Big Bob's Broiler exterior


Bob’s Big Boy Broiler

When it opened in 1958, Harvey's Broiler was the largest drive-in restaurant in Southern California and soon became the hub of the 1950s cruising culture.


In 2008, Bob’s Big Boy franchise operator Jim Louder agreed to rebuild the Broiler and operate it as a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant. It opened in 2009 to great fanfare.

Place Details


7447 Firestone Boulevard,
Downey, California 90241
Get directions




Property Type


Big Bob's Broiler exterior | John Eng


Harvey’s Broiler was the largest drive-in restaurant in Southern California when it opened in 1958. Designed by architect Paul B. Clayton, the combination coffee shop, restaurant, and drive-in sported exuberant Googie features, including a 65-foot-long sign that shone like a beacon on popular Firestone Boulevard. “The Broiler” soon became the hub of Southern California’s booming 1950s cruising culture.

Widely considered the best remaining example of 1950s Googie drive-in architecture, the Broiler was renamed Johnie’s in 1968 and operated continuously until it closed for good on New Year’s Eve 2001.

The property served as a used-car dealership for years, with tenants neglecting the historic building and even removing original features. The grassroots Friends of Johnie’s advocacy group formed soon after, working with the Conservancy’s volunteer Modern Committee to designate the Broiler as a state landmark.

About This Place

About This Place

The Friends of Johnie’s staved off threats to the landmark for years until bulldozers arrived on a Sunday afternoon in January 2007.

Working without permits the wrecking crew started bulldozing without even fencing off the property or disconnecting the utilities. Alarmed onlookers notified the police, who halted the demolition that afternoon—but not until the roadside icon lay in ruins, with only a portion of the front facade and its distinctive signage still intact.

Two days later, outraged community members filled the council chambers of Downey City Hall. The City of Downey took immediate action, prosecuting the tenant and placing a year-long development moratorium on the site.

Our Position

In 2008, Bob’s Big Boy franchise operator Jim Louder agreed to rebuild the Broiler and operate it as a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant, with the City of Downey Redevelopment Agency making a significant contribution toward the Broiler’s reconstruction. The task was extraordinary: take a historic site that had been largely destroyed and had weathered the elements for nearly two years, and reconstruct it to meet current building codes and business requirements while retaining its historic character.

The project team worked tirelessly and collaboratively to meet these challenges, meeting with the Los Angeles Conservancy and city officials and using preservation standards and original blueprints to reconstruct the Broiler as a viable business and community asset. Bob’s Big Boy Broiler opened to great fanfare on October 19, 2009, rising from the ruins to reclaim its place as a great source of pride for Southern California. The Conservancy awarded this project a Preservation Award in 2010.


Johnnie's Broiler Illegal Demolition | Adriene Biondo
Johnnie's Demolition | John Eng
Bob's Big Boy Reopening | Jon Eng
Hot Rod's to Save Bob's Big Boy | Adriene Biondo
Bob's Big Boy Reopening | John Eng
Bob's Big Boy Reopening | John Eng
Classic Car Meet Up to Save Johnnie's | Adriene Biondo