The call me Mellow Vello

Mellow Yellow, made famous by Donovan in 1966, was once thought to be about smoking dried banana peels (a fictional hallucinogenic drug back in the 60’s)– but was later discovered to be about a “sexy toy shaped like a banana”. When I think of Mellow Yellow, I actually remember the Mello Yello of 1979… that citrus flavored caffeinated drink reminiscent of Mountain Dew. How many of you remember that soda?

I digress… As the title suggests, I went to Vello’s for dinner last night, which is a laid-back, kid-friendly, uber-casual Westwood restaurant. They offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, with an open kitchen and a dining room large enough to accommodate their dedicated customers. They’ve been around for a while, but this was my first visit (despite having heard it was a good family restaurant several times).

My friend Martha and I headed there around 6pm last night, with our two 3-year olds and her 3-month old in tow (sans men). The restaurant was fairly un-crowded when we arrived (despite the horrific traffic leading into Westwood on 109), allowing us to score a table toward the back with two chairs and a half booth (where the boys could sit alone and squirm around if necessary).

For a small (strip mall kinda) place, the menu at Vello’s is quite expansive. They offer many appetizers, soups, salads, Panini’s, wraps, burgers, pasta, pizza and even burritos (which are supposedly very good) as well as risottos and some other hearty entrees. Almost everything on the menu is under $12, except for some of the more expensive ingredient entrees — which still were coming in around the $15 range.

The have a good kid’s menu and even offer two different sizes for kid’s meals… normal and baby-size (which is a dollar cheaper). All kid’s meals come with a side (even the pastas) of fries, chips or greens and either a fountain drink or juice and are ended with a home-baked chocolate chip cookie (on the house). Additionally, there is plenty of paper and buckets of crayons to keep the kiddies happy (unless your son is the king of distractions, like mine).

Our server was attentive, coming over soon after we were seated — so we ordered the kid’s food right away. Chance got the Buttered Pasta (big surprise there) and Ben got the Pasta w/ Red Sauce. Both dishes came with the sauce on the side (providing the parents with control over how much of mess they wanted to create) and a small cup of Parmesan cheese (which my son tried to drink — dousing his seat and the floor with a healthy portion of it).

Speaking of drinks, children’s drinks are served in plastic cups with lids (always a good thing) and “big people” drinks are served in old mason jars… which is always a cool and nostalgic touch.

For our dinners, we both got the Chicken Burger, which comes with lettuce and tomato. You can customize other toppings, or go with their two recommendations… either cheddar cheese and bacon or jack cheese and avocado. I ordered mine with jack and avocado, sans the bun and with a side of greens and Martha got hers with their infamous Sweet Potato French Fries. I expected a ground chicken burger, and was pleasantly surprised to see a pounded-thin, grilled chicken breast cutlet. Cooked perfectly, served atop my lettuce, tomato and avocado (which turned out to be guacamole), exactly as I had asked. Martha’s burger arrived missing the cheese she requested… so… since I am trying to cut back on dairy, wheat and soy (a long story), I [gladly] scraped my cheese off and gave it to her. As promised… the sweet potato french fries were yummy indeed.

In general, the meals were tasty and large for the prices. The atmosphere became busier and busier as we continued eating, with most of the tables full by the time we left. The experience itself was rather stressful, as the boys were hell-bent on being pains in the you know what, but aside from that, we had a great experience. The staff was very accommodating with the kids and tried to keep things moving for us so we could get out of there quickly when we were done.

Overall, not a Date Night place, but a great outing with the kids or for a causal meal (I’ve heard their breakfasts are really good too).

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