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Mel’s Drive In Will Keep the Iconic Penguin Sign in Santa Monica

The classic diner hopes to open by spring 2018

Mel’s Drive In, Santa Monica
Matthew Kang
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

While Santa Monica lost Norm’s back in 2013 and the more handcrafted Rudy & Hudson late in 2017, the Westside city is gaining Mel’s Drive In some time in Spring 2018. That’s according to banners posted on the Googie building standing at the corner of Lincoln Blvd and the 10 Freeway, which was formerly a dental office. Originally called the Penguin Coffee Shop and built in 1959, Mel’s decided to keep the classic penguin atop the pylon sign.

Once Mel’s Drive In opens in the next few months, expect 24/7 service and classic 1950s Americana ambiance. The menu features a wide array of burgers, sandwiches, hot plates like short ribs and rotisserie chicken, salads, breakfast, ice cream, and pies. The roadside diner will feel even more authentic since it’s next to Lincoln Blvd, a bustling thoroughfare that seems to have traffic sitting on it for most of the day.

At a time when many longtime diners seem to be fading away or fighting for relevance, it’s really cool to see Mel’s Drive In, which has outlets in West Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, and Hollywood, commit to opening affordable coffee shops in iconic Googie spaces. According to Mel’s Drive In’s website, the original Penguin Coffee Shop had terrazo floors, high ceilings, and large windows, all of which will be retained once it reopens later this year.

Mel’s Drive In originally opened in San Francisco in 1947.