I've grown up and lived in the Durham region most of my life. Even though I loved to cook and learned to appreciate good food when I was young, I hadn't noticed the lack of food culture in my home town until I moved away for school. When people go out to eat in Durham they tend to end up in corporate restaurants, unless of course its to an ethnic place. And honestly that barely counts as all-you-can eat sushi/buffet places don't count. Obviously this doesn't bode well for independent restaurants that were/are trying to do something new or different. You saw this in what seemed like an endless cycle of restaurants opening and closing in the cities of Durham regions downtown core. It was depressing. The good news is that this is beginning to change as Oshawa continues to adapt to its new identity from a blue-collar industry town to a university/college town. As this continues the food culture here is truly coming into its own, even if we still have a ways to go.
One restaurant that has survived the onslaught of the commercial dining experience is Melanie Pringles in Whitby, ON. It is styled as a 1950's-60's diner and the menu is typical of a place like it. I remember going there on my 13 or 14 birthday dinner and thinking that the place was amazing because they had a 10 scoop ice cream sundae. People and times change but it seems like they haven't. I don't think that I've been back since then and that was 15-16 years ago now... but they still have that 10 scoop sundae on the menu. (I didn't get it this time)
On one hand this can be charming but on the other hand it isn't. When a restaurant gets to be this old it's a risk to change anything because you my push your old cliental away, but it might be a greater risk not to, because newer and fresher places open up and attract people. It's a fine line to journey and one that they seem to be doing decently ok with.
When my friend and I first arrived we were not greeted right away. One server did see us and didn't say hello or that someone would be right with us what she did do was walk right in front of us, found the hostess (who was helping a server with a table) and told her that we were waiting and to hurry up. Seemingly with a lot of attitude... like the we had inconvenienced her, weird. The good news was that when the hostess did come she was very friendly and sat us immediately.
One of the things I was really impressed with was how clean the place looked and that it didn't look run down at all. A place this old, I was expecting it to show some wear an tear but to me I didn't really notice anything. The decor is really great and I love that they have working mini juke boxes at each table. The atmosphere is REALLY well done and is really fun to be in. It makes me want to eat there. Mission accomplished!
But this is getting long. Let's talk about the food. One of the things that I love about the place is that it makes a lot of its menu items from scratch. I love that! ... if its well done... Unfortunately with what I had I felt a little underwhelmed. I had their homemade stuffed burger and fries, It was under seasoned and the description on the menu wasn't accurate to what I received. One of the reasons I ordered it was because it said that it was smothered in BBQ sauce. I love BBQ sauce, so when I read that and the fact that it was a stuffed burger, they had me. I immediately knew what I wanted and was eagerly anticipating eating it. (I was also REALLY hungry) What I got though was a disappointment. A small dollop of BBQ sauce isn't what I call smothered. I honestly think that if the burger came out the way it was described I wouldn't have had very many complaints. Our server was great, and the food came in a timely manner. I guess the really unfortunate thing is that I REALLY wanted to like it, but I left feeling like I had just ate at Kelsey's...
Overall I felt like my experience was just average. The service wasn't bad, the food wasn't bad but it wasn't great, the decor was brilliant but that won't going win very many people over. The Durham region will continue to change and grow, if Melanie Pringles can change with it they will do well.
If you are interested you can check them out at http://www.melaniepringles.com