Old School Eats: Bob's Big Boy (LA)
Around the corner from the dimly-lit, time machine-esque Smoke House is Bob's Big Boy. This is where tourists and locals go to eat high-calorie meals under bright fluorescent lights, without caring who's watching them--and no one is. The polite waitstaff is there to do the job they are paid to do: routinely and repeatedly check on customers, take orders, clear plates, ask if "you care for dessert" and drop the bill.
Designed as the quintessential coffee shop and drive-in, the Big Boy sits comfortably in a big parking lot in Burbank. There is plenty of outdoor and indoor seating, but we opted for a freshly-cleaned booth under a wall-sized mural of Bob's glory days back when kids were still dancing to the hop. The diner is a timeless amalgamation of old and new.
Before our asses even hit the seat, a server was there to take our drink order. Unimpressed with our answer ("water") she asked if we wanted a fresh fountain cherry or vanilla coke. A homemade, old fashioned cherry coke is too good of an offer for anyone to pass up so we got two and investigated the Big Boy dinner menu. She quickly returned with two giant fountain cokes, with maraschino hues radiating through the transparent blue plastic cups.
Something that diner's rarely get wrong is the abundance of paper thin ice chips that fill the fountain drinks, and this one is no exception.
Satisfied (times ten), we quickly ordered. The first dish to appear was the complimentary salad which came with the burger, consisting of overly crisp iceberg lettuce, crisp, seasoned Wonderbread croutons and smothered in Thousand Island dressing.
Finishing the salad in minutes, our bowl was taken away along with our drinks, which quickly returned to us refilled to the brim of the cup.
Next up arrived the feast of the timeless American dishes: chili cheese fries, a patty melt and the Super Big Boy dinner which is a double stack hamburger with bacon and avocado served with fries and choice of soup or salad.
I was particularly stoked on the chili cheese fries. The chili wasn't too greasy or over-bearing and the cheddar was almost completely melted throughout, which is rare considering the impatience of short-order cooks.
I really enjoyed the patty melt. Even though I prefer the meat to be about the same thickness as the bun, and this burger was about twice the size, the overall taste was really balanced and not overwhelmed by the meat, which means they are doing something right.
The famous Big Boy Double Decker was completely satisfying and would have been so even without the avocado and bacon. We seasoned our plain fries with Big Boy seasoning salt, which was AWESOME. Aside from the cherry coke, it was the best part of the meal.
Stuffed and too tired for dessert, we got the bill and made our way to pay. The Big Boy bobbleheads and seasoning salt for sale at the checkout counter made it clear that what once start in 1936 as Bob's Pantry is now a part of a much larger chain of restaurants in every way.
Bob's Big Boy isn't the end-all-be-all of diners, but I'll say this: it was quick, satisfying and I slept very well that night without any of the residual post-diner food effects in the morning. Plus, the place just looks cool.