- "Turning right on Main, Marty strolled past Lou's Cafe, the "soda shop" he associated with his mother and father's growing-up years. Painted a sickly light green, the shop was largely empty now, probably because it was still quite early in the morning. Marty could imagine the place teeming with young people, though, ordering Cokes and malts, sundaes and burgers, just as his mother had described the scene. Now the store was occupied only by a counterman and one or two coffee-drinking customers."
- —From Back to the Future by George Gipe (quote, page 82)
The cafe's owner was Lou Caruthers. In 1955, the hamburgers were 25¢ (better known as a quarter), ham and cheese sandwiches were 30¢, and a chocolate sundae was 15¢. The cafe also served hot and cold drinks like coffee, milk (including flavors like chocolate), and Pepsi. The cafe had a Wurlitzer 1015 jukebox, filled with popular songs such as "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" and "Dance With Me Henry". It also had a payphone booth, with local calls costing 5¢ (or a nickel, as the coin was known).
Long before Lou founded the cafe, the site was originally the location of a bar known as the Palace Saloon during the 1880s. Sometime between 1885 and the early 1930s, the saloon was torn down and replaced with the Sisters of Mercy Soup Kitchen during the Prohibition era, which was active in 1931. Between 1931 and 1955, Lou came along and established the cafe, which became a popular spot for the young people of Hill Valley to hang out, particularly after school. By the 1980's, Lou's Cafe been replaced by fast food restaurants like Burger King as the popular place for young people to hang out. By 1985 it had been converted into Lou's Aerobic Fitness Center to capitalize in the aerobics trend of the era. By 2015, the location saw a revival as a popular spot for young people to hang out, as the Cafe 80's had replaced Lou's Aerobic Fitness Center.
Marty McFly wandered in on November 5, 1955. He showed signs of being unaccustomed to the times by ordering a Tab, which Lou thought meant the bill, and told Marty he had to order something first. Marty then asked for a Pepsi Free, leading Lou to believe he wanted a Pepsi for free, as the drink Pepsi Free was not established yet, before finally settling on "something without any sugar" — a cup of black coffee. Marty asked Lou if he had any Sweet 'n' Low, or something like it, and explained what it was, but Lou said he didn't have anything like Marty had described. He also raised some suspicion from Lou when his digital watch alarm went off while he was trying to call Emmett Brown on the cafe's payphone (as the digital watch had not yet been invented).
While at the cafe, Marty saw his father, George McFly, as a teenager. He also saw Biff Tannen and his cronies. There was also a possible disruption of the original space-time continuum when Marty tipped off Goldie Wilson that one day he would be mayor.
Another major event that occurred at Lou's Diner was George McFly asking Lorraine Baines to the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance and the ensuing altercation between Marty and Biff which led to a skateboard chase around the town square and ultimately ended in Biff's first manure encounter.
Marty went back to Lou's Cafe towards the end of his time in 1955 to purchase an Almond Joy bar (Almond Joy's sister product, Mounds, was also sold at the cafe) and write a warning letter to Emmett Brown, using stationery from the cafe, about the night he went back in time (October 26, 1985). During Marty's second trip to 1955, it is unknown if he re-visited the cafe at any point, but was not seen doing so.
- Back to the Future
- Back to the Future novelization
- Back to the Future (video game)
- Back to the Future Part II & III
- Back to the Future: The Animated Series