Fans of Bob’s Burgers are in luck: There’s a combination Bob’s Burgers pop-up restaurant and art gallery in Los Angeles that’s as close as most fans will get to eating in the show’s eponymous burger restaurant. The temporary installation, which will be open in Los Angeles’ Chinatown neighborhood until December 10, is already attracting crowds–and, as I discovered when I visited it on opening day, a very Belcher-like experience.
The pop-up consists of an installation of Bob’s Burger-themed art sponsored by Bento Box, the production company behind Bob’s Burgers, and a burger stand offering one special burger by a rotating cast of chefs per day. Although the burgers aren’t technically Bob’s Burgers burgers (and publicists for the event were very keen to note that, and that the focus is on the art show), the burger on the day I visited was the “Mustard On The Beet” burger: A turkey burger with mustard sauce, spinach, and beet-cranberry relish. Combos at the restaurant, including fries and soda, sell for $15. They’re also accompanied by very Bob’s Burgers-looking signs.
For visitors at the gallery’s opening party the night before, chef Isa Fabro of Unit 120 (the pop-up restaurant space offering the burgers) was making Filipino-influenced “Wu-Tang Killa Bees-tek Burgers” with bistek patties, toyomansi-stewed onions and queso de bola with lamote chips and calamansi juice.
According to Loren Bouchard, creator of Bob’s Burgers, the collaboration arose from a “mutual appreciation society” between his team and Unit 120’s Fabro and chef Alvin Cailan. Cailan attended a Bob’s Burgers table read previously, and Bouchard tells Co.Create “It’s always extra special when a chef is a fan. We’re not super foodies, but it makes us feel validated in some way when an actual chef loves Bob’s.”
Although there are some differences from the burger restaurant in the cartoon show–Unit 120 is a take-out window in a Chinatown shopping mall food court with tables in a central courtyard rather than a proper stand-alone restaurant, the Bob’s Burger experience is solid. Lasa, another pop-up restaurant next door, is converted into a temporary art gallery showing Bob’s Burger-themed pieces from artists working on the show.
As a piece of marketing, it was brilliant. I visited shortly after Unit 120 and the art gallery opened up at 11 a.m. on their first day of business. At 11:15 a.m., there was already a huge line for burgers, and the art gallery was packed with visitors checking out the art, which was on sale for prices primarily in the $75-$600 range–positively accessible for an art exhibition affiliated with a major network television show. The art is all Bob’s Burger-themed, by artists who work with Bento Box and on the program.
Meanwhile, the burgers themselves are made by a who’s who of downtown Los Angeles chefs who run everything from Indian gastropubs to Jewish delis to poke restaurants for their day jobs. The choice of venues is strategic; Unit 120 has become known for pop-ups offering everything from Detroit-style pizza to Filipino barbecue. It’s located in a mall in downtown Los Angeles’ Chinatown neighborhood, Far East Plaza, which has recently become a hipster dining destination thanks to on-site restaurants opened by, among others, Roy Choi and Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker.
Bouchard adds that “This is the first time we’ve done an art show and the first time we had chefs step into the burger arena and fool around with burgers inspired by our silly burgers of the day. That’s satisfying too–Seeing art displayed on our wall, and having this at Unit 120 was perfect because it’s an incubator. Alvin is trying to give people a shot who would not otherwise get it, which thrills me.”
Now where’s the “It’s Your Funeral Home & Crematorium” pop up?