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Mel’s Drive-In Opens a Beautiful Renovated Diner in Santa Monica This Week

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The former Penguin Coffee Shop is coming back to life

Mel’s Drive In, Santa Monica
The redone Mel’s Drive-In in Santa Monica
Mel’s Drive-In [official]
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Beloved all-day dining fixture Mel’s Drive-In is ready to unveil its newest location, a Googie lover’s architecture dream right off Lincoln Boulevard in Santa Monica. Eater has confirmed that the restaurant will start with a limited-hour launch on Wednesday morning.

Mel’s Drive-In is an absolute icon for the city of Los Angeles (despite first opening in San Francisco), acting as background in countless films and tourist photos over the decades. Locally there are locations in Sherman Oaks, Hollywood, and West Hollywood already, with each keeping 24/7 hours all year long.

This newest location in Santa Monica is particularly special because of its engaging diner past as the Penguin Coffee Shop, which dates to 1959. The building is easy to see thanks to its location at the terminus of Historic Route 66, and its proximity to the beach and the Expo Line. Thankfully, ownership even decided to keep the beloved penguin sign out front, a nod to the building’s origins over the years even as the property got converted into a dental office.

Owner Colton Weiss tells Eater that Mel’s will opened Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., while longer hours will come down the line. But it’s no easy feat to get up and running on a twenty-four-hour schedule, so expect that to take some time. Meanwhile, go find the penguin sign off Lincoln Boulevard starting this week.

Mel’s Drive-In Santa Monica, 1670 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica.