Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mel's Cheeseburger at Mel's Drive-In, San Francisco CA

Someone might remember Mel's Drive-In from George Lucas movie 'American Graffiti' where teenagers cruise Main Street and stop at Mel's Drive-In and listen to Wolfman Jack on the radio. This legendary drive-in was built in 1949 when Mel Weiss and Harold Dobbs started their first carhop eatery. They lured crowds of patrons that fancied dining-in-your-car and it didn't take long for the first unit to multiply into eleven!

As the new franchised fast food outlets and the philosophy of "serve yourself" began to reprogram attitudes about dining, Mels began its gradual decline and in 1972 colorful marquees were scheduled for removal. Mel's story was about to end forever but then came George Lucas and kept the place in history forever. This event didn't eventually save the drive-in since when the movie hit the theaters the bulldozers had already left the site and the trucks where carting off the debris.

Thirteen years later, Mel's son Steven opened the Mel's again. At the grand re-opening in 1985, former teenagers who once dined at the first Mels were now re-visiting with their families. Weary of tasteless road food, they wanted to show their kids a glimpse of what the good times were really like. Mel's was back on the charts with new locations on San Francisco's Lombard and Geary Street. Two more opened in Los Angeles - joined by full-scale replicas at the Universal theme parks in Florida and California.

Mel's serves pretty standard diner food. You can get breakfast, soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and thick shakes and other fountain drinks. We visited their Geary Street location which is not so tourist filled as their downtown locations and it has more authentic feel in it.

Their burgers are pretty standard with 1/3 pound patty and there's several options. You can also upgrade any burger to 1/2 pound version. I had a 1/2 pound Mel's Cheeseburger, no fries, no coleslaw - just a medium rare burger. Their burger are served with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion and a side of mayo. All the condiments come on the side so you can build as you like. Oh, and the cheeseburger comes with not one, but two slices of cheddar. I added some mustard, and piled the burger and it looked nice apart from the bloody juices squeezing out from the patty. The bun was pretty standard, a bit dry, hardly toasted from the inside. Meat was over done and it wasn't particulary juicy since most of the juices had left the patty before it came to me. I would say this was pretty average burger. Interior was nice, service was good and the history is worth telling but I would not bother to visit them again. You can get better burgers from other joints in Bay area.

Mel's Drive-In
3355 Geary Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94118

Larger Map | Street View