In trying to find furniture for our home, my wife and I took the day off today to go to San Francisco. Our shopping adventure took us to a custom furniture store on Lombard Street, where we noticed Mel's Drive-In. Enticed by lunchtime hunger and free parking in Mel's lot, we couldn't resist going. Once inside, I was struck by Mel's retro feel, produced in part by wall-length photos from the 1950's, booths with red vinyl upholstery and tabletops with grooved aluminum trim. It was a surprise to me, then, when I found out that the restaurant actually opened in 1985 and was a son's reincarnation of his father's Mel's Drive-In that closed in 1972. They did such a wonderful job with the 1950's decor that I could swear it even made the food taste better.
I went with "The Famous Melburger", featuring a one-third pound patty. I ordered it medium-rare against my better judgement, as the burger was almost all pink inside and juice splattered with every bite. The french fries that escaped the fluid oozing and raining down from the burger were extraordinary. Mel's understood the importance of getting fries to the customer within seconds of preparation. A small container of mayonnaise came with the plate, presumably for the burger. However, the mayo went so well with the fries that putting any on the burger never crossed my mind.
My wife selected the French Dip, noted on the menu as "A Mel's Favorite". While she liked the bread for its crisp crust, the roast beef was merely passable. She mentioned the prime rib in an Adamson's French Dip, for example, was easily more tender. The juice was good, but not out of the ordinary.
Overall, the experience was a positive one, especially given the convincing decor. From each table, one could even select from a menu of oldies to be played on the restaurant speaker system for a quarter a pop. With so much of San Francisco yet to explore, however, I have my doubts that this blast from the past is in my future.
2165 Lombard Street
San Francisco, CA