A Review of the New and Improved (Though Terribly Slow) Mecca

The old neon sign made the move.
The old neon sign made the move.

The Mecca, as their slogan goes, has been “Waking up Dallas since 1938.” It’s an institution. People love it. Even people who don’t really love it talk themselves into loving it, because it’s one of those things you’re supposed to love: an old diner that has been around forever, an authentic joint. All of which I mention because I’m about to say some bad things about The Mecca. You need to know that I understand that you love The Mecca, and you need to know that I, too, love The Mecca. I’m certain that in a few weeks (if not sooner), The Mecca, ensconced in its new East Dallas location, will get its act together and be running as smoothly as it has for the last 74 years.

The Mecca, as you might know, moved from Harry Hines to a new location on Live Oak, where Molly Maguire’s and the Tipperary once did business. It opened Friday evening for dinner. Saturday morning was the first breakfast in the new spot. Playing the “I need to do this for work” card, I dragged my wife, two kids, and my son’s sleepover guest to a late breakfast. I figured it would be busy. I figured wrong. It was slammed.

Plates of pancakes where once pints were served.

We arrived at 10:55 to find a line a dozen deep spilling out the front door. Fine, though, the weather was lovely. We settled in for a wait. Twenty minutes later, we hadn’t moved. The Mecca folks kindly came out and poured coffee for anyone who wanted it, free of charge, and that kept us standing for another 20 minutes. The coffee was a nice touch. A manager told me they had no idea so many people would show up. Some of them were old customers from the ramshackle Harry Hines spot, but most of them, he said, were new folks coming from East Dallas. I watched as several groups approached the line, assessed the situation, and walked across Skillman to the Gold Rush. If the folks at Gold Rush worried if The Mecca would hurt business, they needn’t have, at least on that first morning.

When we were finally seated, I was disappointed to get one of the old snuggies snugs left over from the Tipp days. A snug is a traditional Irish bar appointment, a booth meant to create intimacy. When I drank in the place, I didn’t like the snugs. They made me feel like I was being put in timeout. In a brightly lit diner setting, they are even more unnerving. Not only did we feel isolated from the welcome hustle and bustle of the dining room, but we couldn’t flag down a waitress.

Trapped in a snuggie, these people were nearly the victims of family violence.

The rest of the room is a charming mix of the old (and very expensive) wood paneling and trim from the Tipp days and the Mecca’s wall decorations and furniture from Harry Hines. I wouldn’t have thought that the high bar counter would work for eating pancakes, but it seemed to. If only we’d gotten some of those seats. Instead, we sat isolated in our snug, shivering under the blast of an AC vent pointed directly at us, desperately trying to flag down a waitress.

After 10 minutes, I got up and grabbed a waitress. She wasn’t our waitress, but she took our drink order. Then, at length, our waitress showed up. She was apologetic but clearly flustered. She told us about all the items that they’d already run out of and then took our order.

We waited 30 minutes for our food, during which time I threatened to hit my 6-year-old daughter and invited my wife to leave. I’m not proud of this. But my daughter was bitching — over the already irritating bitching of the two boys — about how cold she was. I told her firmly to be quiet. She bitched on. I put my face very close to hers and let her know that a world-class spanking was imminent. I banished the children to the outdoors. Then my wife gave it to me, complaining that on the prettiest day in months, we were stuck inside, waiting for food that looked like it would never arrive. She asked if we could just leave. “Please,” I said. “Leave. Go home. No, I mean it. Just leave.” I don’t know what to tell you. I could have been suffering from hypothermia at that point. Not to mention hypoglycemia and host of other “hypo”s.

The wife didn’t leave me. The food arrived, finally. Most of it anyway. The waitress had erred and didn’t put my chicken-fried steak on the ticket. She was apologetic. I wanted to punch something.

Any other establishment, I’m telling you, I would not return. Two hours is too long for breakfast. But The Mecca is The Mecca. The famous cinnamon bun was as it ever was (the size of my head, buttery, irresistible). My chicken-friend steak was tasty (better than Barbec’s, at least as good as Gold Rush’s). The waitress apologized when I had to flag her down for our check (on which I was a bit surprised to find my late-arriving CFS).

“Please come back,” she said. “We’ll have this all ironed out pretty soon.”

They’d better.

25 comments on “A Review of the New and Improved (Though Terribly Slow) Mecca

  1. In my opinion, I already hate this location, and I hope that the Mecca closes in less than a year. This place is nothing special. This review was too nice.

  2. Well that was one of the funniest posts I have read in some time on this site. Did you get some eggs with the chicken fried steak my man? Or just straight to the CFS for breakfast?

  3. “We waited 30 minutes for our food, during which time I threatened to hit my 6-year-old daughter and invited my wife to leave. I’m not proud of this.”

    i just spit my drink out all over my laptop. thanks, tim.

  4. One of the best reviews ever. Informative with some attitiude. I will wait about 3 months to even try the place, assuming it stays open that long.

  5. @D: Of course I got the eggs. Over easy. I like to alternate between dipping my bites of CFS in the white gravy and blanketing them with bits of egg.

    @adkim: I wish I were exaggerating. I’m just reporting the facts. It was a difficult breakfast for all of us.

  6. Great review! I’m very eager to try the “new” Mecca. However, I think I’ll give it some break-in time.

  7. lunch service has gone downhill over the last couple of years as has the quality of the CFS. Also, price went up, number of veggies included went down 3->2. meh.

  8. $10 for a “Lunch Special”? Whoa, I’m heading to Dixie House or Gold Rush. What are they thinking?

