New Orleans cuisine has had a home in North Irving for 32 years. Po’ Melvin’s Down Home Cooking is a family-owned and operated restaurant serving Louisiana classics like po’ boys, red beans and rice, gumbo, jalapeño cornbread, and fried shrimp and catfish.
The restaurant, at West Walnut Hill Lane and North Belt Line Road, is located in an unassuming strip mall, next to an urgent care clinic and salon. Inside, the space is decorated with ubiquitous New Orleans imagery: St. Louis Cathedral, jazz players and Mardi Gras masks.
Po’ Melvin’s is owned and operated by Mel LeMane III, his sister Michelle Tynes and his wife, Sara LeMane. Mel is the son of the restaurant’s founder, Melvin “Big Mel” LeMane II, a New Orleans native who came to Texas for his wife, Joan.
Big Mel first got into the food business by opening a concessions trailer in 1981. In 1983, he became a concessionaire at the State Fair of Texas, serving Southern food and specializing in black-eyed peas.
After five years working the State Fair, Big Mel opened Po’ Melvin’s in 1988, with the help of a well-known name in the Dallas restaurant world: Joe Campisi.
“My uncle is Joe Campisi,” LeMane says. “He was instrumental in helping us get our start. If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be in the restaurant business.”
LeMane and his sister have been a part of the restaurant since day one. LeMane studied restaurant management at Texas Tech and focuses on day-to-day operations and running the floor. Sister Michelle and wife Sara do marketing and finances.
The food at Po’ Melvin’s is Southern, with a focus on classic New Orleans dishes. “My mom and daddy were both excellent cooks,” LeMane says. “All of our product is very good; we’re proud of what we serve.”
LeMane stresses using the best ingredients possible. The gumbo is made with real blue crab and Gulf shrimp and doesn’t include any “fillers,” like chicken, okra or sausage. They use fresh, never frozen, chicken for the chicken-fried steak.
As for the family’s favorite dishes, they all have different opinions of what’s best at the restaurant. LeMane is a big fan of the fried shrimp ($12.99). “Our fried shrimp is the best fried shrimp you can eat. They’re Louisiana whites ... the best quality of shrimp you can get and the most expensive. We butterfly them, devein them ourselves, lightly flour batter and fry them. They’re excellent.”
Michelle loves the New Orleans-style roast beef ($11.99), which is served in a rich brown gravy made daily from a roux of the roast drippings. It’s served with your choice of three vegetables.
Sara is partial to the chicken-fried chicken ($10.99). “We marinate it overnight, bread it in flour, deep fry it and pour a cream gravy over the top,” LeMane says.
LeMane touts their bread pudding ($6.99) as another standout. “It’s made from scratch,” LeMane says. “What makes our bread pudding unique is the rum sauce that we put on it. Everyone that eats our bread pudding says it’s the best they’ve ever had.”
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Po’ Melvin’s attracts many New Orleans natives. “You’d be surprised at how many people who live here are native to New Orleans,” LeMane says. “A lot of them came after Katrina, or just moved to Dallas for the opportunities. We have a lot of native New Orleanians who eat here and they say it’s the closest thing you can get to home.”
Po’ Melvin’s is hosting its second annual Fat Tuesday party on Tuesday, Feb. 25 with live music, specialty cocktails and an all-day crawfish boil.
As of Fat Tuesday, Po’ Melvin’s will also start serving boiled crawfish, which they will do through May.
Po' Melvin's, 4070 N. Belt Line Road, Suite 100, Irving, 972-255-3919. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.