Ryan's Mom's Diner.
Q. What is it supposed to be on the show?
A. A somewhat
rowdy, blue-collar diner.
Q. Where is it supposed to be on the show?
A. In Albuquerque,
Q. When did we see it on the show?
Only once, in Episode 21 (of season three), "The Dawn Patrol",
when Ryan goes to Albuquerque to find his estranged mother, and invite her
to his high school graduation.
While at the
diner, Ryan also meets a cute waitress named Chloe, and they have a brief
fling at his hotel.
A. An actual
old diner (complete with a juke box and a biker following), but far from
Q. Where can I find it in real life?
A. It's actually "The Original" Saugus Cafe, an historic diner located up near Six Flags' Magic Mountain, at 25861 San Fernando Road, in Santa Clarita, CA.
Cafe is happens to be the oldest operating restaurant in Los Angeles
County; it's been in business since 1887. It was open 24 hours a day as
far back as at least 1938, and still is today. First known as "The
Saugus Eating House" it was originally located in the baggage room
of local depot (the Saugus Train Station). In 1905, it moved to its current
That's near Magic Mountain Parkway. The cafe is on the same street (San Fernando Road) as some of the early "Chino" locations in Sun Valley, such as the car theft scene from the pilot episode - but it's 17 miles northwest of Sun Valley.
If you happen
to be in the area, you could drop by for lunch. (Ryan meets Chloe in the
second booth to the right of the door.) But be aware that this isn't Spago
- it's a real, down-to-earth diner that may be a little rough around the
Q. How the heck did you figure out where it was?
A. This one wasn't easy. Since I'd never been to Saugus, I didn't recognize the place. For all I knew, the diner might have really been in Albuquerque.
Fortunately, I had a few clues to go on.
First, there is a very brief shot of the diner's window, with the writing on the window reversed. By capturing the image and horizontally flipping it, I was able to make out the name "El Viejo Saguaro" on the window. That didn't help much. But it did register when I later turned up the town of Saugus...
Next, I was able to spot a street number just outside the door, in a scene where Ryan is leaving the diner. Freeze-framing it revealed the partial number 258-?-1.
But in another
shot from the show (see the top photo), I could see the green sign of a
Building Supply company across the street (out the diner's window), next
to a railroad crossing signal. So I went through the various businesses
with "Building Supply" in their names, that were located near
railroad tracks (which turned up a surprising number of matches), then
matched up aerial photos with the screenshots. When I found the right building
supply company (it was Stock Building Supply, on San Fernando
Road), I did a Google search for restaurants & bars in the immediate
area, and the Saugus Cafe turned, up right across the street, exactly where
it should have been. A check of its address revealed the expected street
number: 25861. Then I compared online photos of the diner to the screenshots
from the show - and they matched.
O.C. screenshots from the show and all related characters & elements
are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.