Let’s all go to the hop! Imagine it’s prom night and you’re driving a vintage Thunderbird with shiny chrome bumpers. Just pull up in the free parking lot of Mels Drive-In at one of the four San Francisco locations. From two blocks away you’ll spot its giant American flag and cool neon blade signage. Let’s order burgers and fries with root beer floats and drop a coin in the table-top juke box. Welcome to the 50s.
Mels has four locations in San Francisco. Find one at 1050 Van Ness Avenue (also called Highway 101) at the intersection of Geary Boulevard. It’s right near the AMC Cinema and Slims’s Great American Music Hall, so perfect for a night of entertainment.
There’s another Mels at 2165 Lombard, where the Cow Hollow location has famously been a favorite of television commercial and movie directors.
In SoMa, the 801 Mission Street address of Mels is right across from the IMAX theater and a 15-screen cineplex at the Metreon and a short walk from major museums and the Moscone Convention Center. Kids know that it’s only a stone’s throw from the antique carousel, ice skating rink and bowling alley at the Children’s Creativity Museum in Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
In Laurel Heights at the edge of Inner Richmond, 3355 Geary Boulevard (at Spruce Street) is the site of a 1953 original Mels, where Mel’s son was once a soda jerk. as The vintage details are carefully preserved.
It was back in 1947 when, car radios blaring, the drive-up car-hop diner craze spread through LA and San Francisco. With waitresses taking orders and serving through the customers’ rolled down car windows, there were no thoughts of self-serve for nearly two decades. However, fast food changed all that.
As luck would have it, Mel’s was used as a location in the 1967 film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. And in 1972, film director George Lucas spotted just what he was looking for at the last Mels. It was lights, cameras and action as celebrities of the future took over the parking lot. Ron Howard, Candy Clark, Richard Dreyfuss, Mackenzie Phillips, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, Paul LeMat, Suzanne Somers, and Charlie Martin Smith appeared in the hit movie “American Graffiti” using Mels at 140 South Van Ness Avenue before it was razed to the ground.
More than a decade passed before Mel’s son, Steve Weiss, determined to bring the nostalgia back by re-inventing Mels Drive-In for the next generation. While nobody on roller skates will take your order from the car window, the vintage feel and food is re-created in all four San Francisco locations.
Menu and Hours
Open later into the wee hours than any other San Francisco restaurants, Mels is serving up traditional casual American comfort food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snacks: burgers, hot dogs, fries, chicken pot pies, milkshakes, hot apple pie and the like.
Bring the kids. The atmosphere is just right for families, complete with kids’ menus, crayons and a table side juke box of oldies but goodies.
Phone: (415) 292-6358Address:
1050 Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, CA 94109
Phone: (415) 387-2255Address:
3355 Geary St.
San Francisco, CA 94118
Phone: (415) 227-0793Address:
801 MIssion St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: (415) 921-3039Address:
2165 Lombard St.
San Franciso, CA 94123