The places we used to go and eat as children serve as the backdrop of our most vivid memories. We can’t forget the joy there is in going to that one burger place and eating fast food to our heart’s content! Sadly, many of these places we used to love are no longer around. These joints hold a special spot in our hearts even if the physical establishments are long gone. Let us take a look back at some of the most iconic fast food joints our hearts and stomachs both miss!
The original Beefsteak Charlie’s was located in Manhattan, and it expanded during the 1910s. Remember their slogan, “You’re gonna get spoiled?” They loved spoiling their customers rotten, perhaps a little too much as they ended up making inadequate profit. They have since closed down, but we will never forget the eat-all-you-can salad and shrimps they used to offer. The adults, meanwhile, loved indulging in wine, sangria, beer, and other alcoholic drinks. By 2010, all Beefsteak Charlie’s branches have packed up and closed.
When Howard Johnson’s was at its peak, it was called by the nickname HoJo’s. Back then, they had 1,000 locations all over the country. It was actually the biggest restaurant chain in the 60’s and 70’s. It was known for the distinctive buildings with the orange peaks, rooks, and weather vanes. Sadly, fast food places boomed, and the dinner-style joints couldn’t keep up. “The downfall of Howard Johnson’s was ultimately their competitors. Friendly’s had their ice cream, KFC was all about fried chicken, and in comparison, HoJo’s was just too basic,” a critic explained.
Official All Star Café
Established in 1995 by Planet Hollywood, Official All Star Café got many sports superstars to invest in the business. The list includes the likes of Joe Montana, Shaq, Andre Agassi, and Wayne Gretzky. The franchise had 10 locations during its heyday, and there were branches in Walt Disney World and Times Square. Sadly, the last location shut down operations in 2007.
Northwesterners likely remember VIP’s. This Oregan-based restaurant chain grew popular in 1968. At its prime, it had 53 locations! They used to be called coffee shops, though they are closer to diners like Denny’s. Branches were strategically placed near freeways, but the company started experiencing financial trouble by the time the 80’s rolled in, and they sold 35 joints to Denny’s Inc.
Horn & Hardart
Mind you, Horn & Hardart were no ordinary restaurants. They were “automats” or automated fast food restaurants. Here, you can purchase ready-to-eat food from behind the glass window, not unlike a huge vending machine. Just insert the amount indicated and hit the lever to get your freshly-prepared food. Unfortunately, the last location shut down in 1991.
Burger Chef was a hamburger restaurant chain founded by General Electric in Indianapolis back in 1954. In its heyday, it boasted of more than 1,200 locations! Sadly, they lost to McDonalds, their biggest competitor. The fast food chain overexpanded and quality declined. Many locations were later turned into Hardee’s.
Did you know that Isaly’s was launched during the 19th century? It definitely earned a spot in American history. It was best known for the chipped chopped ham and the invention of the Klondike Bar. It was named after its founder, though advertisements claimed it meant “I Shall Always Love You Sweetheart.” It was eventually sold off until it died a slow death.
In 1956, this family restaurant was founded in Miami Beach as a simple hot dog stand. It slowly grew until there were four locations in 1961. Those beer-steamed hotdogs sure sound like a dream! Rapid expansion followed, and there were 400 Lum’s in 1969. Sadly, they ended up overreaching and later filed for bankruptcy. By 1982, all the original stores were closed.
Steak and Ale
Founded in Dallas, Texas back in 1966, Steak and Ale offered diners a new way to dine. Its branding as an affordable steak restaurant worked effectively, and it was popular among businessmen. You can’t go wrong with a salad bar and cheap steaks! However, apparently you can. They failed to keep up with competitors, and they closed down all locations by 2008. In 2017, the parent company started offering franchising again so there’s still hope for a revival!
The success and fame of White Castle came with imitators. It was founded in 1921 and the year later, White Tower came along. The name wasn’t the only thing they copied – White Tower practically took everything from White Castle, from the menu to the style down to the advertising tactics. In 1950s, they had 230 locations, but they suffered from legal action. The last location was shut down in 2004.
Schrafft’s had a humble beginning as a New York candy store back in 1898. It became so famous it expanded into a proper restaurant with numerous locations. In those days, it was one of several restaurants that let unescorted women come in. In 1937, there were 43 branches on the East Coast. Sadly, they started fading out into obscurity during the 80’s.
As the name suggest, The Red Barn was famous for its architecture. The branches looked just like barns, and the walls were all red. It was popular because of its distinctiveness and at some point, the company boasted of 400 locations, both in the US and overseas. Right now, there is still a single joint in Racine, Wisconsin, but it is now called The Farm.
Minnie Pearl’s Chicken
This fast food chicken joint was founded as a KFC competitor. Entrepreneur John Jay Jooker and country musician Minni Pearl co-founded the business venture. It was successful in the beginning, and there were later 500 Minni Pearl’s Chicken joints in the country. Sadly, its downfall was brought about by cohesive recipes and menus. The last location closed shop in 1973.
