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Bob’s celebrates with solar panels

As a California Point of Historical Interest, the restaurant with the Big Boy had to get approval for its green project.

August 05, 2009|By Michael J. Arvizu

1949.

It was the year the first Emmy Awards were given in Los Angeles.

It was the year the first Volkswagen Beetle arrived in the United States.

It was the year the People’s Republic of China was founded.

It was the year Bob’s Big Boy began flipping hamburgers, in what 60 years later is one of the most popular burger joints and oldest remaining Bob’s Big Boy restaurants in the country.

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Bob’s Big Boy, at 4111 Riverside Drive in Burbank, began operations that year in a building designed by the late Wayne McAllister, a Los Angeles-based architect responsible for resorts and hotels from Las Vegas to California and Tijuana.

The Burbank restaurant is known for its signature Big Boy out front, where diners and tourists alike pose with the life-size, checkered-overalls- wearing, giant hamburger-carrying statue.

Bob’s Big Boy is touted as the home of the original double-deck hamburger, or Big Boy, made of two all-beef patties, grilled sesame seed bun, crisp lettuce and so on.

Aside from the burgers, one of the things that makes Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank unique is its ties with the community, said Bob’s co-owner Phil MacDonald. The restaurant maintains a hometown feel by sponsoring local teams and schools, and its walls are filled with plaques denoting the restaurant’s charitable efforts.

For its 50th anniversary celebrations in 1999, Bob’s Big Boy celebrated with three seasons’ worth of events. In March, the restaurant rolled back prices to 1949 levels, where diners could get a Big Boy, fries and Coke for 50 cents.

In July, the restaurant trucked in about 200 tons of sand and created a virtual beach in its parking lot, complete with sandcastle workshops, Frisbee contests and bathing suit, surfboard and surfing car exhibits.

In the fall, the restaurant held a Hollywood ’50s party.

It seemed fitting that to celebrate its 60th anniversary, MacDonald said, Bob’s should do something as memorable. In an effort to benefit the environment, 132 solar panels were installed on the roof of its carhop canopy and on the roof of the adjacent Starbucks — a building MacDonald also owns — in a campaign the restaurant calls “Sixty and Solar.”

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