Just found out yesterday that Larry Mellisen, an incredibly talented chef who worked wonders in the tiny kitchen at McMenamin's Tavern in Mt. Airy, died back in August from complications stemming from diabetes. I immediately e-mailed Rich Pawlak; Rich and I had hung out with Larry at the bar, and marveled over the dishes he put out of that little space.
I remember the first time I ate at McMenamin's. It was on my birthday, and Cathy and I had dressed up, barhopping around Philly: Manayunk Brewing, Michel Notredame's place, London Grill, and then I told her I wanted to go to McMenamin's for dinner, because PJ was now serving food. Okay, and we went, and...ate ham sandwiches with chips from a carving board at the end of the bar. They were damned good sandwiches, but I heard about that for a while: why did we get all get dressed up to go eat sandwiches in a damned bar?!
Two years later, I took her back, for my birthday. We had seafood risotto and squash blossom beggar's purses, and some kind of Golden Monkey bread pudding. Larry waved from the kitchen. And I said, so, how about that? We can come back here any time, she said. I wish we'd come back more often.
Rich has a great memory of Larry up at his blog. Have a look, and think of Larry the next time you have a great meal at a bar. Rich is right: he was ahead of his time.