Sunday, August 9, 2015


Mels 140 S. Van Ness San Francisco August 1974

The restaurant drive-through is a staple of modern dining. However before the drive-through there was the drive-in restaurant. While the former offers an experience about as delightful as one’s daily large city commute, the latter, similar to the road trip itself, exists mainly for enjoyment's sake. In addition, when you're in transit and famished, it's a joy to discover local specialties alongside the pervasive burgers, fries and Cokes. From 1947-76 Mels Drive-in was one such place where one had the option of eating in their car, while checking out hot-rods, showing off their custom machine and ogling the opposite sex. The eateries’ 140 S. Van Ness location was the franchise’s flagship and was the place to be before drive-through and simple pick-up menu eateries became the mainstay of cheap modern dining. 

Today’s post features a pic of the drive-ins’ 140 S. Van Ness location in 1974 a year after American Graffiti made its’ debut in late August. It was taken by Mark Lee Goodale. He had the following to say about the picture:
It was in August of 1974. I had just graduated from high school and a friend of mine an I were driving up the coast to meet my girlfriend's family that were on vacation there and we got into town about 3:00 AM and I looked over and there it was: The Mels from American Graffiti!  They weren't open all night but they were lit up all night. We pulled over and slept in the van and in the AM took the picture.
I was already an AG junkie when we took this pic. I had seen the film at least 20 times in high school. I started collecting 45's around that time and the soundtrack was unbelievable. The songs fit so well with the scenes.  We had an 8 track player mounted under the dashboard and played the Beach Boys' ENDLESS SUMMER on the entire road trip.
We drove a 1967 Ford Econoline van. You can only see the back doors with windows (far right) in the Mels photo but this is what it looked like.

For the true exciting story on the closure of the original Mels featured in Graffiti check out the link below:

    ~ FINI ~

  • Goodale, Mark Lee. [photos] received Aug 8, 2015
  • Kronsberg , Matthew. Drive-In Restaurants Worth Going Out of Your Way For. (2014). Dow Jones & Co., Inc.


  1. Kip: What's with the '57 Buick Special on this page's header...the one Candy Clark and
    Charles Martin Smith are leaning on? There wasn't a '56 Buick in A.G.

  2. Hey Anonymous! To answer your question: The '57 show Buick owned by Al Taylor that was called the “Cubic" was probably not used in the film because the modifications were post-62-the time period of the movie. The producers went to a lot of trouble to make sure all cars looked as though they were modified in 1962 or earlier. I believe these pix were taken on the street between scenes. It took a long time to set up the lighting for night time shots so there was a lot of down time for the actors and car owners, Now I've answered your question, answer mine: What's your real name?

  3. I spent a short day in S.F. as part of a long road trip during that same month and year. Pity I didn't know of the movie nor Mel's at the time and wound up having lunch in Chinatown. Bummer.