Bob's Big Boy

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For the history of the entire Big Boy chain, see Big Boy Restaurants.

Coordinates: 34°09′09″N 118°20′46″W / 34.15258°N 118.346154°W / 34.15258; -118.346154

Bob's Big Boy restaurant in January, 2014

Bob's Big Boy is a restaurant chain that Bob Wian founded in Southern California in 1936, originally named Bob's Pantry.[1][2] It is now part of Big Boy Restaurants International, the current primary trademark owner and franchisor of the Big Boy system.

Wian created his famous Big Boy hamburger, just less than a year of opening his original location by slicing a bun into three slices and adding two hamburger patties.[3]

Short history of the chain[edit]

According to a 2013 Los Angeles Times article,[4] 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.[5][6] This location was known as "Bob's #1"[4] and remained as a Bob's until it was closed and demolished in 1989.[2] 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".[4] Wian sold the chain to Marriott in 1967.[7]

Oldest remaining restaurant[edit]

Statue in front of Bob's Big Boy restaurant in Burbank, California.
Patio tables at the Bob's Big Boy restaurant in Burbank, California.

The Bob's Big Boy Restaurant located at 4211 Riverside Drive[8] in Burbank, California, is the oldest remaining Bob's Big Boy in the United States.[9] 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."[9][10] The building is said to have "made McAllister's reputation," and he is credited with creating the restaurant's circular drive-through design.[11]

The restaurant was designated a California Point of Historical Interest in 1993.[9] 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 and an outdoor dining area added.[9] Carhop service was reintroduced on weekends and a weekly classic car show is hosted in the parking lot.[9]

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."[12]

Other notable locations[edit]

  • 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.[5] 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.[6] The building was also designed by architects Wayne McAllister and William C. Wagner.[6] The restaurant was razed in 1989 to build a strip mall.[2]
  • 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.
  • In 1980, West Los Angeles' location on La Cienega Blvd. was the scene of one of Los Angeles' worst crimes. On December 14, 1980, 11 people were forced into the walk-in freezer, robbed of approx. $1700.00 and shot, leaving three dead on the scene, one of whom died five months later, four others wounded and one in mental incoherency. Carletha Stewart, a former employee, and her companions, Franklin Freeman and Ricky Sanders were arrested in 1981, convicted in 1982 and sentenced ranging from death to 25 years to life. The 1986 TV film The Right of the People was allegedly based on this crime and raised issues about the Second Amendment right to bear arms and self-defense.


  1. ^ "History of Big Boy". Big Boy Restaurants International LLC. 
  2. ^ a b c Chavez, Stephanie (October 17, 1989). "Big Boy Bowing Out : Original Glendale Diner Serves Its Last Burger After 51 Years". Los Angeles Times. 
  3. ^ Chong, Jia-Rui (August 22, 2008). "Actually, it is your grandfather's Big Boy". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved September 13, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c Yamada, Katherine (July 31, 2013). "Verdugo Views: A life with Bob's Big Boy". Los Angeles Times. 
  5. ^ a b Rasmussen, Cecilia (November 2, 2003). "When Bob's Was the Big Hangout". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Archived from the original on June 3, 2015. Retrieved September 13, 2016. In 1938, Wian changed the name from Bob's Pantry to Bob's Big Boy and converted the stand into a drive-in restaurant....
         It was a date-night and cruiser destination, a place to flirt, where boys eyeballed one another's engines, got into fistfights over girls and arranged drag races. Teenagers gorged on French fries dipped in blue cheese dressing and "suicide Cokes" splashed with cherry, vanilla, lemon and chocolate flavorings.
  6. ^ a b c "California's Fanciest Hamburger Joint newest 'Home of the Big Boy"". Los Angeles Times. April 15, 1956. p. H8. (subscription required (help)). One of the most elaborate drive-in restaurant in the entire western United States opens Tuesday at 900 East Colorado, Glendale, on the site of the original Bob's Pantry.  Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  7. ^ "Marriott-Hot Shoppes Negotiating Acquisition Of Wian Enterprises". Wall Street Journal. December 8, 1966. p. 10. (subscription required (help)).  Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  8. ^ Google. "Bob's Big Boy" (Map). Google Maps. Google. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Bob's Big Boy of Burbank menu, January 2007
  10. ^ Boose, Denise (February 5, 2012). "Big Boy". Historical Marker Database. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  11. ^ Friedlander, Whitney (May 18, 2008). "Go on a SoCal hunt for Googie architecture". Baltimore Sun. 
  12. ^ Erskine, Chris (August 30, 2013). "Scoping classic cars at Bob's Big Boy in Burbank: Chris Erskine heads to Bob's Big Boy in Burbank on a Friday for the classic car show and meets folks like Chevy Jim.". Los Angeles Times. 

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