Meiki’s: kick back for “diner-style” Italian
I’ve been itching to post this review of Meiki’s Italian American for quite some time now, but I have struggled with how to describe the place even though I’m in there about every other week or so. The best categorization I can come up with is “diner-style Italian.” Diner-style describes the atmosphere more than the food, and here’s what I mean by it.
Every other Italian restaurant I’ve been in is decorated like the stereotypical American view of what we think a restaurant in Italy would look like. I hope to find out for myself one day if this is correct, as my next travel goal is to take an eating tour of Italy. Italian restaurants here always seem to have the perfunctory bright and annoying accordion music, bottles of olive oil sitting around, cans of fancy tomatoes, Italian words painted on the wall, some sort of bread served with balsamic vinegar … you get the picture.
Well, not so at Meiki’s. Mr. Meiki has dispensed with all of the aforementioned paraphernalia and has gone bare-bones with his decorating. No fancy anything here to distract you from the food. Tan-colored booths line the walls, and basic “diner-style” tables and chairs fill the center. The plain, undecorated atmosphere used to bother me, but not anymore. In fact, I’ve really grown to like it and I hope they never change things. Just because it’s plain doesn’t mean the food isn’t good. I will happily frequent a reasonable, un-fancy place with good food any time!
Though the environment may be bland, the food is really quite good. The owner, Kamal Meiki, says everything is homemade from scratch. He also flags his prices as “the best in town” (although he said he is having to raise them here shortly because of grocery costs). Between his stints in the kitchen, he can usually be found standing in his apron in front of the TV in the dining area checking the latest scores to whatever sport happens to be airing at the time. So, it’s easy to flag him over to your table and start a delightful conversation. Last week, I noted his accent and asked him where he was from. I loved his response! He said, “I am a Christian from Galilee!” Most of the time when I ask restaurant owners from other countries where they are from, they are almost hesitant to reply. So, I loved Kamal’s enthusiasm about his origins. He emigrated to the U.S. when he was 19 years old.
Anyway, back to the food.
I’ve tried a variety of things on the menu. The pizza is really good and you can get a two-piece special with salad and drink at lunchtime. They usually also run a spaghetti and meatball special at lunch. These lunch specials run between $6-$7 which is not bad for the complete meal. I’ve never seen any dinner specials. Last week I had the Rigatoni off the dinner menu for $9.99. It was a mixture of green peppers, onion, mushrooms, sausage and pepperoni baked in marinara with pasta tubes. The whole dish was topped with mozzarella. I split this with my friend, Beth, from work, which made it very affordable and the portion was more than enough for the two of us.
I’ve also had the spaghetti, which is good. I always ask for my bread with no butter, but sometimes Mr. Meiki has already buttered all of the bread for the day, so all you get is buttered bread. Mom had the veggie calzone last week and said it was good, but keep in mind she can’t taste (she lost her sense of smell years ago). So, I don’t ever really weigh her opinion heavily when I do food reviews. She mainly judges on texture and presentation of the food and the friendliness of the owner (she LOVED Mr. Meiki).
By the way, for the vegetarians out there, Mr. Meiki told me that every dish on the menu can be made “veggie-style.”
If there’s one thing I’m not particularly impressed with at Meiki’s, it’s the salads. When Beth and I went, she had a side Caesar and I had the side dinner salad. Beth said the Caesar dressing was fantastic and I trust her because she’s kind of a Caesar dressing connoisseur. However, the side dinner salad consisted of just lettuce, croutons and a pepper … pretty plain. I would like to see some other veggies added to this. I’ve also had the chicken club salad as a main course. There’s a lot more to it including bacon bits, black olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, croutons, hard boiled egg, and chicken. It was ok, but I don’t know … maybe if the greens were a little better, it would help.
One thing I had never noticed until recently is that they serve hamburgers. Last week, we noticed that everyone was ordering the hamburger and fries, and boy did it look mighty tasty. Mr. Meiki says they hand peel and cut the potatoes for their fries. Next time I go in, I’m having the burger and fries.
Bottom line, Meiki’s is a simple place — more like a diner than a restaurant. The atmosphere isn’t anything special, but it is a nice, quiet, very informal place with some good food. I recommend it. Give it a try and let me know what you think.