Think of the classic American drive-in restaurant, and your thought surely include Mel’s Drive-In restaurant in San Francisco which was immortalized on the silver screen as part of George Lucas’ 1973 film American Graffiti. In the 50+ years since that film, California cruising culture lives on, and so does Mel’s Drive-In.

David ‘Mel’ Weiss and Harold Dobbs opened their first ‘car hop’ in California back in 1947, serving classic diner food to patrons in their cars. Rather than lining up at the drive-through window, food was brought out to patrons in their cars. Although the car-hop service has long since disappeared, Mel’s is still around, and still synonymous with car culture.

Got a classic American car? Come park it in front of the diner for a shot of instant-nostalgia.

The Mel’s Drive-In location on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood was previously home to the iconic Ben Franks coffee shop. The old 24-hour hangout was popular with rockers of the 60s and 70s like Frank Zappa, Bob Dylan, Buffalo Springfield and the Rolling Stones, who would stop in late at night after playing at The Roxy or Whisky a Go Go down the street.

This location only became a Mel’s in 1997, years after the building had fallen into disrepair. The building was restored to show off the angular ‘googie‘ architecture, and was re-imagined as what a Mel’s would have looked like in the late 50’s.

Mel’s in Hollywood is strange. It looks like the real deal, but it’s more like a re-creation of Mel’s imported from San Francisco. The local gearheads don’t seem to mind. On any night, you’ll find them snapping pics of their hot rods with the neon lights as background.

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