Mel’s Hard Luck Diner: Branson, Baby! – Our 2019 Spring Break (Part 7)

We needed another meal idea while in Branson, so I yet again ran to Google to search the best reviewed restaurants in the area.

I couldn’t believe it when a placed called Mel’s Hard Luck Diner appeared near the top of the list.  Not exactly an appetizing name, right?  I took a look at the menu and it appeared as though everyone would be able to find something to eat.  The restaurant’s concept also sounded kind of cool — the wait staff will sing to you as you eat!

We agreed to give it a try.  Secretly, though, I felt a little nervous.  Singing and dancing makes me feel really awkward if I’m too close to the action.  I worried that the staff would literally be singing to us.  Looking someone in the eye as they sing directly to you — yikes.

Another confession — as soon as we walked in I wanted to leave.  Honestly, the place did not look all that nice at first glance.  Getting seated wasn’t a super warm experience, either.  Worst of all, the place was practically empty.  How good could it really be if we were practically the only ones there?

However, our waitress immediately proved very inviting and even play-sang for us a little as my wife and children mentioned that they were looking forward to the music.  I thought, “Oh, they just sing kind of goofy for you as they talk about the food.  I see.”

I was wrong.

At that moment,  the real music started and it all made sense.

The waiters and waitresses actually stroll along the restaurant with a microphone in hand belting out classic hits.  They take turns with one of them singing about every ten minutes.  One woman actually patted customers’ heads and rubbed their chins as she sang, but most were content to simply walk around while showcasing their talent.  Most impressive, though, was a man who actually carried several plates with the microphone tucked under his chin before placing the food in front of his customers while singing exquisitely!

Our competitive juices got flowing a little bit.  When our waitress sang, we made a point to cheer for her as loudly as we could and let the place know we had the best.  Nothing about the setting encouraged us to do so, but no one discouraged us, either.

Seriously, we heard about five different people sing while we were there, and they all had beautiful voices.  Each one of them also had a CD available in the gift shop, which they each made sure to mention at the end of their song.  Hey, who can blame them, right?  I imagine these folks are hoping to get discovered.

All in all, we had a really fun time.  The singing was excellent, our waitress was superb, and the food pleased us all.

Oh, by the way, by the time we left, the place was packed.

Here are some pictures from the Grand Village Shops website. This quaint little shopping center is where the restaurant is located.  You can also visit Mel’s Hard Luck Diner directly HERE.

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Jackie B. Goode’s Uptown Cafe: Branson, Baby! – Our 2019 Spring Break (Part 4)

During our first full day at Branson, we were faced with figuring out where to go for lunch.  Like with Florentina’s the night before, I simply ran a quick Google search and Jackie B. Goode’s popped right up near the top of the list.  Because we were totally unfamiliar with the area, we decided just to go for it.

We walked up and immediately loved the decor.  As you can see from the picture below, they have a fun yellow taxi cab right out front and their facade makes for a pretty cool view from the street.

As we entered, we saw a big, open room definitely decked out in 50s style.  It felt a little bit like walking through a time portal.  Jackie B. Goode’s is named for Jack Goode, a man who sacrificed his life for America during Vietnam.  You’ll see lots of memorabilia on the walls honoring his memory.

Though it was 11:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, there wasn’t much of a crowd.  We were seated immediately.  We noticed that the staff, while very friendly, were also pretty experienced.  As a result, the service wasn’t very fast or energetic, but it was done correctly and with a smile.

I ordered a fried chicken sandwich.  I’ve never had one before, so I figured why not?  I also ordered a root beer float.  The root beer float proved to be one of the best I’ve ever had.  The fried chicken sandwich was also very good.  It was exactly what it sounds like — a fried chicken breast on a bun.

My wife ordered fish and chips.  She said it was okay but nothing particularly special.  She told me that it compared to what you would get at a lot of fast-food places.  However, she raved about her chocolate malt.

My daughters seemed to enjoy their grilled cheese, and they certainly loved the chocolate brownie ice cream sundae dessert that they shared.  I took a few bites myself — delicious!

A stage existed off to one side of the restaurant.  Jackie B. Goode’s apparently has live musicians performing most of the time.  No one played while we ate there, but we did notice a woman walk in and start setting up as we were finishing our meal.  They also had a jar placed near the cashier notifying patrons that the musical acts were not paid, but they would appreciate any tips.

We had a good time at Jackie B. Goode’s and, for the most part, liked our food well enough.  I’d have no problem recommending it to someone looking for a bite.  Our only small complaint is that Jackie B. Goode’s has a breakfast buffet from 7:30 to 11:00 a.m.  We didn’t intend to make the buffet, but my wife was positioned as such that she had to watch the workers clean the buffet up throughout her entire lunch.  She didn’t find it very appetizing.

Whatever the case, I absolutely suggest you at least pop in for a root beer float, a chocolate malt, and a brownie ice cream sundae.

If you’d like to visit the Jackie B. Goode’s website, click HERE.

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Did you enjoy this article?  Listen to my podcast, Stories By Scott William Foley, HERE!

My New Favorite Mexican Restaurant In Bloomington-Normal

My wife and I have been searching for a new Mexican restaurant ever since Carlos O’Kelly’s closed its doors.  Yes, that was five years ago.

We’ve tried a few local establishments over time, but nothing really won us over.  In the interim, we’ve made due with Mexican dishes at Chile’s, Applebee’s–you know, those kinds of places.  That’s fine, but we missed an actual authentic Mexican restaurant.  Actually, I don’t know how authentic Carlos O’Kelly’s was, but you get my meaning.

A few week’s ago, on New Year’s Eve, my wife suggested a relatively new Mexican restaurant in town called Hacienda Leon.  We were going out as an entire family to see Mary Poppins Returns, and we wanted to eat together afterward in order to celebrate the holiday.

As we walked in, the size and open layout of the restaurant immediately struck me.  I loved the roominess of the place.  I also really liked the decor and general style.  I’m no expert at that kind of thing, so I’ll simply say everything pleased the eye.

We’ve been back since, and on both occasions the service proved friendly and capable.  The menu is very diverse with a wide range of rates.  You will be able to eat quite affordably if you wish, but there are also some more expensive and elaborate dishes available.  The drink menu also has a lot to offer with some very fair prices.  Both of my children were happy with the kids’ menu and were glad that they could substitute the rice and beans with fries.  By the way, my ten-year-old daughter just told me to tell you that their fries are “delicious.”

I don’t know how “authentic” Hacienda Leon is in terms of cuisine, but as far as I’m concerned, the two meals I ate there were wonderful.  It has instantly become my favorite Mexican restaurant in the area, and probably my second favorite restaurant around here in general.

If you live in the Bloomington-Normal region and crave Mexican fare, I urge you to give Hacienda Leon a chance.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Visit their website to see a photo gallery, their location, and the menu: Hacienda Leon

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