New Big Boy induces delicious nostalgia trip among Clevelanders

Steve Facione was on the front lines of hunger-induced nostalgia last week when the new Mayfield Heights Big Boy opened its doors.

About 700 customers braved lake-effect snow on Feb. 9 to get a taste of the locally-loved restaurant chain's original double-decker burgers and milkshakes, reports Facione, vice president of franchise development at Big Boy Restaurants.

"Some people drove 45 minutes to get here," says Facione. "It was a great day."

A region-wide hankering for comfort food helped bring the iconic franchise back to the market, Facione notes. Over the last few years, the company rep has received numerous emails from Clevelanders asking when the brand would get an East Side location. Previously, Valley View and Brookpark had the only restaurants in the area.

"We had guests coming from Mentor to Valley View," says Facione. "That stirred our curiosity."

The new Big Boy's Burgers and Shakes is located in a storefront across from Eastgate Shopping Center that previously held Menchies Frozen Yogurt. Gone are the car hops from the drive-in Big Boys of the 1950s through the 1970s. Nor does the new location have the grinning, overall-clad mascot common to many restaurants in the chain. However, the  Americana menu is still very much in place, replete with tasty burgers slathered in special white sauce and an ice cream cake soon to be named - as it once was - the Sweetie Pie 

Janet Rice has fond memories of Big Boy's good food and good times. The Chagrin Falls resident spent her teenage years in the mid-60s hanging out at the restaurant with friends, or having a burger and shake following a movie date.

"In grade school, my parents would get Big Boy for lunch," says Rice. "It was such a treat."

Rice took a delicious nostalgia trip to the Mayfield Heights location last weekend with her husband, Joe. The couple picked up a pair of double-deckers, an experience almost exactly as Rice remembered from her girlhood.

"My thing was always the sauce," she says. "I never had sauce like that, and it was spot-on."

Facione expects many more burger orders for a restaurant set to stay open seven days a week. The bustling location hired 40 employees, including greeters, shift managers and line cooks. Those workers could be the foundation for other stores once they go online. Willoughby, Avon, Solon and Strongsville are among possible future sites, says the franchise VP.

"Acknowledgement should go to our guests who remember the brand," says Facione. "We have to make sure to live up to that good reputation."

Rice, for one, is planning a return journey with her granddaughter this weekend. "I want to see if she thinks (the restaurant) is as great as I remember at her age," she says.

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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