Dining Out: Iconic ’50s diner alive and well at Boppin’ Bo’s

Food not exceptional, but atmosphere recalls a carefree time




Why: Boppin’ Bo’s has been a fixture of the Clark County food scene since 2004. The family-owned diner has nine food booths at the Clark County Fair every year; the rest of the year, they serve up the greasy burgers and thick shakes that you’d expect to find at the fair. Fine dining, it isn’t. But it’s not supposed to be. Bo’s isn’t about the food, it’s about the ’50s.

Atmosphere: Bo’s doesn’t so much evoke the ’50s as it serves to enshrine it in a plastic-covered, linoleum-floored museum. Barely a square foot of wall space is left bare, and the throngs of Marilyns and Elvises that watch you eat your California Dreamin’ Burger hearken to the bygone era of rock ‘n’ roll and fast cars. It’s dusty and has its own sense of charm.

What I tried: My dining companion and I tried the Ruby Baby Reuben (sandwich), California Dreamin’ Burger, Lucy Grilled Cheese, and Hot Pastrami Yeah! All of these came in a mesh basket with checkered paper liners, and were surrounded in a moat of fries and a pickle spear. The fries were thin, perhaps a quarter of the size of your average fast-food fry, but with all the regular grease.

Let’s start with the Hot Pastrami Yeah! The pastrami reminded me of the dried corned beef my mom used to use in her recipes. A swipe of mustard was slathered on the bun, and it was layered with Swiss cheese.

The California Dreamin’ Burger is topped with avocado, Swiss cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and onion; it tastes just like you’d expect.

My dining companion is a Boppin’ Bo’s regular and his choice, the Lucy Grilled Cheese, is a trifecta of different cheeses melted between two slices of sourdough, and is one of his personal favorites.

The Reuben sandwich was a bit of a disappointment. The ingredients, though amply supplied, were piled into a construction that only somewhat resembled a sandwich. The bottom slice of rye was soggy, and required several attempts before it could be scooped into a manageable arrangement.

To wash it down we ordered one chocolate malt and one blackberry malt for dessert. A shake is hard to do wrong, and these were no exception. Both were delicious.

Menu highlights beyond what I tried: Fries and Gravy puts a twist on two common companions. The Graceland Special, a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich, sounded adventuresome. Although Elephant Ears are out of season, they’re on the menu. Boppin’ Bo’s is one of the few places that still offers liver and onions.

Other observations: The golden age of diners is long over, and Boppin’ Bo’s is one of the last holdouts of the nifty ’50s. In the menu, owners Bo and Betty Bowman ask you to “forget your worries and what life sometimes throws at you, and remember a time when life was easier.” The nostalgic atmosphere of Boppin’ Bo’s — with its checkered charm and ranks of icons — tries hard to distract us, and we couldn’t help being persuaded into conversations about our favorite midcentury moments. Even if the food is nothing special, it’s a unique experience. I’d go back for the shake.

Cost: Appetizers range from $3.95 for a side of fries, up to $10.95 for a combo platter. Most burgers cost $8.95. Hot dogs are $3.95 and $4.95. Sandwiches are $5.95 to $8.95. Salads are $8.95 except for the Bo’s Dinner Salad that comes with a scone, which is $4.95. Soup is $2.95 for a cup and $3.95 for a bowl. Chef’s specials are less than $12. Kids’ menu items cost $4.25. Shakes and fountain drinks start at $2.95 and top out at $4.95. Sundaes range from $5.95 to $19.95. Daily specials are served 4:30 p.m. until close.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Telephone: 360-883-4900.

Where: 7809 N.E. Vancouver Plaza Drive, Suite 110.

Health score: Boppin’ Bo’s Malt Shop and Grill received a score of 8 on Feb. 13. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants with a score of 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.