The end of the road is actually a new beginning for the folks at Mel’s Drive-in as their long-awaited restaurant at the end of Route 66 will begin soft openings this week before formally opening later in July.
Colton Weiss is the grandson of the original Mel and a current owner of the company. He spent his childhood in the local area and said he understands how the details make a difference to the success of a business, including on-site parking.
“Our parking lot will have 55 parking spaces available and we’ll also have a valet available,” he said. “That’s a huge deal in the city of Santa Monica in my opinion. I grew up in this area but finding parking was not always the easiest. Here at this restaurant, it’s really fantastic we have the parking lot.”
The restaurant’s menu also acknowledges the reality of Santa Monica by including options for diverse customer tastes. Weiss said the restaurant is family friendly with a strong kid’s menu but they also have beers on tap (including offerings from the local Santa Monica Brew Works) and will be serving spiked milkshakes for adults.
He said the restaurant will cater to individuals stopping in for breakfast before work, tourists who see the location while driving on the freeway, individuals who want a meal after their shift or someone who wants to stop in for a late-night dessert. In addition to classic diner foods, they will be serving juices, smoothies and the vegan impossible burger.
“We have all kinds of options for everybody, we have breakfast all-day, every-day and we have reasonable prices,” he said.
The Planning Commission first approved a permit for the restaurant in October of 2016. The restaurant will be just over 5,000 square feet and will have an alcohol license. Weiss said their initial opening will have limited hours, from about 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. while they work out any kinks in the new location. Once fully vetted, the restaurant will eventually open 24 hours a day.
The Googie style commercial building first opened in 1959 as the Penguin Coffee Shop. The coffee shop closed in 1991 when it was replaced by a dentist’s office but the now famous architecture remained.
Weiss said returning the former medical office to a food service use was a challenge in itself and further complicated by the required permitting. He said it was worth the effort to have a location with the iconic looks of Los Angeles and the site fits with their preference for buildings that have a history.
“It used to be the Penguin and we’ve paid homage to that in a few different ways,” he said. “It also has Googie architecture from the 50’s that was inspired by the Atomic Age and car culture.”
Vintage car culture is a huge part of the atmosphere at Mel’s and Weiss said he is excited to bring the company’s theme to the city while providing a landmark end to the famous Route 66 roadway.
“It’s so great, the fact that we’re now at the end of Route 66,” he said. “It’s a huge deal to not only us but to the Route 66 car clubs and society.”
The famous interstate officially ends at what is today Lincoln and Olympic. A symbolic sign stands on the Santa Monica Pier but Weiss said the restaurant location continues to draws tourists. He said he’s seen individuals in classic cars pulling up to the under-construction venue and while he hasn’t been able to serve them yet, he’s excited to provide a meaningful experience to anyone completing a cross-country trip.
“It’s really cool to be able to have that for people and get the actual landmark meal and get a nice meal at their end of the trip,” he said. “It’s so cool to have that on top of everything else, it’s going to be big.”
Mel’s Drive-In Restaurant operates three other Southern California locations (Hollywood, West Hollywood, and Sherman Oaks) and four locations in San Francisco. The Santa Monica restaurant will have limited opening hours starting this week and expects to hold a formal ribbon cutting in early July.
Visit http://melsdrive-in.com for more information.