Mad Dawg’s and Mel’s, a 1950s-themed diner and “garage emporium” on Main Street, hopes to open its doors to the public in less than a month.
The new restaurant, located in the Payson Auto Classics building at 407 W. Main Street, will feature hot dogs, brats and Italian sausages, according to co-owners Madeline Manchio and Melanie McCarthy.
“I’ve had the name Mad Dawg’s in my head for years,” said Manchio. “I’ve always wanted to do a really good quality all-beef hot dog. I’m from the East Coast and coming from New York and the streets of Manhattan, that’s always been a big staple of my diet.”
But the restaurant will also offer a full salad bar and other menu items.
“We want to attract the healthy crowd as well as the artery cloggers,” Manchio said. “And we plan to have some blue plate specials like meatloaf and mashed potatoes for $4.95. We want people to get a good value for their dollar.”
The owners plan to open at 6 a.m. daily and offer breakfast sandwiches, bagels and specialty coffees in the morning.
“Everybody’s telling us to get Seattle’s Best coffee, so we’re looking into that,” Manchio said. “We want to do what the people want.”
The recently renovated building won top honors for Best Facade Renovation Under $25,000 in the 2002 Main Street Awards competition held last month in Yuma.
Owner J. D. Bell, from whom the Mad Dawg’s owners are leasing the building, utilized a 1950s retro theme including a vintage soda fountain to revitalize a building that formerly housed Payson Auto Repair and sat vacant on Main Street for several years.
“All the car memorabilia stuff and the decor is staying,” said McCarthy, including the vintage soda fountain.”
Bell, who originally planned to open a restaurant with the same theme, is also enthusiastic.
“I’m really glad somebody has come along and is keeping the same concept that I envisioned,” he said.
With restaurant space in the back, Bell turned the front part of the building into a reproduction of a vintage auto dealership garage complete with neon signs and antique gas pumps. He referred to it as “Goober’s Garage with a diner” and “an antique store for guys.”
While Manchio and McCarthy plan to leave the auto decor intact, they plan to expand on the concept.
“The garage will be an amusement area, with a pool table, a vintage ’50s jukebox, and pinball,” Manchio said. “We’re not going to serve alcohol, so we plan on having a real family atmosphere.”
One of nine Main Street businesses that received $10,000 grants for facade, landscape and streetscape improvements, Bell added $30,000 of his own money to renovate the interior.
The facade grant was used to stucco the exterior building and install new doors.
The building is just west of the proposed Boomtown development, an Old West town-themed shopping and entertainment complex that will feature a wedding chapel, restaurant, saloon and 19 smaller shops. That complex will be built on a vacant 2.5 acre site just west of Sawmill Crossing and behind a row of Main Street businesses including Main Street Paint and Decorating.
Manchio, who was “raised in the restaurant business,” was most recently general manager of Fargo’s Steakhouse. Prior to that she worked in the Valley as director of restaurants for Doubletree Hotels and director of catering and special events for La Casa Vieja and other Valley restaurants owned by well known restaurateur Michael Monti.
McCarthy, who worked as a server at Fargo’s, has a property management background.
“We’re just real excited,” Manchio said. “Everyone has been real supportive, but especially Karen Greenspoon (Main Street project manager) and Chuck Butzbach of TNJ Homes.”