Every January 8, flamboyantly-costumed fans flock to a diner beside a gas station in the small town of Neve Ilan, Israel. They arrive, clad in gaudy shirts with wide-open necks, stick-on sideburns, and puffy, black wigs. They’re here to pay tribute to Elvis Presley on the legendary singer’s birthday. And they’ve come to the right place: Everything about the Elvis American Diner, located about 12 miles outside Jerusalem, celebrates the performer known to many as simply “the King.”
The diner hosts performances from Elvis impersonators both on Presley’s birthday and on August 16, the day he died. But visitors are welcome to come, eat, and admire its unique collection throughout the year. The place is covered in more than 700 pieces of Elvis memorabilia, from photos to posters to giant statues. The jukebox is filled with Presley’s hits ranging from “Heartbreak Hotel” to “Jailhouse Rock.”
The collection belongs to the restaurant’s owner, Uri Yoeli. The Jerusalem native became a fan of the King as a teenager and has been slowly amassing his collection ever since. His diner, however, wasn’t always an Elvis shrine. Known as the “Mountain Inn Truck Stop” when it opened in 1974, it displayed a few of Yoeli’s photos of his favorite singer. Gradually, it became informally known as the “Elvis Inn.” Yoeli was all too happy to embrace this new identity more officially, renaming the restaurant the Elvis American Diner.
The menu offers a mix of Israeli and American fare, including hummus, tomato-and-cucumber salads, burgers, and fries. Most visitors describe the food as fair, but the diner’s still a fine place to stop for a snack and a song or two. You can’t miss it: Just look for the golden, hip-shaking statue out front.