TV programming for teenagers has changed a lot over the years, as anyone who has watched both The Brady Bunch and Skins can attest. But there have been a few constants: a central clique, parent-child disputes, and the archetypal teenage hangout. While, originally, these mostly took the form of wholesome diners, they eventually evolved to include nightclubs and music venues… and have recently shown signs of morphing into something even more sinister. Journey with us, if you will, through over 35 years of teen TV hangout spots, from Happy Days to Gossip Girl.
Arnold’s Drive-In, Happy Days (1974-1984) Arnold’s was the glue that held this classic, long-running sitcom together. The diner, which was decorated with pennants and wood paneling, in high ’50s style, was a meeting place for high schoolers of all social strata — a fact that ensured there was always some drama happening there. While the place’s original namesake owner made a brief appearance in the show’s first season, he was soon replaced by Pat Morita’s Arnold, a Japanese gentleman who earned the nickname when people assumed the diner was named after him. But, of course, our favorite Arnold’s personality will always be Al. If you had any doubts about Arnolds’ continued social significance, need we remind you that Weezer shot their breakthrough music video for “Buddy Holly.”
The Grease, Square Pegs (1982-1983) Like many kids who grow up in the area surrounding New York City, the geeky Square Pegs crew spent much of their time at a Greek diner. Nicknamed “The Grease,” its official named was Acropolis. And, considering the parade of New Wave hits that played in the restaurant, it must have had a pretty sweet jukebox.
The Max, Saved By the Bell (1989-1993) Ah, The Max: bright colors, geometric shapes, that tiny booth that somehow fit the entire SBTB gang — and, of course, Max, the place’s magician proprietor. Bayside’s favorite burger joint hosted everything from study dates to musical performances. It also employed Kelly.
The Peach Pit, Beverly Hills, 90210 (1990-2000) Modeled after LA standby The Applepan (which also served as the diner’s original exterior), The Peach Pit was an oasis of quaint ’50s friendliness in the cruel world of ’90s teen drama. Various characters (most notably Brendan) worked at the Pit during the series’ decade-long span, and, for some reason, owner/manager Nat Bussichio was especially fond of the Beverly Hills brats. Eventually, The Peach Pit expanded, launching a nightclub called The Peach Pit After Dark, where a slew of real bands (Soul Coughing! The Flaming Lips!) performed and cast members threw drinks in each other’s faces. Meanwhile, on the revived CW series, The Peach Pit has been transformed into a coffee shop, which we consider nothing short of sacrilege.
The Honker Burger, Doug (1991-1999) Doug always had a timeless feel to it, and The Honker Burger — modeled on In-N-Out Burger — is no different. It’s a fast food place where the title character and his lady love, Patti Mayonnaise, could have sipped milkshakes together in just about any era from the ’50s to the present.
Sharkey’s, California Dreams (1992-1996) Like a beachy version of The Max, Sharkey’s was where this TNBC sitcom’s titular teenage band performed. Decorated with brightly colored surfboards, the venue doubled as a restaurant.
Chubbie’s, Boy Meets World (1993-2000) For a few seasons, while the cast was in high school, Chubbie’s — conveniently located near John Adams High — was a frequent hangout. Not only does it serve a mean burger, but it’s got a sweet game room in the back.
The Bronze, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) On a show where everything was always in flux, The Bronze remained a constant — even if it was a prime staging ground for all kinds of vampire-related mischief. We have to be honest: The place always sort of made us jealous as teenagers — an apparently all-ages club where real bands played, housed in a warehouse at the edge of town.
The Hub, That ’70s Show (1998-2006) The real hangout on That ’70s Show was, of course, Eric’s basement — where the smoking happened. But we always admired the retro-fabulous Hub, where the gang ate burgers and played pinball.
The Bait Shop, The O.C. (2003-2007) It was from The Bait Shop that O.C. creator Josh Schwartz launched his indie rock offensive. Everyone from Death Cab for Cutie to The Killers to Modest Mouse performed there. The real building where the exteriors were shot sits empty at the Redondo Beach Pier.
Palace Hotel, Gossip Girl (2007-present) There has been no shortage of shows about wealthy teenagers (including, on this list, The O.C. and 90210). But Gossip Girl takes rich-kid mischief to a new level. Its precocious cast doesn’t hang out at no stinkin’ burger joint — they prefer the Palace Hotel, which was owned by the late Bart Bass and provides shelter to both his debauched son Chuck and the van der Woodsen clan. And because rich teenagers are magic, they can drink its bar without anyone bugging them for ID.