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Chain Restaurants of Yore


markk
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Does anyone remember The Round Table?

The meal began with a large tureen of soup for the table. So, of course, I loved it.

Similarly, Hungry Hunter's Steakhouse on the westcoast started with a beautiful turren of soup, then a salad that came a stunning lazy-susan of accountrement; grated cheese, diced scallions, cubed ham, chopped hard-boiled egg, etc... Then came the large junks of meat (usually prime rib for our family).

This was 30 years ago and I loved it -- especially the soup tureen!

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Similarly, Hungry Hunter's Steakhouse on the westcoast... This was 30 years ago and I loved it

I was about to ask "Can I have been to a Hungry Hunter in San Diego in 1994, or am I confusing it with something else?" and then I googled, and it's there, now called Hunter's Steakhouse, part of a chain that owns Hungry Hunter, Mountan Jack's Steakhouse, The Cliff House, Carvers Steaks & Chops, and The Whaling Company.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Similarly, Hungry Hunter's Steakhouse on the westcoast... This was 30 years ago and I loved it

I was about to ask "Can I have been to a Hungry Hunter in San Diego in 1994, or am I confusing it with something else?" and then I googled, and it's there, now called Hunter's Steakhouse, part of a chain that owns Hungry Hunter, Mountan Jack's Steakhouse, The Cliff House, Carvers Steaks & Chops, and The Whaling Company.

The Hungry Hunter chain just sort of drifted apart. You'll find a lot of them kept the word "Hunter" in their new names. There used to be a Hungry Hunter in Mission Valley at the west end of Hotel Circle (I just Googled it and Google says that restaurant is still called "Hungry Hunter" but another Google search says the restaurant's name is "Hunter's Steakhouse" so who knows?). And there was another in El Cajon off Fletcher Parkway across from Parkway Plaza that's now called Red Oak Steakhouse.

Haven't been to either since the chain name was dropped.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Here's a real obscure one: when I was growing up in the suburbs of New York in the 1960s, there was a local fried chicken delivery chain called Chicken Delight. I have fond memories of their jaunty little jingle: "Don't cook tonight, call Chicken Delight!" Pretty decent chicken, too, as best as I can recall.

Oh, my God, Chicken Delight. We had 'em too on the West Coast. Same jingle, I can even remember the tune...................which will now probably be stuck in my head for the rest of the day :wacko:

They must've been nationwide. I remember that bloody jingle on St. Louis radio in the 60s.

Just how big were they, I wonder? And what made them go under?

Yes! Chicken Delight! I would beg my parents for it when they went out for the evening and we kids ate at home! I can remember the smell and I think they were served on heavy paper plates...to go had one plates stapled atop another!

Hmmmmm!

Edited by rconnelly (log)
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Here in the Upper Midwest, the Bridgeman's name is currently used on a co-brand ice cream franchise, but it was a chain of soda fountain/family-style restaurants, headquartered in Duluth, MN, until at least the mid 1970's.

Bridgeman's locations were always clean, well lit, and relatively inexpensive, making them the perfect place to take your Granny to lunch. :wink:

Kids liked eating there too. The hard pack ice cream made great malts, sodas and cones, and was available for take out. Their "Butter Brickle" was my favorite. :biggrin:

I can remember being impressed with the "sophistication" of their Club House Sandwich, probably because it used three :shock: slices of toast, and had extra long toothpicks with colored cellophane frills to hold it together. :cool:

SB (feeling old) :sad: (and rightfully so) :laugh:

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Dog n Suds drive in

Fabulous root beer, onion rings and a burger called the Texas burger that if I tried to eat now I'd probably have a heart attack!

Geez, that was the first one that popped into my mind when I read the first post! Yes,

Dog n Suds! Also similar but not as fun, A&W Root Beer stand. I was thinking too that

the Magic Pan for crepes was quite fun in it's day.

They actually still have both in Williams Lake, BC although I'm pretty sure the Dog n Suds chain is no more and this place just carried on with the name (and location). Still very popular with the car cruiser set!

