Sunday, March 11, 2012

Chow Time: Bob's Big Boy Broiler

Bob's Big Boy Broiler - Downey, CA

In the heart of Downey, CA now stands a monument to true "California Cuisine," namely, Bob's Big Boy Broiler.  Bob's "Big Boy" hamburger was the creation of Glendale's own Bob Wian in 1936.  After changing hands a few times over the years, the Big Boy corporate headquarters are now located in Michigan.  Bob's Big Boy restaurants are franchised, but the owners of the Downey location have done it right by acknowledging the history of the chain and the history of it's location - including all of the brilliant neon!

The BBB Broiler originally opened in 1958 as Harvey's Broiler.  In the 60's, the restaurant was sold and became the original Johnie's Broiler (subsequent Johnie Jr.'s opened around Southern California).

Harvey's Broiler
Compare this late 50's view of "The Broiler" to the new image at the
end of the post; they truly did a thorough and thoughtful restoration.

Johnie's Broiler
In a nod to the restaurant's past, BBB has saved the Johnie
from the sign and has it displayed at the entrance to the parking lot.

For decades, the iconic broiler signage heralded both savory and sweet delights for drivers on Firestone Boulevard.  In sadder days, the building languished as a car dealership and eventually, was partially demolished by an unscrupulous landowner before preservationists and concerned citizens intervened to save the landmark.  Fortunately, the BBB corporation stepped up and did a faithful recreation/expansion of the original building.  We're happy because the finishes are attractive, comfortable, and steer away from the ubiquitous red/white or magenta/aqua color combinations that plagued "retro" diners for so many years.

Beautiful signs abound!

The California landscape surrounding the restaurant is
beautiful but clearly, they need to do some weeding.

One of the early BBB uniforms.
In my opinion, the atmosphere could only be helped
 by having the wait staff wear these again.

I love those cantilevered, button-tufted barstools
almost as much as I love terrazzo floors! 

Cool light fixtures

Mr. Tiny is still on his crummy diet, so you'll have to be satisfied
 with a picture of Mary attacking her monster burger!

In terms of the food,  Mary thought it was better than the Burbank location.  The soda fountain treats must've been delicious because EVERY table in the whole joint ordered a brownie, fudge sundae (with the one exception ordering a banana split)!

BBB did a great job at restoring the broiler
building and maintaining the period details.
Heck, even the litter outside is old-timey! 

Our Downey adventure didn't begin or end with Bob's, we decided to drive throught the surrounding neighborhoods and check out more of what Downey had to offer.  After our New Year's experience, with the people and the parade float of Downey, it should not have come as any surprise that I liked what I saw.

I would never have guessed that my dream house would be found in Downey.
My favorite houses have always been ones that look like a child's drawing
of a house.  And while I have absolutely no political aspirations whatsoever,
 I dream of living in a white house.  True, the landscaping could stand a little
 revision and a walk up to the front door, but the basic symmetry, quaint
charm, and green roof really send me. 

We also caught a glimpse of this mid-century modern house that was painted
the most golden of goldenrod hues.  The garden was a beautiful mix of
tropicals and succulents.

In our travels we came across some sweet civic art in the City of Paramount.
I am a sucker for primary colors, but the undulating form of skewered pennants
 is what really sold me.

Bob's Big Boy Broiler

7447 Firestone Blvd
Downey, CA

Bob's Big Boy Broiler on Facebook

Oops,  I almost forgot to include our Big Boy!


Mr. Tiny


  1. love big boy! a big boy statue is what the ryan arms could really use!!!

    1. Haha...I am surprised in all of your treasure hunting that you haven't found one. You always seem to find the coolest stuff!

  2. I had the pleasure of visiting the Broiler twice in 2011, on Wednesday cruise nights. I can't begin to tell you how much I love that place!

    1. It sounds like you really made the most of your time here!!! The restaurant has been open for a few years and we JUST made it up there! They really did a great restoration job.

  3. I was just there 2 weeks ago! This post is making me hungry!

    1. I know! We were so bummed that we missed Jesse's show, that we had to go up there and check it out! It was fun but it would have been so much better with some tunes and you guys.

  4. "Johnie's" was a neon landmark a bit farther west than we would usually travel on Firestone Blvd. Finally went there in its run-down final year or two. It's a lot better now.

  5. Growing up near Downey I would frequent "Johnnie's Broiler" often as a kid and teenager. I loved it and I loved driving through Downey in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s (and sad to have to go back to Pico Rivera). It always felt like a time warp and I was back in the 1960s. The architecture, the roads, the homes, Stonewood Mall (in its original incarnation), The Carpenters, Middle Earth Records (the best record store of all time), etc. My dream house as a kid was also in Downey - mine was on 4th Street...

    1. Yeah, Downey is really cool! I need to get back up there and do some more exploring!!!