Bob's, Broiler, Parasol, Mel's, George's and Grissinger's

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Bob's, Broiler, Parasol, Mel's, George's and Grissinger's

Postby nichols » Thu Nov 19, 2009 12:57 pm



Theo DouglasWed. November 18

Downey’s successful re-launch of its 1958 Broiler—first a Harvey’s, then a Johnie’s, now a Bob’s Big Boy—seems to prove nostalgia’s worth. Or does it?It was a perfect Kodachrome moment: the reopening Oct. 19 of Johnie’s Broiler, Downey’s Googie-est diner: a glass-walled, horseshoe-boothed, cottage-cheese-ceilinged spaceship that had boomeranged off the corner of Firestone Blvd. and Old River School Rd. for 49 years.

Illegally demolished in January 2007, then proudly rebuilt from the original 1958 blueprints as a Bob’s Big Boy franchise, the rebirth of what is now the Bob’s Big Boy Broiler already seems—four weeks in—to have been a success from day one. Because it has been.

Opening-day traffic clenched into a familiar knot once an acre of parking places evaporated, and drivers must have cursed—or marveled, for that’s just how packed it had been during the eatery’s 1960s glory days, when, as Harvey’s Broiler, the site became such a hangout for local cruisers that Tom Wolfe wrote “The Hair Boys” about how ’50s hot-rodding had transmogrified into a wire-wheeled, lace-painted, Aqua Netted stew.

The Broiler’s current menu remains basic, though tremendously improved: it’s a Big Boy whose whole-grain pancakes, Buffalo-style chicken and salmon filets are the only concessions to modernity. But hungry diners wanting to freeze their small intestines off with the Downey mayor’s favorite, a chocolate malted, faced a two-hour wait that first day. Some of the starving surely left—but no one who stayed seemed to complain about it.

“People were just . . . Gosh, we had a guy, him and his wife came in, and it was their 50th wedding anniversary,” remembers the restaurant’s new owner, Jim Louder, who also holds a successful Bob’s franchise in Torrance. “Unfortunately, he fell on his way into the restaurant. Banged up the side of his face bad enough that I really wanted him to call 9-1-1. But he didn’t want to go; he wanted to stay and eat. And they stayed and ate and were okay. It was just that kind of thing.”

It was still the most successful opening week of a Bob’s Big Boy, ever—a magical, $100,000 seven days, which seemed to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that historic businesses in genuine 1950s-era structures can be self-supporting—even if, as here, those buildings must be painstakingly recreated from the ground up.

Or not.

A few miles away, in Rossmoor, no one was smiling. The very next day, Oct. 20, was the last day for another business housed in an expensively renovated mid-century building: the Mel’s Drive-In franchise which had leased the rotund former Parasol restaurant location... ... ith-diner/

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