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Does anyone in the DC area remember 'Red Barn'?

you can still see the shells of this defunct chain

housing businesses in that distinct barn shilouette.

i think Red Barn was an east coast deal.

i'm pretty sure they sold

'Pappy Parker's Freid Chicken'.

i was just a kid, so memory may not serve me correctly.

ETA:

All things Red Barn

Edited by akebono (log)

Nonsense, I have not yet begun to defile myself.

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Memories. . . I grew up in NYC, so I fondly remember. . .

From my childhood:

Horn & Hardart. I loved their macaroni & cheese, and their baked beans with hot dogs.

Chock Full O' Nuts. On shopping trips into "the city" with my mother. I was never much on the cream cheese sandwiches, but I'm old enough to remember when they offered lobster salad and crabmeat salad sandwiches (real lobster or crabmeat -- this was before the days of surimi) for all of 35 cents!!! And their donuts to dunk in a cup of coffee as a special treat.

The lunch counters at the 5-and-10s, particularly Kresge (sp?) on 14th Street near 5th Avenue. My first taste of baking powder biscuits and banana splits. The waitresses wore white uniforms, frilly white aprons, and hairnets.

I was never a Schraftt's girl, but I do remember their popovers.

Dubrow's Cafeteria. We ate at the branch on Kings Highway in Brooklyn. Overstuffed deli sandwiches on onion rolls, or kasha varnishkes (buckwheat groats with bowtie pasta).

Howard Johnson's. There was one near my grandmother's house, where I got ice cream sodas (my favorite combination was pistachio ice cream with chocolate syrup). And remember the ice cream scoops were cone-shaped? And my mother sometimes used to buy their frozen fried clam strips.

When I was older:

Zum-Zum. Yes, their wursts. And their birch beer. Their restaurants were good for me to lunch on my own because they had counter seating and were reasonably priced.

The Magic Pan. My favorite place to meet friends. I'd usually order the spinach crepe and mushroom crepe combo, and a chocolate-topped ice cream crepe for dessert. I also loved their mandarin orange spinach salad.

And, yes, I remember the Chicken Delight jingle too, though we never ordered their chicken!

Edited by SuzySushi (log)

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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I miss Bob's Big Boy.

I miss the actual Bob's Big Boy statue. I loved seeing it and, up until the point where I was actually made to eat the food, I always asked my parents to take me there. The food, at least by the time I got to eat there when the place was on its last legs, was horrendous. I'm sure the food was good at some point, but by the time I got there, after much begging, it was really bad and went right along with their really bad service.

But I really miss seeing the Big Boy alongside major thoroughfares and the now seemingly sad excitement that the sightings elicited.

HMS Host (formerly Host Marriott, the company that got the restaurants, the institutional contracts and all its former parent's debt when Marriott Corporation split itself in two; Marriott kept the valuable stuff, namely, the hotels and the land they sat on) owns the rights to the name "Bob's Big Boy" and its trademarks; you will still find "Bob's Big Boy" restaurants at turnpike service plazas they manage or operate concessions in.

One of these is the Maryland House on the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway (I-95) outside Bel Air, Md. Unfortunately, it wasn't open when we rolled into there at 2 a.m. this past Sunday morning.

In the South, I think these restaurants were called Shoney's. Isn't Shoney's still around?

One thing I noted, upon reading some of the names being bandied about, is that I can't think of a single chain that has improved over time. Can you? You take any of the old-time places from Orange Julius to Arthur Treacher's . . . even McDonald's and Arby's, and they all used to be pretty good in the 1970s (that's as far back as my memory goes). And now it seems that with each passing year they get worse.

No, but I think that White Castle has remained very consistent and has not declined over the decades.

Here's a real obscure one: when I was growing up in the suburbs of New York in the 1960s, there was a local fried chicken delivery chain called Chicken Delight. I have fond memories of their jaunty little jingle: "Don't cook tonight, call Chicken Delight!" Pretty decent chicken, too, as best as I can recall.

