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 diner fare at Mel's Drive-In, valid at three locations in Hollywood, West Hollywood, and Sherman Oaks.
Harboring a rich history dating back 63 years, Mel's Drive-In's cooks whip up hearty house-made diner fare to welcome the rumbling stomachs and engines of local car operators. The bright neon sign, the kitschy '50s-themed atmosphere, and a varied menu of classics hark nostalgic digesters back to times when dining was comfy and accomplished rodeo clowns were de facto mayors. The juicy Famous Melburger ($6.95) can be tastily topped off with a thick, old-fashioned chocolate milkshake infused with McGoo's ice cream ($4.95), and paired with a side, such as twisty fries or onion rings ($2.25 each). To soak up memories of last night's cola bender, stop by for a breakfast of buttermilk pancakes ($6.75) or a stacked three-egg omelet, 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 Southern California incarnations has looked to carry on the original pastiche of cozy meals, late hours, and quick, down-to-earth service. The Hollywood-and-Highland location stands steps from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, serves starry-eyed stomach owners until the wee hours, and boasts a fully-stocked bar aptly named The Celebrity Bar. The Sunset Boulevard location sports a patio and ‘round-the-clock, 24-hour service.
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.