The older readers might remember “Everybody goes to Gino’s.” In 1957, football superstar Gino Marchetti opened this fast food chain of restaurants. It rapidly expanded to more than 300 locations, primarily on the East Coast. The company was later sold to Marriott, and the locations were turned into Roy Rogers restaurants.
In 1957, the pancake house Sambo’s experienced quick growth on the West Coast. During the late 70’s, they had a whopping 1,100 locations in operation! However, they faced controversy as “sambo” was a derogatory term. Owners defended themselves by saying it was a derivative of their names, though people stopped buying the story and the pancakes. It went bankrupt, and the sole remaining Sambo’s is in Santa Barbara, California.
Georgia-based burger chain D’Lites was established in 1978. Less than one decade after this, they already had 100 locations under their belt. Sadly, the success ended when Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s began offering healthier items on the menu. D’Lites failed to do the same thing, and they eventually closed or rebranded their locations.
Henry’s Hamburgers was founded by an ice cream company in an effort to expand on their malts and shakes. They copied McDonald’s model and offered ten hamburgers for a dollar! Its heyday was back in the 60’s, but the company saw a decline the following decade. They failed to keep up with their competitors as they did not offer a drive-in and a diverse menu. The last remaining location is in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
Burger restaurant Sandy’s opened its first shop in central Illinois. The four founders initially wanted to open McDonald’s franchises, but the cost was exorbitant. Instead, they opened a new burger joint chain, but it only lasted 20 years before they ran into the ground.
The name of this chain came from the eponymous Popeye character! It started in Bloomington, Indiana in 1934 and later expanded to an impressive 1,500 locations all over the globe. When the owner died, the locations started vanishing one by one. Apparently, no one purchased the trademark and rights from his estate after he passed away. While it has shut down operations in the United States, there are still locations in the United Kingdom.
Wetson’s made use of the slogans “Look for the Orange Circles,” and “Buy a bagful.” Very similar to particular fast food chains, right? Wetson’s also had two clown mascots that will remind you of a certain redheaded one. Its colors and architecture also looks like Whataburger. At its peak, there were 70 locations. In 1975, the company merged with Nathan’s Famous, and the brand was then shut down.
Childs was a chain of restaurants in Canada and the United States. Originally founded in NYC back in 1889, it was named after Samuel Childs, the founder. It experienced plenty of success back in the 20’s and 30’s with 125 locations under their name. Records say they served more than 50 million meals every year! Sadly, they filed for bankruptcy in the 40’s, and the company was later converted to Hotel Corporation of America. During the 60’s, the locations were sold to different companies.
This Tex-Mex restaurant chain in Southern California was established in Riverside in 1970. The slogan used to be “Prepare food fresh. Serve customers fast. Keep place clean!” Perfect. The chain eventually merged with the Del Taco restaurant chain, and most locations were converted to Del Tacos. Nowadays, there are still two open locations in Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley.
Looking for good entertainment and good food during the late 60’s? Casa Bonita was the place to be during the late 60’s, though they only had a handful of locations. This Mexican restaurant was famous for its “eatertainment,” and you can still check it out for yourself in its location in Lakewood, though it uses a different location now.
Chi-Chi’s opened the first store in 1975, and it had 210 locations two decades later. Sadly, the company suffered after the outbreak of Hepatitis A in one location. It killed at least four individuals, forever tarnishing the reputation of the company. While there are no longer any locations in the United States, you can still visit their locations in Belgium, Kuwait, Luxembourg, and the UAE.
House of Pies
The Original House of Pies was a restaurant chain established in 1965, and they had practically any pie you could ever want. Sadly, things started going wrong in 1986, and the company filed for bankruptcy. It has not completely shut down operations, and there are still several Original House of Pies locations in operation in the Los Angeles and Houston areas.
Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse
Charlie Brown’s began as a casual dining joint in New Jersey back in 1966. It expanded regionally during the 80’s and 90’s. Sadly, things started falling apart, and they had to shut down 47 locations for restructuring. While there are several locations still around, Charlie Brown’s is now ran and owned by a different company.
Bennigan’s was an Irish restaurant opened in Atlanta, Georgia in 1976. The concept came from Norman Brinker of Steak and Ale. In 1983, he left the company and took many people with him to launch Chili’s. Brand loyalty was its Achilles’ heel, and it slowly started closing its locations. At the moment, there are still 23 locations in operation in the United States.
Kenny Rogers Roasters
Kenny Rogers Roasters opened its first store in 1991 in Florida. Four year later, the restaurant had more than 350 locations! It experienced a boost in popularity after one particular Seinfeld episode. Sadly, most North American locations have shut down by 2011, though it is doing fine in Asia. Kenny Rogers is unfortunately no longer involved with the operations, however.
Ponderosa and Bonanza Steakhouses
Ponderosa and Bonanza Steakhouses enjoyed success thanks to the hit series Bonanza. The menu offered chicken, seafood, and steak entrees plus a side buffet. At its peak, there were 600 Ponderosa and Bonanza Steakhouses locations. Unfortunately, the owner sold the business, and there are now only 20 locations in operation.