Chicken Delight was obviously national. I remember that slogan and jingle too. There was exactly one Chicken Delight in the entire Kansas City metro area -- at 43d and Main streets in Kansas City.* Yet it advertised all the time on television in the '60s.

Godfather's Pizza....

The thing I remember about Godfather's -- which I wasn't around for when it got started -- was that when the Clinton health-care proposal was being hacked to death by a thousand cuts, the CEO of Godfather's Pizza -- a black man, BTW -- was the point person against whenever TV news programs decided to do pieces examining the plan's impact on small businesses.

His counterpart on the pro side was often Judy Wicks, proprietor of the White Dog Cafe here in Philadelphia. She usually said at some point in the discussion that all the plan's approval would mean is that she might have to raise her prices by a dollar.

Does anyone in the DC area remember 'Red Barn'?

you can still see the shells of this defunct chain

housing businesses in that distinct barn shilouette.

i think Red Barn was an east coast deal.

i'm pretty sure they sold

'Pappy Parker's Freid Chicken'.

i was just a kid, so memory may not serve me correctly.

I know this chain wasn't strictly an East Coast deal. We used to go to one at 61st and Prospect all the time when I was a kid. The Kansas City stores sure didn't sell fried chicken.

Now, if you want to truly get regional:

There have to be some Missourians and Kansans on this board old enough to remember Smaks, right? And that talking-seal mascot they used in their TV ads? (I think he was called "Smaky".) Smaks was Kansas City's homegrown answer to McDonald's. For those of you who are familiar with Winstead's -- either by having eaten there or having read Calvin Trillin wax rhapsodic about it -- Smaks hamburgers were as thin as Winstead's and as greasy as Winstead's but nowhere near as tasty as Winstead's.

And then there was the hamburger chain that led to a great deal of gender confusion on my part. That's right, Sandy's. They only operated on the Kansas side of the metropolitan area, and I think the chain as a whole had stores only in the western part of the Central Plains. Their signs featured a Scottish lass dressed in a kilt, which takes the gender confusion one step further, for kilts are male items of clothing.

*Quick usage lesson for those of you who haven't heard me expound on this: Kansas City is in Missouri. Kansas City, Kansas is in Kansas. I learned this weekend from another expat--one of five I ran into at the same afterparty at the Capitol City Brewing Company in DC--that Kansas City Kansans now refer to their hometown as "the 'dotte" (truncation of Wyandotte County, which is now coterminous with the City of Kansas City, Kansas).

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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The nearest chain restaurant to my home when I was in high school was Henri's. It had nothing in particular to distinguish it from other burger palaces except for the friend who worked there. If we "happened" to show up at the end of his shift, we got the shared benefit of the bagful of burgers that he brought with him as he emerged from the employees' entrance.

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Mr. Steak

Red Barn

Shakey's Pizza

Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor (although I think there may be a couple left in California)

Ponderosa still exists. So does Bonanza. So does Bridgeman's (co-branded with Ember's). A Little Ceasar's just opened up near my house.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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[...]

Shakey's Pizza

[...]

The first free restaurant meal I ever ate was at a Shakey's across from the KU Medical Center in KCK.

Said Shakey's was also a 5-minute drive from Pembroke-Country Day, where I attended high school. Seniors and juniors in good academic standing had off-campus privileges, and this place was popular with my classmates for its pizza buffet on Tuesdays at lunchtime.

It probably won't surprise you to hear that a popular stunt kids pulled all the time went by the name 'dine 'n' dash.' I don't think I need to explain to you what it entailed; suffice it to say that the walls of the senior class candy store were papered with restaurant checks.

The variant on this at Shakey's was for one boy in a large group to purchase the buffet, take his plate, and go through the line, then hand the plate off to the others in his party.

The first time I went there, I went with a classmate, and both of us paid for our plates. A bunch of others didn't. Management chose this day to crack down on the plate-sharing. They kicked all the freeloaders out of the place and gave those of us who paid for our own plates a voucher good for a free lunch buffet at a future date.

I guess that virtue isn't always its own reward -- sometimes they give you extra recognition anyway.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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