Roundup: September 14 2022




Roundup Synopsis

Taken From Branding Iron 308 Fall 2022.

September’s Roundup saw the L.A. Corral welcome guest speaker George Geary as he cooked up a delectable feast for the palette of our nostalgia, guiding us on a trip down one of California’s best memory lanes. A celebrity chef with experience ranging from the kitchens of Disneyland to sets of “The Golden Girls”, Mr. Geary talked us through some of the highlights of his book, Made in California: the California-Born Burger Joints, Diners, Fast Food & Restaurants that Changed America. The book, available on Amazon (ISBN: 1945551917), features a plethora of California’s culinary quick-stop favorites, ranging from Bob’s Big Boy to Peet’s Coffee.
The theme of Mr. Geary’s lecture centered on the evolution, including name and location changes, of some of California’s most beloved casual eateries. One notable example was his charming anecdote about the early days of the McDonald’s restaurant. The McDonald brothers cut their teeth in the movie industry, and after not having much success in film, decided to purchase a theater in Glendora. When that venture went belly up, the brothers were left with a load of usherette uniforms. Rather than see their stock go to waste, they started a drive-in restaurant and clad some lovely carhops in the surplus duds. However, as Mr. Geary put it, “The boys liked the carhops too much… so they made the guys get out of their cars and order the food from the window.” Thus McDonald’s, originally called McDonald Brothers BBQ, was born.
Perhaps of particular interest to those of us familiar with the hot rods that descend on Burbank each week to show off their chrome at Bob’s Big Boy, is the somewhat unique story of that establishment’s early franchise model. Bob’s Pantry, as it was originally known, did not franchise its restaurants directly, but rather, it franchised the rights to its burger recipe. So, anyone among us familiar with the Eastern U.S. chains of Shoney’s or Frisch’s Big Boy now know why the burgers slung in those joints are so similar to those served at our beloved Burbank, California Bob’s… they’re actually cousins! George also told us about a similar situation with Dinah’s Family Restaurant near LAX. Apparently, Kentucky Fried Chicken once employed a similar model in franchising their product, and that’s why, long ago, Dinah’s had to pay the Colonel 4¢ for every chicken they sold.
George Geary deserves our thanks for his guided tour of California’s culinary heritage. His talk reminds us that these tasty treasures are fading fast from our California landscape. A fortunate few have been turned into landmarks and historic sites, but far too many are wasting away, awaiting the wrecking ball of progress. There are few things able to so viscerally connect us to our past as the old haunts of our youth. So, grab a copy of Made in California, call up your favorite guy or gal, hop in the old lead sled, and get out there to see these pieces of history before they’re all gone. Bon Appetit!
— Alan Griffin


Photos from the Roundup

To be posted soon!