Originally founded in 1936 in Glendale, California, Big Boy?s flagship location initially bore the name Bob?s Pantry after owner Bob Wian. At a diner?s request, Bob piled two beef patties onto a bun to create the Classic Big Boy?an original double-decker hamburger that would become so popular that the small burger stand would eventually grow into a franchise of more than 100 U.S. locations. Legend has it that Bob named the creation after one of his most loyal customers: a 6-year-old boy in droopy overalls who would one day ascend to mascot stardom.
Though the menu has since expanded to include sandwiches, homestyle dinners, and breakfast, the eatery still serves its namesake burger stacked high with two patties, american cheese, shredded lettuce, and a special sauce. A large, overall-clad statue stands guard at every location, reminding patrons of the restaurant?s humble beginnings and that children will turn to stone should they not eat enough cheeseburgers.
For 40 years, the iconic Kelly green exterior of Patrick's Roadhouse has lit up the roadside along the Pacific Coast Highway. Inside, dark wood and checkered floors join stained-glass lamps and hand-painted signs to create the look and feel of a well-worn and cozy haven for travelers. Featured on the Food Network's Diners Drive-Ins and Dives, the menu includes unique classics such as the sweet and savory Dijon plum burger, or the Rockefeller—topped with sour cream, jack cheese, mushrooms, and caviar. Fresh, organic produce acquired daily from the local farmers market piles onto stacks of fluffy pancakes, and slices of the Patrick's 'famous' banana cream pie launch into faces to round out meals.
Formica counter: check. Silvery-blue vinyl stools: check. Scrumptious eats that go from griddle to table faster than Sleeping Beauty can guzzle a pot of coffee: check, check, and check. At Rae’s Restaurant, a bona fide diner with old-school charm and fresh food, cooks are never more than a few feet away, working the grills and then slapping stacks of hotcakes, crispy strips of bacon, and fluffy omelets onto plates. For a taste of it all, try the hobo breakfast special, with ham, bacon, sausage, three eggs, buttermilk hotcakes, and a glass of chilled tomato or grapefruit juice. Another sure bet: buttermilk biscuits blanketed with country-style gravy. Rae’s also serves sandwiches and burgers, and, like any true roadside diner, bids adieu with big slices of pie, ice cream sodas, and old-fashioned banana splits.
In 1947, owners Mel Weiss and Harold Dobbs assembled a staff of 14 carhops to serve passing motorists at the first Mel's Drive-In. For the next two decades, customers partial to automobile dining flocked to the chain’s 11 California locations, eager to wash down grass-fed half-pound burgers with thick milk shakes. As fast-food outlets outpaced the drive-in's once-speedy service, its popularity declined, and it was eventually scheduled for demolition. The building got a temporary reprieve, however, when filmmaker George Lucas decided to use the drive-in's original location on Lombard Street as the colorful backdrop for his film American Graffiti. As bulldozers destroyed the last remnants of the historic drive-in, American Graffiti opened in theaters.
A decade later, though, Mel's son Steven reopened Mel's Drive-In in an attempt to carry on his father's dream. Steven restored the drive-in's multiple locations to mirror their original motif by stocking each with midcentury must-haves such as illuminated marquees, jukeboxes, and Elvis-themed WiFi passwords. The drive-in’s menu, meanwhile, balances period-appropriate fare, such as hot dogs and burgers, with healthy options, such as the Haven’s Famous vegetarian sandwich, two slices of nine-grain bread topped with avocado, sprouts, and tomatoes.
Food and nostalgia are synonymous at Dinah's Family Restaurant. Whether it's oven-baked apple pancakes, saucy ribs, or the restaurant's signature pineapple coleslaw, Dinah's team has made everything look?and taste?warmly familiar since 1959. Even the decor has barely changed since then. Its long marble bar, red-backed booths, and a retro-Sixties facade would not look out of place as an establishing shot in a Mad Men episode.
The real star at Dinah's has also stayed the same since day one: the fried chicken. In the decades since they debuted their fried chicken bucket, the cooks at Dinah's have spiced, breaded, and fried its poultry pieces for some 20 million customers?all the more impressive considering only 500 people lived on Earth in the 1960s.
Attentive waiters keep Cha Cha Cha?s colorful tablecloths stocked with contemporary Caribbean small plates, heaping dishes of paella, and pitchers of brandy-infused sangria concocted under the supervision of expert chef Toribio Prado. Open for more than 25 years, the original location's brightly colored fa?ade crowned by corrugated tin leads into a heated patio area lit by strings of chili-shaped lights and swarms of fireflies trained in flamenco dance. There diners can tuck into Cha Cha Cha?s lauded Jamaican jerk chicken or sip freshly muddled mojitos amid the quiet murmur of overhead fans.