clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How Bob’s Big Boy Helped Usher In the Era of the Hamburger

The oldest surviving location of the Big Boy chain is as beautiful as ever.

Wonho Frank Lee
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Built in 1949, Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank exists as a relic to a lost era. The long, clean lines, tall Googie signage and humming neon lights all point to a post-war America just getting comfortable with its own excess. As open-topped Cadillacs and other retro rides pulled into the lot for cheap burgers and a milkshake, the rest of the world was beginning to take real notice of America: the way we ate, the things we bought and the style we epitomized.

Though not the original Bob’s Big Boy, Burbank’s version on Riverside Drive lays claim as the chain’s oldest and was designated as a Historical point of interest more than 20 years ago. The restaurant’s architect, Wayne McAllister, helped to pioneer the classic 1950’s coffeeshop aesthetic as step away from the previous decade's streamline moderne fad. McAllister went on to design several of L.A.’s most iconic Googie buildings like the original Lawry’s on La Cienega, as well as notorious Vegas hotspots like the Sands and the Fremont Hotel & Casino.

Today, Burbank’s Big Boy is a bustling as ever. Classic car shows are as popular here as ever; no surprise, considering it makes for a perfect period piece backdrop for photos. The walls are still lined with old photographs and newspaper clippings, while the naugahyde red booths and checkered frosted glass offer a bit of pure diner tradition. The menu hasn’t changed much either — after all, the classics are the classics for a reason.

Bob's Big Boy

4211 West Riverside Drive, , CA 91505 (818) 843-9334 Visit Website