: close the diner. When they lost the lease, the family tried and failed to find another location in Boston.
Eventually, Ben Bashllari was told of an opportunity at the former Casa Mia in Melrose. So My Diner picked up and moved to the ’burbs, taking the menu items, the family, and even most of the staff, said McCain, who works at the diner. They did print new T-shirts.
THE LOCALE The diner’s storefront is admittedly nondescript. Tucked between retail spaces, the décor inside is what you might kindly call Minimalist Truck Stop. Melrose’s burgeoning upscale dining area is a few blocks away.
But this is the place to get a hearty, tasty breakfast and sample traditional dishes such as baked meatloaf ($9.25), roast beef ($9.25), grilled cheese sandwiches ($4.50), and fish and chips ($8.25), as well as choose from a selection of sandwiches, wraps, burgers, and pasta dishes.
ON THE MENU My Diner menus look like they were ripped from the Mad Men era. But there’s now a vegan section (added after the move to Melrose) with items like a tofu scramble ($4.95).
The dishes we sampled featured fresh ingredients, well prepared. We could taste the sweet and tart blueberries in the blueberry buttermilk pancakes ($4.95 for three; $1.25 for added fruit) as well as the sharp tang of the Kalamata olives in the Greek omelette ($6.95). The turkey hash ($3.50) was savory with a slight crunch — highly recommended.
You can also choose from a variety of waffles and omelettes. One of the more popular items on the menu is the self-proclaimed “famous” French toast, ($5 and $6), made from oblong slices of white French rolls, expertly fried and garnished with a blob of butter. We’re not sure that it’s famous, but it was delicious. There’s a kids’ menu and breakfast sandwiches, and you can match eggs, bacon, and sausage with other items.
The crown jewel of the lunch menu is “MY” turkey dinner ($10). The staff prepares a fresh turkey every day; our order came with thick slices of meat, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, doused with creamy gravy, plus squash, corn, and the kind of canned cranberry sauce that remains a guilty pleasure for many. OK, maybe the dish wasn’t as good as mom’s home cooking, but it beats most cafeterias by miles.
Be aware that My Diner’s 36 seats fill up rapidly with families on weekends. The diner still opens at 6 a.m. and closes at 3 p.m., although during the recent blizzard they finally called it quits at a heroic 2 p.m.
My Diner, 399 Main St., Melrose, 781-662-6777, www.mydinerboston.com.