The connection between fast food and car culture goes back to the infancy of both: As motorists took to the expanding system of highways across the United States in the early 20th century, shops offering road-friendly eats cropped up to serve them. Drive-ins, drive-through lanes and mobile-ordering parking spots all came to cater to our car-wedded world.
Now, a possible new chapter in the intertwined story is being written: Tesla is developing plans for an all-night diner attached to one of the stations where users charge their vehicles, filing plans this month with Los Angeles for a 9,300-square-foot facility.
Though the technology might be cutting edge, the idea behind it harks back to the golden age of the drive-in, which was as much a place to show off your finned, chrome-trimmed ride as it was to fill up on cheeseburgers and fries. Tesla founder Elon Musk sounded cognizant of the connection in his 2018 announcement of the plan in which he promised an old-school “roller skates & rock restaurant” at one of the company’s “supercharger” stations.
The newly filed plans feature a rooftop bar, a drive-in theater and a carhop area, though the vibe seems more futuristic than retro, according to electric vehicle news site Electrek, which first reported on them. The facility will be built on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, where a Shakey’s Pizza is located. The design includes 29 stalls for charging cars, allowing patrons to dine and watch short movies while they wait.
Much about the restaurant, whose construction the city must first approve, still isn’t clear, including its menu and opening date, and an email to the company was not immediately returned. Musk tweeted in 2018, though, that it would take payment in the cryptocurrency dogecoin.
His restaurateur dreams aside, Musk has been mired in controversy lately over his erratic bid to take over Twitter and claims of sexual harassment by a flight attendant on his private jet, which he has denied.
And the plan for the Tesla diner isn’t without detractors. Some are bemoaning the proposal to demolish Shakey’s Pizza, which has been open since 1964, to make way for the new complex. Tour company Esotouric Los Angeles, which specializes in preservation and history, called it “a Rte 66 loss” and poked fun at the renderings Tesla submitted. “If this is the promised retro futuristic ’50s Tesla drive-in, meh,” it tweeted. “Looks like the existing Shakey’s in a cheap Hallowe’en costume.”