Do You Remember These 5 Restaurants From The Past?
What was your favorite restaurant when you were growing up?
Who remembers the good ole days when going out to dinner was a big deal? I remember growing up when there was no bigger occasion besides going out to church. Even when it was just for a burger or a hot dog, it was (and frankly still is) a special treat.
That reminds me of all the classic restaurants we all grew up with. Were these places any good, or did they just capture moments of innocent times of the past? These old restaurants are from a day long gone, serving everything from classic burgers to salad bars. While most are gone, there are a few remaining as monuments to classic Americana.
Let’s look back fondly on five great classic restaurant chains.
Bonanza Steakhouse and Ponderosa Steakhouse
There was a Bonanza Steakhouse by my house, and my grandpa insisted it had the best steak he had ever had.
— Darrell Epp (@DarrellEpp) April 28, 2022
The chain was founded by Bonanza star Dan Blocker who opened a few restaurants before selling the chain three years later. At its peak, there were 600 Bonanza restaurants nationwide. Bonanza merged with the Ponderosa chain in 1989.
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There are currently only 22 Bonanza or Ponderosa steakhouses nationwide. The company is presently owned by FAT Brands, which owns the California-based Fatburger company and Johnny Rockets, Round Table Pizza, Marble Slab Ice Cream, and Twin Peaks.
Want spaghetti, a steak, a shrimp cocktail, strawberry pie, and a salad bar all in one stop? Let’s go to Shoney’s! Shoney’s is a chain of restaurants that began as franchises of the Big Boy’s hamburger restaurant.
Does anyone remember Shoney’s? In the early 1970’s it was “way down Hwy 12”. Home of the Big Boy. It was located where currently The Citizens Bank is, the corner of Eckford & Hwy 12 pic.twitter.com/GTuJEFoQKW
— Starkville in the 70’s (@Starkville70s) December 9, 2018
The restaurant peaked with over 1,800 restaurants before filing for bankruptcy in 1998. Fun fact: a Shoney’s restaurant was owned at one time by wrestling icon Scott Steiner.
RIP the Scott Steiner Shoney’s. Scott was nice enough to take a pic with us when we visited, place was great. pic.twitter.com/gnoCQrHxxG
— BostonNooga (@BostonNooga) August 2, 2020
Before they were just a string of low-budget hotels, Howard Johnson’s were the best places to stop on a road trip. Not only could you get a good night’s rest, but you would get perhaps the great gift of all, ice cream!
What “ice cream delicacy” are you getting at Howard Johnson’s in the 1950’s? pic.twitter.com/AimqTssQeM
— A.C. Miller (@ACMillerAuthor) February 1, 2022
One time there were over 1,000 HoJos across the United States. What ultimately doomed the franchise was a combination of overexpansion, bad investments, and the late 70s oil embargo that crippled the American economy and prevented many American families from traveling to HoJo locations.
Remembering Great Food, Great Times, and Great Ice Cream At The Local Howard Johnson’s Restaurant…😎👍 pic.twitter.com/p9puAqZmpu
— Gary (@DJGARYNH) February 7, 2021
All that remains are the hotels and one single Howard Johnson restaurant in Lake George, New York. However, it has few original menu items and is not connected to Wyndham Hotels, which ones the trademarks to the restaurants and hotels.
Burger Chef was the innovator of the “flame-broiled” fast-food burger. This was in contrast to most burger joints at the time that cooked burgers on a flat top grill. They also were one of the first chains to offer double burgers and customization.
If anybody is getting food, I’ll take a Big Shef from Burger Chef and a Tab. pic.twitter.com/xskeOKSbIY
— Cam Miller 🎥🇺🇦 (@cammillerfilms) December 17, 2020
Burger Chef also debuted an early kids meal called the Fun Burger that came with a small prize.
Burger Chef expanded through America, becoming second only to Mcdonald’s in franchise size. There were 1,200 locations at the chain’s peak in the 1970s. Ultimately investors sold the brand to Hardee’s. Then Hardee’s closed or converted most Burger Chef restaurants, with the last one closing in 1996.
Burger Chef experienced a bit of resurgence in name recognition due to the restaurant chain being a client of the fictional ad firm SCDP on the TV series, Mad Men.
I watch A LOT of Mad Men, so I must know, have any one of my followers had Burger Chef? If so, how was it? pic.twitter.com/PZvKPkBdPg
— A.C. Miller (@ACMillerAuthor) March 26, 2021
Bennigans attempted to capitalize on the craze of “Irish pubs” when Irish-American fusion cuisine was en vogue. Opening in the 1970s, Bennigan’s was one of the first “casual dining” restaurants that bridged the gap between fast food and a fancier restaurant. At its peak, there were more than 200 restaurants. Now there are only 15 in the United States after various bankruptcies, closings, and sales.
Who remembers their Monte Cristo sandwich?
In my early 20’s, I had a Monte Christo sandwich at a corny restaurant called Bennigans. Battered and fried ham and chz served w jam. Sandwich haunts my dreams sometimes it was so good. Learned much later its a poor rip off of the French “croque monsieur”, invented early 1900s. pic.twitter.com/rTWGWcskyv
— Michael 🌵🐂 (@redclaypines) March 25, 2019
Just writing this, I can taste the frosty, creamy deliciousness of an ice-cold A&W Root Beer drank right out of a fancy frosted mug.
— Kris (@5kl) August 4, 2021
The chain was one of the original “car-hop” drive-in restaurants and featured burgers (and the original bacon cheeseburger) and fries, and of course, rootbeer floats. There was a time when A&W’s outnumbered Mcdonald’s. The chain has grown and shrank several times, but it doesn’t have that old magic of the original locations.
What’s your favorite restaurant from yesteryear? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
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