The taste of burgers and milkshakes is synonymous with the ’50s, a decade that took place during the ’70s but was repeated late at night well into the ’90s. Savor the flavor of nostalgia with today's Groupon: for $10, you get $20 worth of burgers, malts, breakfast fare, and more at Mel's Drive-In. This Groupon is valid at the Geary Boulevard, Lombard Street, Fourth and Mission, and Van Ness Avenue locations.
Harboring a rich history dating back 63 years, Mel's Drive-In continues to use hearty homemade diner fare to welcome the rumbling stomachs and engines of local car operators. The bright neon sign, kitschy '50s-themed atmosphere, and varied menu items of classic eats hearken nostalgic digesters back to times when dining was comfy and accomplished rodeo clowns were de facto mayors. Each helping of the juicy Famous Melburger arrives neighbored with a choice of a side, including a hot soup or the mouthwatering twisty fries ($6.95), and can be tastily topped off with a thick, old-fashioned chocolate milkshake infused with McGoo's Ice Cream ($4.50). Soak up memories of last night's cola bender with a savory breakfast, including the buttermilk pancakes ($6.25) or stacked four-egg omelettes such as the Hangover Five Alarm, which arrives stuffed with chili and cheese ($10.95).
The original Mel's Drive-In carhop on Lombard Street served as the colorful backdrop for George Lucas's American Graffiti, and each of the eatery's subsequent San Francisco incarnations has looked to carry on the original pastiche of cozy meals, late hours, and quick, down-to-earth service with its own twist. The Geary Boulevard homestead pours fountain drinks and malts from a meticulous replica of the original 1953 soda jerk, and the Van Ness Avenue spot sits just a few soft shoes from landmark nightclub the Great American Music Hall.
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.