About the Colony

Lon Allan: Bob's Big Boy to open in Atascadero

I was glad to hear that Bob’s Big Boy restaurant is going to open in the former Denny’s location on El Camino Real, right across the street from the new Colony Square and Galaxy Theatres. Each business will compliment the other.

I hate seeing business buildings standing vacant. So knowing there is a tenant going in the old restaurant site is good news for Atascadero in that it signals an improved local economy and another place for Atascaderans to go out to dinner. And it will add to the looks of that business block between Atascadero Creek and the new Highway 101/41 interchange.

The new restaurant is scheduled to open next spring at the same time as the new 10-screen theater. Interior work has already begun on a pizza restaurant going in next to the theater on the backside of the commercial center.

When I moved to Atascadero almost 45 years ago, there wasn’t a place you could get a slice of pie and a cup of coffee after about 9 p.m. There were eateries here, such as Martha’s BBQ, Richard’s Log Cabin, Fosters Freeze, Virgil’s Drive In, A&W and even Steinhauer’s Bakery. I remember a nice little steakhouse restaurant on Curbaril Avenue as you headed east toward the Salinas River bridge.

None of them remained open into the evening.

All that changed in about 1973, when Sambo’s built a brand-new restaurant from the ground up that is today’s empty Denny’s. The new restaurant was an instant hit.

In fact, a couple nights before its official opening, manager Ron Goupil and his wife decided to offer some free snacks to anyone who wanted to drop by in the early evening. The line went out the front door and almost to the Atascadero Creek bridge. Atascaderans were hungry for a new sit-down restaurant.

Sambo’s became the most popular local eatery that year. There were people there all hours of the night. Many service clubs met there, from the Chamber of Commerce to the Atascadero Kiwanis.

Sambo’s was followed shortly by a Bob’s Big Boy about two blocks south, in a building demolished only five years ago to make way for the recently completed freeway interchange project that cleaned up the entire intersection, with a new Rite-Aid on one corner and Colony Square and Galaxy Theatres holding down the other corner along with the bank building.

In fact, with the new theater project, the two-story bank building looks more in scale now.The news about the two new restaurants comes on the heels of the reopening of the restaurant at the Carlton as Shockley’s and the opening of Kelly-Moore Paints. Things are looking up for Atascadero’s downtown.

Reach Lon Allan at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.