Back in 1958, on the site of a poultry farm in Downey, Harvey and Minnie Ortner opened their dream restaurant, “Harvey’s Broiler”. The Ortner’s hired local architect Paul Clayton to design their restaurant. The restaurant was to be built on the bend of firestone blvd. Clayton took advantage of the location and designed the restaurant to appear as if drivers were coming towards a restaurant that was sitting in the middle of the highway! With a towering Jet Age neon sign and acres of parking, under a cool 50’s boomerang canopy, Harvey’s Broiler literally stopped traffic!
Jast as in the classic film “American Grafitti”, 50’s drive-in restaurants served as the hub for teenagers who were old enough to drive, but not quite old enough to drink. The Broiler was an American phenomenon. It was “The Place” where the cool crowd hung out, cruised, “schmoozed”, and showed off their rides, while flirting with Harvey’s cute carhops.
Car customizing legends like Larry Watson and Ed “Big Daddy” Roth hung out here, too. Hot rod and custom magazines featured Harvey’s action. They featured the “world’s largest automotive exposition”, with an unbelievable 5,000 cars rolling in on weekend nights at the restaurant. The Broiler was such as hit that teenagers tried everything to get a chance to hang out at Harvey’s Broiler.
The era of the drive-in diner eventually faded. Yet, the Broiler continued to thrive. It became a prime location for local film making. The restaurant appeared in “Heat”, with Robert Dinero, the “Beach Boys Story”, and the Tina Turner movie, “What’s Love Got to do with it?” The restaurant also provided a backdrop for various television shows, music videos, and other movies. Yet by New Years Eve of 2001, the Broiler was unceremoniously gutted and turned into a used car lot.
One Sunday afternoon, on January 7, 2007, a bulldozer was spotted tearing down the building. No permits had been pulled and the electricity was still on at the premises. CBS Breaking News had
announced, “Tonight a Downey landmark has been leveled.” Under the pressure of concerned citizens, the City of Downey placed a one year moratorium on continued demolition of the site. Supporters of the restaurant joined forces with car clubs and hot rod enthusiasts. Letters of support, organized car rallies, and “Ghost Cruises” were done to garner support for the restaurant and to bring fans out to witness the destruction.
The search was on to help find a new operator for the once spectacular landmark. Just as the moratorium was about to be lifted, the restaurant received a new lease on life. Restaurant franchise operator Jim Louder came along and saw an opportunity. Much to everyone’s delight, Louder leased the property and announced his plans to rebuild a new Broiler in the same spot. He decided t ouse the blueprints of the original architect Paul Clayton. Louder would also collaborate with the City of Downey and the preservation community to maintain the historic significance of the restaurant.
For many months, loyal customers and fans watched with great anticipation, as construction got underway to bring new life to the once classic restaurant.
In October of 2009, under the name Bob’s Big Boy Broiler, the legendary restaurant opened its doors to the public. In an atmosphere reminiscent of a bygone era of classic cars, hot rods, and carhops, Bob’s Big Boy Broiler welcomed a new generation of Families to stop by and enjoy and classic Big Boy Combo. Still as popular as before, celebrities like George Barris, Jesse James, and Sandra Bullock, have made special appearances at the restaurant.
We hope you enjoy your dining experience at Bob’s Big Boy Broiler, and let the good times roll!
Here is the content for the films that was shot at the restaurant:
Films, TV Shows & Music Videos Featured at the Broiler!