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Bob's Big Boy facts for kids

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Bob's Big Boy is a restaurant chain founded by Bob Wian in Southern California in 1936, originally named Bob's Pantry. It is now part of Big Boy Restaurant Group, the current primary trademark owner and franchisor of the Big Boy system. At its peak in 1989, there were over 240 Bob's locations throughout the United States, most belonging to Marriott. By August 2019, only five Bob's Big Boy Restaurants remain in operation, all in Southern California. Those five locations are in Burbank (Toluca Lake), Calimesa, Downey, Norco, and Northridge. Two of these restaurants are now protected historic landmarks: the Burbank location on Riverside Drive and the Downey location, previously known as Johnie's Broiler. In August 2020, plans were announced to open a Bob's Big Boy in Indian Springs, Nevada. The restaurant opened on November 8, 2020 as Big Boy without the Bob's branding, with future expansion planned across Southern Nevada.

The restaurant is named after Wian and the Big Boy hamburger, which he created six months after opening his original location. Slicing a bun into three slices and adding two hamburger patties, Wian had created the original double-deck hamburger.

Short history of the chain

According to a 2013 Los Angeles Times article, Bob Wian started the 10-stool Bob's Pantry hamburger stand at 900 E. Colorado in Glendale in 1936. This stand expanded adding carhop service until it was finally demolished and replaced by a McAllister designed drive-in in 1956. This location was known as "Bob's #1" and remained as a Bob's until it was closed and demolished in 1989. A second Glendale location at Broadway and Maryland was known as "Bob's #4", while the Toluca Lake location was known as "Bob's #6". Wian sold the chain to Marriott in 1967.

Oldest remaining restaurant

Bob's big boy statue burbank 2013
Statue in front of Bob's Big Boy restaurant in Burbank, California.
Burbank bob's big boy patio 2
Patio tables at the Bob's Big Boy restaurant in Burbank, California.

The Bob's Big Boy Restaurant located at 4211 Riverside Drive in Burbank, California, is the oldest remaining Bob's Big Boy in the United States. Built in 1949 by local residents Scott MacDonald and Ward Albert, it was designed by noted Los Angeles architect Wayne McAllister, "incorporating the 1940s transitional design of streamline moderne style, while anticipating the freeform 1950s coffee shop architecture. The towering Bob's sign is an integral part of the building design and its most prominent feature." The building is said to have "made McAllister's reputation," and he is credited with creating the restaurant's circular drive-through design.

The restaurant was designated a California Point of Historical Interest in 1993. McAllister worked to preserve the structure as a historic landmark. McAllister was also the architect for the original Lawry's restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills, and the original Sands Hotel casino and Desert Inn casino in Las Vegas. He designed some 40 coffee shops in the Los Angeles area in the late 1940s, and each with a distinctive look. Creative coffee shop designs started in Los Angeles because of the popularity of automobiles, and then spread across the nation.

The design of the Toluca Lake Bob's represents a distinct period in the region's architectural history, a style often referred to as Googie architecture. The building features a curving windowed facade and expansive roof overhangs with 1950s "free-form" style of cantilevered roofs and tall display signs.

The Riverside Drive Bob's Big Boy was designed as a drive-in, in which carhops brought food to the cars, and now operates a drive-thru window. In 1993, the tower sign was renovated, the dining room updated and an outdoor dining area added. Carhop service was reintroduced on weekends and a weekly classic car show is hosted in the parking lot.

Bob Hope and other movie personalities such as Mickey Rooney, Debbie Reynolds, Jonathan Winters, Dana Andrews, Martha Raye, Alexis Smith and Craig Stevens, were once regulars at the restaurant. Hope frequented the Burbank drive-in because it afforded him privacy.

Famed British musical group The Beatles dined at the Burbank location during their 1965 U.S. Tour. The table is the last booth on the right as one walks in, where the end of the windows facing out towards Riverside Drive's stop. For many years a plaque described the event; the plaque has been stolen many times by fans, and has been replaced each time. Many regulars to the restaurant call this table and booth "The Beatles Booth."

Other notable locations

  • The original Bob's Big Boy (initially called Bob's Pantry) was a 10-stool hamburger stand in Glendale, California, which founder Bob Wian purchased in 1936 for the $350 he received from the sale of his DeSoto Roadster. The Glendale Bob's, originally located on the northwest corner of East Broadway and Maryland Street, was a popular hangout for teenagers in the 1950s. It eventually outgrew itself, and a larger Bob's restaurant similar in style to the Toluca Lake location with carhop service was built farther east at 900 E. Colorado. The larger restaurant opened in 1956 and could accommodate 90 customers inside seated in booths and at the counter, along with a separate area to serve additional take-out patrons, while the drive-in could service 55 cars at a time. The building was also designed by architects Wayne McAllister and William C. Wagner. The restaurant was razed in 1989 to build a strip mall.
  • The first Phoenix, Arizona, Bob's Big Boy, established in 1954, was a notable exception to the California-based architecture. It was located at Central Avenue and Thomas Road. It quickly put two other nearby drive-in restaurants out of business. The building was modern, with horizontal overhanging roof lines and native stone at the entrance. Above was a large mural that resembled a Hopi sand painting of kachinas and a covered area to the east of the building for carhop service.
  • Several Bob's Big Boy locations were designed by Armet & Davis, an architectural firm noted for its contributions to Googie architecture.
  • Bob's Big Boy Broiler in Downey, California is a Historical Landmark and good example of Googie architecture. Once Johnie's Broiler, this restaurant features the initial floor plan, carhop service, a drive-thru and an original neon sign.

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