First Generation Mel's

In 1947, Mel Weiss and Harold Dobbs opened the first drive-in restaurant, Mel's, in San Francisco, pioneering the concept in America due to California's favorable weather for carhop service. The original location on 140 South Van Ness Avenue had space for 110 cars and was featured in the film "American Graffiti."

The restaurant quickly gained popularity, covering its startup costs in the first month. With a diner-style interior, it had booth seating, a dining counter, and a high-capacity cooker. They expanded with additional locations in San Francisco, and Weiss's son Steven later opened a Next Generation Mel's at the original site.

By the mid-1950s, Mel's had become a chain, generating about $4 million annually and serving a diverse menu. It thrived through the 1950s and 60s with multiple locations across Northern California.

However, competition from fast-food chains led to a decline, and in 1972, Weiss and Dobbs sold the franchise to Foster's. The location became famous as "Burger City" in "American Graffiti." After Foster's bankruptcy and subsequent ownership changes, Mel's closed and was demolished in 1976.


Steven Weiss and Donald Wagstaff reopened Mel's Drive-In on Lombard Street in San Francisco, reaching out to columnist Herb Caen to generate excitement. On opening day, patrons flooded in, bringing generations to experience Mel's nostalgia


After their San Francisco success, Weiss, Wagstaff, and Mendez expanded Mel's to Southern California in 1989, choosing a historic "Googie" style building on Ventura Blvd in Sherman Oaks. The neighborhood embraced it, becoming a beloved spot for families and late-night outings.


In 1997, the iconic Mel's Drive-In on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood was rescued from demolition, preserving its historic charm and legacy. Known for its 24/7 service, Mel's is a favorite spot for breakfast, brunch, and more, attracting a diverse range of patrons.


In 1998, Mel's Drive-In expanded its presence in San Francisco with a new location on Van Ness Avenue, which quickly became a beloved destination for music enthusiasts, movie buffs, and locals seeking a classic dining experience with a nostalgic twist.


In 2001, the third Next Generation Mel’s drive-in opened in Hollywood’s Max Factor building. Featuring the Celebrity Bar, it’s a favorite for locals and tourists, offering a slice of Hollywood history with Mel’s burgers, shakes, and hospitality, open until 3 am on weekdays and 24 hours on weekends!


Ford Motor Company chose Mel’s Drive-In, located on the iconic Sunset Strip, as the venue to introduce its new line of Mustangs to the automotive press. Over several days, different groups of journalists were invited to test drive the new vehicles. Upon arrival, they were greeted with a presentation about the new Ford Mustang line, all while enjoying a delicious, classic American-style breakfast at Mel’s.


Chasen, the youngest member of the Weiss family, graduated from college and began working full-time at Mel’s Drive-In.


Mel’s Drive-In opened its Santa Monica location in the iconic Penguin building, constructed in 1959, situated at the end of the iconic Route 66.


CBS News announced Mel’s Drive-In as the best 24-hour diner in Los Angeles.


Mel’s Drive-In celebrated its 75th anniversary by decorating the diner and offering a special 75% discount on select menu items.


American Graffiti, the movie that launched George Lucas’s career, marks its 50th anniversary and is being re-released in select theaters for a limited time.


Mel’s Drive-In is now franchising.

Throughout all 8 locations, Mel's preserves the spirit of the classic American diner with quality food, courteous service, and fair prices.