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Best New Restaurant
Mel's Bar and Grill
235 Fillmore St.

It sounds like a blue-collar diner, but Mel's features no wisecracking waitresses wrapped in pink. Instead, you'll find an efficient but exceptionally friendly waitstaff, charming and whimsical decor, and Mel and Jane Master. These former part-owners of Dudley's and Barolo Grill have brought their wine and food backgrounds together once again, and this time it's a culinary match made in heaven. Relax in the private booths and lounge through as many courses as possible, but be sure to try the exemplary risotto. The menu is sort of California meets the Mediterranean, with an emphasis on light and healthy food that still tastes rich. Break bread--it's got a killer crust and super-absorbent interior that soaks up Mel's good-quality olive oil like a sponge--and don't stop eating until after you've tried one of the divine desserts, especially anything with fruit. The wine list is user- and wallet-friendly, and even the coffee is good. When dine you must, eat at Mel's.

Readers' choice: Ocean Fresh Grill
end of part 5

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