Keywords: Brazilian Steak House | Rodizio-Style Service | Gourmet Salad Bar | International Wine Selection
Churrascaria: Brazilian-style barbecuing where the meat is skewered and cooked over an open flame or on a grill; the meat itself is called churrasco.
Caipirinha: a Brazilian cocktail made with the sugarcane-based spirit cachaca and lime juice.
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.
When to Go: The chef’s fried chicken is available exclusively on Monday nights, paired with live blues between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Where to Sit
Étouffée: translates literally to “smothered.” This spicy, Cajun seafood stew is thickened with a roux and served over rice.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
After brunch: Check out the well-curated selection of women’s clothing and jewelry at De Novo (2413 California Street).
After dinner: Catch a classic film at Clay Theatre (2261 Fillmore Street), a cinema built in 1910.
Behind The Cheese Steak Shop's refreshingly simple name lies an American treasure: the Philly cheesesteak. The first Cheese Steak Shop was founded in 1982 by Pennsylvania transplant Keith Layton who set out to do his beloved meal right with top-shelf ingredients and sourcing all of the peppers, Tastycakes, Amoroso rolls, and pithy Ben Franklin quotes straight from the City of Brotherly Love. Inside each toasty, hearth-baked roll, strips of thinly-sliced sirloin, tender chicken, earthy mushrooms, or zesty pepperoni sizzle beneath a smothering layer of provolone or American cheese.
The inspiration for Cha Ya Vegetarian Japanese’s all-vegan menu comes from “Shojin Ryori”—Japanese Buddhist cuisine. From among the flavorful dishes, chefs bring bowls of miso soup to an aromatic simmer and stuff lightly battered and fried eggplant with potato, corn, and soybeans. The nigiri sushi eschews fish for the bright flavor of seasoned shitake mushrooms, and Uramaki rolls are crafted in reverse—with a layer of rice preluding the delicate crunch of avocado tempura. For dessert, soy ice cream receives a dusting of house-made matcha (finely milled green tea) and adzuki bean sauce.