Restaurant of the Week: Mel’s Drive-In


This week’s restaurant: Mel’s Drive-In, 11550 4th St. (at Richmond Place), Rancho Cucamonga.

After an incredibly long gestation of more than a year, Mel’s finally opened recently in the Signature Center across from Ontario Mills. (The north side of 4th is in Rancho.) There’s nothing “drive-in” about it. Forget car hops; Mel’s is in a pleasant but corporate-looking shopping center.

It’s part of a chain. The original Mel’s was used in “American Graffiti” and was later razed. The restaurant name and style were revived in the 1980s on San Francisco’s Lombard Street; I’ve been to that one a couple of times. You can read the history at the chain’s website.

Inside the Rancho Cucamonga location, Mel’s has rather successfully updated the diner motif for 2008. High ceilings and a somewhat industrial look, yes, but a chrome-edged counter, mini-jukeboxes at some tables and employees in white paper hats and bow ties.

I’ve now been to this Mel’s twice. Last week I had the half-sandwich, half-salad combo ($6.95) with a meatloaf sandwich and spring salad. The salad was better than average and I wasn’t disappointed with the meatloaf. On Friday I returned for a 1/3-pound Mel Burger and fries (also $6.95). They came on a real plate and passed the taste test. There seems to be an attention to quality ingredients here.

They have a long, varied menu of American comfort food staples, some in healthier style than the originals. I suspect Mel’s will become part of my lunchtime circuit.

The only obvious flaw: The awning over the entrance reads “Where the Local’s Meet to Eat.” Ditch the apostrophe and you’re golden, Mel’s.

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  • ren

    Dave is it the same people who own Mel`s are the same company or people that ran the one that use to be in pomona on the south east corner of Holt and Palomares.

    [No. — DA]

  • Steve Martinez

    There was a Mel’s on the corner of Palomares and Holt in Pomona. You could get five burgers for a buck in the ’60s. The burgers were not bad. Meat, grilled onions, pickles, and sauces. The building is still there. Great place to go after the dances.

    [Yes. But the restaurants were not related. Our Mel’s was started in 1952 by a local guy named Mel Hull. — DA]

  • Mel’s Employee

    I work for Mel’s and I must say that the management at all locations (being that I have worked at 3 So. Cal. locations) need to be DRUG TESTED. I know of a few managers that have problems with illegal substances and have participated with other employees in these acts. Maybe ALL employees should be drug tested? I’m all for it!

    It is a problem when your manager gets excited (and that is an understatement) to find that a customer left their stash of Mary Jane on a table and the manager runs to the back office with it and denies to the customer (when they came back for it a minute later) that it was even left on the table. I was the one who brought it to the manager’s attention thinking that our onsite security would dispose of it or call the authorities. It is illegal right? I’m sure my manager had a great night after he went home. It’s my opinion that those of us that want to make an honest living drug free shouldn’t be subjected to such disrespect.

    Written by,
    Soon to be EX Mel’s Employee

  • JMac

    Well now we know why “Hal Linker” disappeared. He’s been busy managing a Mel’s.

  • Jeff Liss

    I went to Mel’s last night with my date. Couldn’t have had a better time. Burger with twisty fries and my friend had the Tuna Salad. Perfect end to a great night.

  • David Harrison Levi

    My resume is quite extensive. My family-owned business started in San Francisco, CA as Simon Levi Liquor Company. Simon Mayer Levi was my father. I was one of the original partners in Chippendales Nightclubs Inc.(1979) based in Los Angeles, CA. Was one of the creators of The Beverly Hills Diner (1981) in Beverly Hills, CA., and assisted Ron Teitelbaum in the creation of Johnny Rockets Diner Restaurants from its creation.

    I have been a patron of the Mel’s Diner on Sunset in West Hollywood for more than 54 years since I was a child. The Mel’s Diner operation took over this location during this time. Its prior owner was Ben Franks Restaurant.

    I must say the management and waiter/waitresses are doing an outstanding job in creating both the ’50s diner atmosphere while maintaining a clean & casual atmosphere. My friends and I frequent the Diner almost 5 days a week. The menu items and food preparation is better then it’s ever been. My favorite item is the meat loaf platter.

    I am a loyal customer and friend of the restaurant and I would recommend it highly to all my friends and family members. It is a pleasure to be able to leave a comment here. “I am a BIG fan, well done!”

    Respectfully; David Harrison Levi ~ Beverly Hills, CA 90210