Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bob's is still hopping in the 21st Century

One Big Boy, one cherry coke and a side order of crispy onion rings please. That has been the meal, or some variation of that combination has been a meal of choice for many who have passed through the glass doors of the oldest remaining Bob’s Big Boy, located near the Warner Bros. Studios in the Toluca Lake section of Burbank along the 134 Freeway on Riverside Drive.

Hamburgers come with Bob's Big Boy special relish that really sets them apart from other burgers.

And though the food is delicious and that of classic America, many also come to the retro piece of American history for the weekly car show on Friday night.

“It’s just a nice place where people come together with a mutual appreciation of classic cars,” Chris Sabatino, a local chiropractor said.

Sabatino said he has been coming to Bob’s Big Boy for the past 20 years and that he attends the car show regularly, rain or shine. He showed up with his fully restored 1960 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Sabatino has a passion for classic cars, but Cadillacs specifically.

“I’m a cruiser guy,” Sabatino said.

“It was a time when people aspired to be better that they were. People respected America and they respected the name Cadillac. It signified the best,” Sabatino said. “The whole world marveled at our cars.”

Sabatino said he enjoys coming to the weekly car nights. His Cadillac Coupe de Ville is just one of many cars that he has restored.

Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank was built in 1949 by locals Scott MacDonald and Ward Albert. Wayne McAllister, a noted architect, designed the building.

According to manager Frank Rodriguez, Bob’s was one of the most famous and popular such restaurants in the late 1940s, and through to the 1960s.

Bob Wian founded the Bob’s Big Boy chain in Glendale in the late 1936. Prior to being sold to the Marriot in 1966, there were more than 500 locations nationwide.

“Everybody loves Bob’s Big Boy,” Rodriguez said.

“People used to line up for the carhop service and there would be a line out to the front,” Rodriguez said.

Though the days of roller skating waitresses bringing burgers and shakes to car windows are gone, Bob’s still offers the carhop service with a couple of modifications. The servers no longer wear roller skates and the carhop service is only available Saturdays and Sundays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Though places like Bob’s are becoming harder and harder to find, the famous hamburger joint is always hopping Friday nights.

“People come even if they have to drive 30 or 40 miles or so,” Rodriguez said.

He estimated that from Friday morning, to 6 a.m. Saturday morning, between 5,500 and 6,000 customers eat at Bob’s and that about 1,000 come just for the car show in the evening.

“You just come to show off the work you put in to your car,” Karl Damisch, owner of a 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle and a car show regular said.

“All my friends had hotrods and it kind of grew on me,” he said.

Jesse Rios is also a car show regular and he brought out his 1969 Pontiac Firebird.

Rios' Firebird was one of many automobiles at the weekly car show at Bob's Big Boy. There were convertibles, trucks and even a few motorcycles.

“I like old things, classic things, because there are not many of them,” Rios said.

Rios said he started coming to the car show four years ago and that he enjoys his time there talking to other car owners, networking and seeing what others have done with their cars.

Bob’s Big Boy is an American icon that should not be lost in the shuffle. Bob’s is doing its part in preserving a huge part of American history, but it is also doing much more than that.

The Big Boy himself stands tall outside the entrance of the oldest remaining Big Boy location.

Every month, the Burbank Bob’s donates one percent of its dining room sales to various charities. It has adopted four charities.

In January, May and September, it makes a donation to the Burbank Police Department Downed Officers’ Foundation. The Donations continue to rotate among the John Burroughs High School Scholarship Fund, The Burbank High School Scholarship Fund and the Northridge Hospital’s Children’s Assault Treatment Services.

Bob’s is not only concerned about the community, but also the environment. Rodriguez said that the restaurant is going to go partially solar in about three months. He said that solar panels will be added above the carport outside the restaurant.

Bob's Big Boy, an American icon is sure to please hamburger lovers and car fans alike.

With its streamline architecture, retro signs and retro lighting, Bob’s Big Boy is an instant reminder of days past, but Bob's is sure to be a hit for many years to come.

For more information about Bob's Big Boy, visit or

Gas: About $2
Parking: Free
Food: About $10
Car show: Free
Total amount spent: About $12