Diner Culture: Dan's Drive-In's Lucky Sahota

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Lucky Sahota grew up in Mumbai, learned to cook Greek food in New Zealand and moved to Columbus with his California wife to purchase a hot rod- and motorcycle-themed diner on the South Side. The 37-year-old has two children, plays in a Hilliard volleyball league, works out and watches movies in his spare time. And, according to his waitstaff, he eats ketchup on everything. ("Everything," they say.)

With his 2007 arrival-both to Dan's Drive-In and Columbus-came the restaurant's Greek omelet (with salty feta and gyro meat), a giant Rolling Stones record to adorn the wall, and an outdoor patio. To add to the theme (and his customer base) Sahota introduced car shows in the restaurant's massive parking lot.

Sahota balances running an iconic all-American restaurant while maintaining ideals learned in India.

"We don't sell the land in our culture. We pass it on to our kids. There's a sacred saying that land is your mother and you don't sell your mother. You can buy more, but you don't sell what you have," Sahota says.

"I think that's a good thing. You have this ambition. But you don't sell, because you want to pass to your kids. I think that's pretty good about our culture. It keeps you focused, you know your direction, what you're going to be," he says.

Dan's Drive-In, though, won't be passed down. Not without a little work. His 8-year-old son recently asked if he'd one day receive the restaurant. Sahota recounts the conversation.

"'No, you have to buy it.' [My son] said, 'I'm your son. You should give it to me.' I said 'No, if you work there, then you can buy me out.' He was just joking about it. It was kind of funny. You know how kids are nowadays."

"My long-term plan is to do car hops, like an original diner," he says. "Cars can pull in, girls with roller skates carry food out. I'm working toward it. You'll see it next year, or the year after."

No doubt, we will.

House Favorites

Q: What do you like to eat at the restaurant?

A: We have a one-pound cheeseburger called Big Mouth. It's two Angus burger patties jammed into one, topped off with mushrooms, onions and cheddar cheese.

Q: Where do you eat when you're not at work?

A: For Indian food, it's Aab in Grandview. And Barcelona-I like that, too.

Dan's Drive-In

1881 S. High St., South Side