“No, we don’t have the roller skates, but I’m sure our employees feel like they are on skates at times with all the running around they do,” laughed Mels owner Don Yakel.
Although you won’t find servers on skates, you’ll find just about everything else at this Happy-Days-style diner, including the checkerboard floors, cozy booths, soda fountain counters and 1950s décor. Photos of the original Mels Diner – taken during the filming of the classic “American Graffiti” – plus vintage license plates and stockcar calendars adorn the walls of the small-town restaurant bearing the world-famous name.
“Sure, everyone has heard of Mels,” said Yakel, whose son Mike runs most of the family business, which includes more than 11 locations throughout Northern California and Nevada. “But they come in for more than the name. They come in for the affordable prices and quality food.”
And an abundance of it. From Blue Plate Specials and Mels Combos to Black and Tan ice cream sundaes and – for the lighter appetites – soup and salad selections, Mels might be best known for fresh fries, juicy burgers and signature milkshakes.
“We serve the shakes cold, right out of the canister, and when we pour it into your glass, there’s still as much left in the can,” said Yakel. But Mels also has a reputation for serious breakfast fare, including three-egg omelets, steak and eggs plus piping hot pancakes – all served 24 hours a day.
“I love everything about Mels but I especially like having a nighttime menu,” said Yakel, who got his start in the restaurant business as an employee of Denny’s restaurants nearly 30 years ago. “Not many people do that very well, but we do. Of course, a restaurant is only as good as its employees, and we have the best there is. They are the reason we are successful.”
But Mels’ appeal is about more than frosty shakes and distinctive sandwiches. It’s also about reliving – or experiencing for the first time – the 1950s, a time when the economy was booming and life moved at a slower, less electronic pace.
“I think people have spent the past few decades racing around in a rush to acquire things, but now they seem to be slowing down a little more and spending more time with family, and I like to think Mels is a part of that,” said Yakel. “Mels takes people back to a simpler, more innocent time, and who doesn’t want to experience that?”
The original Mels first opened its doors in San Francisco in 1947, when the nation was just learning about a young local disc jockey named Wolfman Jack, whose live broadcast was heard on the car radios of Mels’ customers. Since then, Mels has continued to grow, capturing the hearts and imaginations of baby boomers and non-boomers alike.
Yakel says the Brentwood Mels – open since Thanksgiving – has been one of his best openings. “It’s been busy since the minute it opened,” said Yakel. “It’s a great location, right next to the movie theater, and I think the community is just ready for a Mels. It’s been a great success so far and we’re having a lot of fun.”
Mels Diner, located at 2565 Sand Creek Road in The Streets of Brentwood, is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For more information, call 925-240-6357.