From its weekly Friday classic car shows to the life-size Elvis Presley that sits on a stool with guitar in hand that greets customers as they enter, Stars Drive-In on Sherman Way in Winnetka models itself after a 50’s style dinner.
The menu contains typical dishes one might expect to find at a diner such as burgers, hot dogs, and root beer floats, but also has a small selection of Mexican food and a gyro sandwich. Breakfast options include steak and eggs, and pancakes with bacon and sausages among others and any dish can be ordered all day and all items are fair in price so money shouldn’t be an obstacle in making a decision. A garden burger is also available.
The gyro sandwich was filled with savory and tender meat, fresh diced tomatoes, and an overly generous amount of red onions. The onion rings were hot, crisp and maintained the onion flavor without being too overpowering. The fries that came with the cheeseburger combo were lightly seasoned, the perfect balance of crispy and arrived fresh enough to feel the heat radiating off of them. The cheeseburger itself came on a bun toasted on the grill and was well done but ultimately didn’t stand out among the many burger stands and stops that can be found in Los Angeles.
What does set Stars Drive-In apart is the atmosphere. Red and White Coca-Cola umbrellas shade the outside seating area. Headshots and posters of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean hang on the walls, but also featured are actors and actresses who unjustly don’t often get the same level of attention nowadays such as Joan Fontaine, Gary Cooper, and Errol Flynn.
Indeed it’s the little things sprinkled throughout the restaurant that gives Stars Drive-In its charm. Each table has a mini jukebox connected to the restaurant with song choices from Chubby Checker to Vicente Fernandez and Bootsy Collins, and of course Elvis.
In a small, perhaps neglected corner dedicated to arcade games, a pinball machine is still in working order. Small tiles of Hollywood stars with the names of some of the dishes that are served hang above the counter, and these are made to look just like real Hollywood Walk of Fame stars. The glass bottles of ketchup on the tables make for the amusing, gravity-defying struggle of applying the sauce to a dish.
More than just a meal, Stars Drive-in offers a place to discover interesting pieces of Hollywood history. It’s the kind of place to go with a friend, take some quarters for the juke box and spend some time immersed in the entertaining environment.