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.