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Mel’s Drive-In Santa Monica
The redone Mel’s Drive-In in Santa Monica
Mel’s Drive-In

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Step Inside This Fully Restored Googie Diner at Route 66’s End

Mel’s Drive-In returns the former Penguin to its Santa Monica glory

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.

There’s something so alluring about an old, brightly-lit dinnertime diner, particularly one as iconic as the new Mel’s Drive-In in Santa Monica. The end-of-the-line location sits at the historic termination point for Route 66, and for decades has proudly carried its beaming old penguin logo — even as the gorgeous Googie building converted into a dentist office 25 years ago. Now the property is back in action under the well-known Mel’s name, which has locations in Hollywood and Sunset Strip, turning out patty melts, milkshakes, and more.

While there are multiple Mel’s Drive-In locations spread around California (the company started up in San Francisco), but this new address on Lincoln Boulevard in Santa Monica feels like something special. Rather than starting from scratch, the company elected to reintroduce the famed Penguin Coffee Shop, which dated to 1959, including its general layout and familiar signage.

Now the hard work is done, and fans have already been showing up to check out the historic property with the soaring ceiling. An embedded plaque at the front door highlights the Route 66 connection, while an old jukebox kicks out throwback tunes and cooks prepare a menu that includes burgers and fries, milkshakes, pie, and just about anything else a diner could want — eggs and coffee included.

Mel’s Drive-In is now open in Santa Monica, keeping the doors open 24 hours a day. Go ahead and take a look around.

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

The new-look entrance
Diners sit inside of a vintage diner with wraparound glass and big booths.
Busy already
Mel’s Drive-In
The end of the road
Mel’s Drive-In
Vintage neon
Mel’s Drive-In
Lots of sunlight during the day
Mel’s Drive-In
Classic counter seating
Mel’s Drive-In
Kitschy details
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