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Meli Cafe and al Fresco Dining
Restaurant review: Enjoying the outdoors in the summer should be a goal, not just when you are out and about but when you are eating. There are a lot of great outdoor cafes and restaurants in Illinois and I’ll showcase many of them. This is Meli Cafe in the heart of Chicago with outdoor seating at 500 South Dearborn Street
By Ray Hanania
Meli’s cafe, which has three locations, offers al fresco (fresh air) dining at its 500 S. Dearborn Street location. It has two other locations in Downtown Chicago, 301 S. Halsted Street and 540 N. Wells Street.
Although Dearborn street is often a traffic jam with horns blaring, wheels screeching and sirens blaring, all that just makes for an action-packed movie-like environment while you enjoy a great meal.
Being on a Calorie counting diet, I select healthy foods with low calorie counts. Dieting by counting calories does work, but you have to have a little patience to calculate the calories. My goal is under 1,200 a day and that’s been very easy, so far without cutting back on my favorite carbohydrates, proteins and dietary drinks.
Meli Cafe fit my menu needs and I ordered the Salmon Salad, about 550 calories total. The Salmon is the bulk of the calories and the salad was great, along with low cal dressing.
The biggest complaint about downtown Chicago used to be that it was crime ridden and its smelled. Well, the smell was gone, although I can’t talk much about the crime, fortunately.
No one bothered us, that is if you learn to enjoy the peculiar people who sometimes wander the streets singing, yelling into the sky — or at you — or panhandle for money.
Sorry folks about I take care of a needy person, so I don’t share the profits outside of that circle much. It’s expensive. So the best response is avoid eye contact. They should be in shelters not wandering the streets begging for money, at least that’s where the person I help resides with my support.
Still, CHicago is just one big circus without a tent or restricted to the “rings.” The Elephant poop is gone, although you might see the occasional Chicago Police officers in blue with blue helmets riding horses up and down the streets avoiding the traffic jams that plague the Loop.
It was fun. Meli has two rows of small tables on the sidewalk adjacent to Dearborn Street, bordered by a small, low “fence” that you can see over.
It was fun, a great experience. And Meli’s menu is phenomenal, like I said with many options for those watching their weight and monitoring their diets.
I was there with my wife and son and they enjoyed their meal, too.
Like all downtown Chicago restaurants, it was expensive. More than a similar meal in one of the outlying and great suburbs like Naperville or Orland Park. But it was worth the extra fee to enjoy the “urban ambiance” of daily life and sounds.
The Mediterranean salad with Salmon was $20. Not too bad for a salad with a major meat item. The Salmon was great.
Check them out. It’s a fun experience. You can’t be afraid of Chicago. You have to be adventurous, but always cautious.
Meli Cafe is the perfect place to enjoy the South end of the Loop.
500 S. Dearborn Street
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Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
Click here to send Ray Hanania and email.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com ArabNews.com/taxonomy/term/10906