Bob’s Big Boy
During the 20th century, Bob’s Big Boy restaurants served as the symbol of America with its iconic statues located by the storefront. They were a common sight along the freeways in the country. During its height, they had 200 locations. These days, there are only 80 open locations left.
Royal Castle was a burger joint chain that came with a mom and pop vibe. They earned popularity for mini hamburgers like those offered at White Castle. The company’s motto was “Fit for a king!” At its most famous, they boasted of 175 locations. Sadly, they have since closed most locations, but you can still get your fix at the last remaining store in Miami.
Pup ‘N’ Taco
Pup ‘N’ Taco was a fast food joint focused on tacos, pastrami sandwiches, and hot dogs. They opened the first location in Pasadena in 1965, and there were 62 joints only 8 years later. They were best known for the prime locations that drew in customers and drained the company’s finances. They eventually sold Pup ‘N’ Taco to Taco Bell in 1984. The last few franchises were called “Pop ‘n’ Taco” instead.
Mighty Casey’s was an incredibly popular fast food chain of restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia. The food quality was topnotch, and their creative menu offered chopped BBQ sandwiches, Cajun wings, hamburgers, and Frankfurters. Unfortunately, they were bought out by Krystal, another fast food chain, in 1994.
Yankee Doodle Dandy
The hamburger chain Yankee Doodle Dandy began in 1966 under the leadership of brothers Bill and Chris Proyce. A decade later, the chain experienced an explosion in Chicago, and they had 27 locations at the height of their success. The restaurants were famous for their blue, red, and white motifs. Unfortunately, the brothers were eager to get out of the fast food business to pursue their dream of opening a sit-down restaurant. This is why the Yankee Doddle Dandy stores were shut down one by one. In 1988, the brothers opened four casual dining joints called Bailey’s Restaurant & Bar.
La Petite Boulangerie
La Petite Boulangerie means “The Little Bakery” in the French language. It was an American restaurant chain that initially began with two locations in 1977. PepsiCo later purchased it and franchised it out. To say the least, branches started popping up all over the place. During its height, La Petite Boulangerie had 140 locations all over the country until they sold to Mrs. Fields Original Cookies Inc., and they were ultimately bought out by Java City. By the tailend of 2000, all locations had closed.
Carrols was a burger-based fast food restaurant chain from the 50’s to the 70’s. The Club Burger was their signature menu item, and their cups made sure you never forget about it as they bore this slogan: “Home of the Club Burger.” Herb Slotnick started it during the early 60’s as an offshoot of Tastee-Freez, the ice cream franchise. He named it after Carol Marantz, the daughter of the Tastee-Freez founder. Rapid expansion followed, and it gained popularity across the country. By 1975, most locations had been converted to Burger Kings with the exception of an international location. Sadly, the last remaining Carrols in Finland was converted to a Finnish joint in 2012. Carrols Restaurant Group is currently the franchisee of Burger King.
If you were born and raised in San Francisco, you probably have fond memories of Doggie Diner with the signature smiling dachshund dressed in a bow tie and a chef’s hat. It was a small restaurant chain with branches in Oakland and San Francisco. The joint specialized in common fast food fare like hot dogs and hamburgers. Al Ross opened the first store in 1948, and it quickly spread in the area. The restaurant chain closed down in 1986, but we’ll never forget the mascot. Apparently, many of the fiberglass Doggie heads were sold, though one remains in public, and it has been turned into a landmark in San Francisco in 2006.
Ameche’s was a drive-in chain with five locations in operation back in the 60’s. Founded by NFL football star Alan Ameche, the football player mascot became a common sight in the Baltimore area. The joints were famous for the Powerhouse Burgers, sometimes described as “a banquet on a bun.” Rumor has it that it was how McDonald’s got the idea for a Big Mac, which made its debut on the menu eight year after the Powerhouse Burgers.
G. D. Ritzy’s
If you want a huge taste of nostalgia, look no further than G.D. Ritzy’s. It was founded by former Wendy’s executive Graydon Webb in 1980, and he called it a “luxury grill” accompanied by a 50’s diner feel. Apart from the classic hot dogs and hamburgers, the joint offered homemade ice cream as well. At some point, there were 120 G.D. Ritzy’s open, but the number dropped as low as three locations when it underwent liquidation in 1991. There are still several locations left, and three of these are in Evansville, Indiana.
Valle’s Steak House
Valle’s Steakhouse was definitely a restaurant that was ahead of its time. It offered customers a surf and turf meal at a relatively low price when Donald Valle opened its doors in 1933. This tactic worked, and it became so popular they had to expand during the 70’s. Unfortunately, some people blame the expansion for its downfall. However, it would be best to remember that the oil crisis was destroying the economy in those days. In 2000, its last location in Portland, Oregon finally shut down its operations.