50s diner revving-up to open | TahoeDailyTribune.com

50s diner revving-up to open

Susan Wood, Tribune staff writer

Dan Thrift/Tahoe Daily TribuneMike Robbins of Robbins Sign Service checks the wiring for the drive-in's marquee on Tuesday.

Pull out that roadster, those bobby socks and desire for rock ‘n’ roll — South Lake Tahoe’s ’50s Drive-In should be opening year-round starting March 1.

Longtime residents David and Linda Hess plan to bring back the menu, colors, flavors and music of the fast food eatery located on Highway 50 near the “Y” with the zeal of an era known for its trademark music.

“It wasn’t our parents’ music anymore,” he said Tuesday, when describing the most memorable aspects to the time period.

Hess, who was born in 1957, bought a ’57 Chevy as his first car. His wife affectionately recalled a time when she worked for a diner in Columbus, Mo.

They met at the now-defunct Harold’s Club in Reno as cook and waitress, respectively.

In Tahoe for 22 years, the duo plans to play ’50s music and possibly old videos of “I Love Lucy” for vehicles in the lot of 16 stalls manned by carhops from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The couple expects to hire seven people to serve beef and veggie burgers, shakes, Dodger-style hot dogs, french fries, pastrami sandwiches and Linda’s potato salad recipe.

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For atmosphere, they’ve repainted and will soon install neon strips inside the windows.

“We kept hearing ‘somebody just needs to take it over and treat it like it should be,'” he said, figuring that with friends’ help the revamping of the fast food joint will cost about $14,000.

The Hesses plan to close escrow on the $550,000 deal in one week.

The two eager restaurateurs have gone on the fast track cleaning up the underused place previously owned by Charles Hamilton, who kept the drive-in open June through August.

Hess said he’s in it for the long haul.

The baby boomer parents’ 16-year-old daughter, Lynzee, will serve customers and has served as inspiration for the Hess family.

They plan to cater specifically to teenagers — offering high school students a jump on the rush-hour line if they show their school ID cards from 11 a.m. to noon.

“My biggest worry is we’ll have too much business the first day,” he said.

From the sounds of the interest from the big kids in town, this concern could be valid.

“I’m really looking forward to it. I’d eat here three times a week,” Caltrans heavy equipment operator Scott Gustafson said that morning outside the drive-in while on the job for the state.

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com.