  9. We arrived at 10:30 Sat morning, not knowing it was the first day in the new location. It was a beautiful morning so i didn’t mind the wait for awhile. However, after 45 minutes i was ready to leave. But y wife went inside and asked to buy two cups of coffee. Then a lightbulb went off with management and out they came with cups of free coffee for all, or so i thought until they turned up on my bill! I guess a refill asked for made it no longer free.
    We had to grab menus from someone else as our waitress did not seem to realize we were someone new at the table. I ordered huevos rancheros and was told they were out of tortillas. If there were someone new to the business, OK< but really, at 11:30 ? We smiled and went on and then waited another 20 minutes. The food was fine and i understand problems the first day. We did see one waitress who made the move but ours was brand new and did not know what came with what…All that was fine until i went to pay the check and the couple in front of me had really given her a hard time so she comped their breakfast. I smiled and the cashier grumbled about that customer and that turned me off. Don't know why it just did. If you are going to comp a bill and this is not the French Room for Pete's sake so it was maybe $25, smile and go on. i will go again but wait awhile!!

  10. i didn’t know they were new to running a restaurant. The landlord will get the ‘national chain’ that they really want there sooner rather than later.

  11. I was intrigued to see the Mecca sign on our old haunt last week. I looked it up on my iPad and, sure enough, the institution was leaving Harry Hines for a different kind of quirky neighborhood.

    BTW, your breakfast experience sounds like my trip to Disney this summer – with three kids, ages 13, 10 and baby. Not baby-in-arms, sleeps-all-the-time baby, rather newly mobile toddler who was not pleased with confinement, sort of like snuggies. (Hotel room, airplane, restaurants, stroller.) And of course the older ones bickered the WHOLE trip. I won’t even go into the heat, lines and horrible expenses. But I digress.

    So, thanks for the tip. I will venture to the Mecca once they get the kinks out — alone at the bar.

  12. Opening with an ill-prepared staff reeks of rookie inexperience, not someone who has been in the game since 1938.

  13. What a bunch of putts! The review was great, funny and I can’t wait to go. Michael Mas.. who gives a shit about your experience. It’s a diner..it is what it is..go..don’t go..but don’t bitch about it like you are some great culinarian writter with jaw dropping insight about a diner. Your comment was stupid and lacked anything worth reading. Todd…STFU…What do you know about opening a restaurant and why do you think your comments make a shit of difference to anyone. If you walk into a busy new restaurant, and don’t expect a possibility of chaos..then you are an idiot. I can’t wait to go there and have some shitty service in a crazy crowded Lakewood people watching joint. When you go there, I’ll be the one with grin, laughing at you tight asses getting all worked up over nothing… Great job Mr.Food Writer Tim Rogers.. and Great job to the Mecca. Keep em pissed and you watch..they will just keep on comming!

  14. I went to the mecca on hh after moving from Boston and making the mistake of trusting Dallasite yelp reviews. It was one of the worst meals I have ever had – I had to scrape stuff off of my coffee cup after we waited forever for it. The coffee was horrible and it was obvious after being seated on a plastic table with folding chairs in a place that was dirtier than a auto zone parking lot that this meal would be awful. It was! The service was terrible and we all got basic breakfast stuff which was very not good and did I mention the place was filthy? Dirty table, chairs, floor, disgusting restroom – the whole nine. AND IT ISNT CHEAP! At least at waffle house the food is cheap and you can get in and out fast – not here.

    I have no clue how people talk about this place as if it is or was good. Maybe 50 years ago they took care of the restaurant and used a dishwasher to wash coffee cups.

  15. I had a couple of friends who went separately during the mad dash of the opening. They didn’t really complain and in fact went back for more later in the weekend. We are all veterans of Dan’s (Lakewood Cafe to you non-Lakewooders) so I will trust their opinions!

  16. I’ve tried to like Mecca. I really have tried. Once we went and the section we were sitting in the waitress used the path behind my chair to get back to the kitchen and everytime bumping into me. I made a remark under my breathe about being bumped and the bumps got harder. She flat out walked into me. The food was cold. The next time the pancakes were burnt. How could Mecca continue to comand the following it does when Market Diner down the street was solid service and food everytime. Not to mention Bailey’s Cafe on Inwood. Mr and Mrs Bailey are running smooth operations with consistently good food. I’m glad Mecca is off Harry Hines. I was tired of seeing it anyways.

  17. This by far was one of the funniest, most entertaining and influential pieces I’ve read in a long time. I will be trying Mecca out this weekend. Thank you and your family:)

  18. I’m not sure I approve of using the word “bitching” to describe your six-year-old daughter’s complaints about being cold (but the boys get only a passing glance). And why not describe your wife’s comments as “bitching?”

  19. Note: I ran into a frien of mine today who is Irish. She’d read this post and corrected me. The traditional Irish booths aren’t called snuggies. “That’s the dumb blanket,” she told me. “They are called snugs.” I’ve updated the post to correct the error.

  20. Went to the Mecca to see what the hype is all about. What a let down. The restaurant looks real cool with several details left from the previous pub. The food was dismal at best. Way to pricy for what you get. Rolls are dry and flavor-less, Salad was stale, lettuce willty, and the blue cheese dressing from a plastic ramikin and was bland with no BC flavor. Tasted like school paste with chunks of an uknown material. Mashed spuds were skimpy and dry with no seasoning. CFS was so overcooked, cruncky dry, flavorless, took two bites and left the rest. There are several better restaurants serving this type of food in the area. One being John’s cafe on Greenville Ave, The Goldrush across the street, Dixie House at the corner. And what’s with the snippy, smile-less service? I don’t know who owns this joint but they sure have a real need for some self reflective evaluation. Diners will frequent there favorite spot upon receiving a few basics in food and service. Check out Scallini’s in the Lakewood strip. They know how to smile, and the food is good. Sorry Mecca, I was hoping to become a long time fan, but it just wasn’t good..on all counts.