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My Breakfast at Mel's by Deborah Baudin

Note: This was an article sent in by Debbie, and she did a great job. It is assumed that when the owner said that Alice was filmed at her diner, she meant that it was based upon. The show was actually filmed at the Warner Bros. Studios, and there are several tickets that indicate this (we have photos of the tickets). But this is still a very interesting story. Also, it has been pointed out that part of the "Alice" set was used in the sitcom "Step by Step," though it is still unknown if the set has survived since the sitcom ended 15 years ago, or if it was used in another set, or just knocked down.

Coffee Cup sign during "Pat's Family Restaurant" days.

It started as a joke. A silly tidbit of trivia passed on to me by my buddy Sunny.

"Did you know that the real Mel's Diner (from Alice) is still operating in Phoenix?" she asked casually as we were out on one of our late-night jaunts.

"You don't say!" I responded.

"Yeah," she murmured, easing her hand from the steering wheel to point lazily at an old-fashioned diner on the right. "That's it."

"That's it? No way! That's the real Mel's Diner?" I crooked my neck to watch as the dark blob whizzed by at 50 mph. "You are SO making that up!"

That's when it began. My quest. My obsession. My purpose.

I had to eat at Mel's Diner.

Many months passed after that first trip. I kept bugging Sunny to go with me, and our plans kept falling through. Finally, one morning, I'd had enough. It was Saturday, my day off. I was going to Mel's.

I didn't give Sunny a chance to blow me off. I showed up at her front door at nine in the morning. She was sound asleep. I didn't care. I woke her up. "We're going to Mel's."

"Huh?" This was through a fog of sleep and pillow.

"Get dressed. I'm buying you breakfast."

That got through to her. Sleepily, she dragged herself out of the house and into my car. (Yeah, she rememebered to put clothes on.) We made it to Mel's (actually, Pat's Family Diner) after only a few minor diversions.

Pat's was everything I expected and more. We were greeted by Pat herself, who served our food and chatted with us for a while. "You know this place was used to film the TV show 'Alice,'" she mentioned as she put our scrambled eggs and toast on the table.

"Really??" I wanted to say, still trying to maintain at least a minimal level of coolness, but my friend Sunny just burst in with, "Yeah, that's why we came here!"

So much for maintaining a minimal level of coolness. But it was a fun, campy thing to do. The food was actually quite good, and reasonably priced. The atmosphere was warm and inviting, and we had a great time. Pat even took a picture of us (see below: I'm on the right).

And that's the story of my breakfast at Mel's!

Alice Set Model by Charles

Photos of Lego models of many TV shos sets, including Alice. Very good and intricate work done.

Mel's Diner Today by Barry

Recently, the restaurant has become known as Mel's Diner. In the 1960's and 1970's, it used to be called Lester's Diner, then became Pat's Family Restaurant in the 1980's, and finally, as of recent, it's now called Mel's Diner. The name change is appropriate considering it's unique association to the Diner in ALICE. It was apparently never known as Mel's Diner until now.

These photos are courtesy of Barry in Phoenix, AZ, and depict the building and new Mel's sign.

Mel's Diner in 2008.

Another Coffee Cup Sign from Jonathan

This is a similar, more colorful, "coffee cup" sign from Lester's Diner in Bryan, Ohio. The similarities of this sign and the one shown in the opening credits of ALICE are remarkable.

UPDATE: Mel's Diner in Phoenix originally opened in 1963 under the name Lester's Diner, named for it's owner Lester Bammesberg. This is the same owner as the restuarants in both Bryan, OH and Fort Lauderdale, FL. This explains the similarities, as Mel's was a takeoff of the original Lester's.

Coffee Cup sign from Lester's Diner in Ohio.

Lester's Coffee Cup sign from Florida

More "coffee cup" signs can be found here.

Another View Of Pat's by Dan

The exterior shots of Mel's Diner were of a real diner in the industrial area of Phoenix. The diner is on Grand Ave, near McDowell Rd (I think -- at least six roads meet near this intersection).

The diner and sign were there as late as 1989. The diner was a regular lunch place for many of the businesses in the area, including the Mountain Bell (then USWest, and now Qwest) warehouse facility where my mother worked during the 1970's. She told me that they used to serve coffee to the men in these huge cups, but women were served coffee in the smaller regular sized coffee cups. No matter what, she could never get the waitresses to serve her the larger cup!

On a related note about the show, I get homesick whenever I watch it on TNN. Yes, the series was shot on a soundstage in Hollywood, but the producers and actors in this show really did their homework. From the sets to the people and some of the props (like Henry's blue and gold striped phone company jacket to the "A" rating plaque on the wall) even the off sets like the apartments--this is pretty much what Phoenix was like at the time.

**New Info: The Diner is located at 1747 N.W. Grand Avenue Phoenix, Arizona**

A Critique of "Mel's Diner" By Sue

Looking for a restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona? Don't want to spend too much, and elegant, fine dining is not a priority? Then Pat's Family Restaurant (formerly known as Mel's Diner) in Phoenix is a good, viable option, and you can get a glimpse of the diner whose name and infamous "Home of the 14 ounce cup" sign appeared in the "Alice" sitcom! Still can't decide? Then perhaps this brief review will help you:

Grand Ave, just west of 17th Ave.
Service: Diner professional owned and operated. Surley bus boy.
Art on walls: Nic-knacks extraordinare!
Art on plate: The food sits on top of the plate.
Taste on plate: Tastes like it should except for the coffee.
Nutrition: Low to high calories, low to high fat, few vegetables.
Cost: Low, $6 does breakfast well.

Okay, so it doesn't tell you much, but I don't think you would get a better review from Mel Sharples himself. And how does Pat's Family Restaurant compare to Mel's Diner on "Alice"? The review above says "high fat, few vegetables." No comparison there! Mel's cooking was certainly high in fat and I don't think Mel knew what a vegetable was.

However, it's important not to overlook the "low fat" comparison. Both places do serve "low fat" food. For example, Mel frequently served "healthy" muffins or rolls, but the customers often complained they were hard, stale, or both. And that fact that "the food sits on top of the plate" in Pat's pretty well sums up the feeling had when visiting Mel's Dinere. In Mel's, it just sat there, mostly burnt, often green and furry-looking, but it did just sit there. The only exception would be when the food would grow legs and walk away! The coffee in both places could obviously be better, although the food in general sounds like it's more apetizing at Pat's.

Furthermore, both places were privatley owned and operated, and both have many nic-knacks. Mel had many much-prized possessions (some would call it junk) that lined his walls and, as I recall, Alice gave away an old, dented, tin Navy cup and got into a lot of trouble over it.

Finally, the prices in both places sound fairly decent. A burger at Mel's was around a dollar, which was probably reasonable for the late 1970's (great by today's standards!). The only part of the above review that puzzles me is the "surly bus boy." I know Mel's did not have one of those. I guess perhaps the only thing to being surly in Mel's Diner was Mel himself. So my recommendation: EAT AT PAT'S FAMILY RESTAURANT. It may not look like TV's Mel's Diner, but I think it's a pretty close substitute!

(Pat's Family Restaurant review came courtesy of Chris Heilman's Phoenix Restaurant Page found here)

Fan Reflections The Real Mel's Diner
We Need A Reunion Character Speculation


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