Post #612 Gone But Maybe Not Forgotten?

November 25, 2018 at 8:04 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Have you ever been driving somewhere and seen a corner that doesn’t look quite right?  Like there’s a ghost of something that used to be there?  Then you remember it used to be the home of one of your favorite restaurants, and you’re faintly regretful that it’s not there anymore even though you likely haven’t thought about it in ten years.  It happens to me quite a bit, and I usually try to remember my favorite order from the place and when I was last there.  I’ve read that a new restaurant is the riskiest business venture there is, and that 75% of all restaurants close within their first five years.

Then a few days ago, I read an article listing a bunch of restaurants that have disappeared over recent years.  I thought it would be fun to look through and see if I recognized any of them.  It was disturbing how many I knew.

Burger Chef – Okay, I haven’t seen this one since I was a kid, but I do remember their burgers and their signs.  They started out regionally but expanded by leaps and bounds.  At one point, just before they were bought out by Hardees, they were all over the country.  When we moved from New York state to Arizona, we stopped there fairly often.

Sambo’s – Okay, we had one of these in the little town I grew up in and we went there all the time.  Good food, plenty of it, and cheap.  However, it’s name did it in.  As the nation became more sensitive and aware of hidden prejudices, business dropped off.  As business dropped off, quality declined.  The last time I was there, I was with some friends, and one of them had ordered a burger.  The tomato slice looked about three years passed its sell-by date.  It was so horrid, he sliced it into pieces so they couldn’t recycle it.  They were bought out by Denny’s.  Probably a good thing.

Chi Chi’s – I first bumped into this restaurant when I moved to DC.  I was looking for a good Mexican restaurant and someone suggested this on.  I looked into it and thought it sounded good, and there was one near where I lived and worked.  I invited a friend to go with me.  She’d grown up in Corpus Christi and was Mexican herself.  I figured we’d pick it apart and have fun.  Her response was classic.  “Why would they call a restaurant that?”  The food was formulaic, and the flavor was not outstanding.  I described it to friends back home as tomato sauce with a jalapeno pepper.  They did make an outstanding salsa and fresh made tortilla chips.  So much so that when the restaurant closed, they continued to sell the jarred salsa in stores.  It’s still around.

Howard Johnson’s – Affectionately nicknamed HoJo’s, it was prolific during the 70s and 80s for it’s motel and restaurant combination and its distinctive orange roof.  It was a popular venue for manager meetings due to its large dining area.  I was involved in a few of those manager meeting myself back in the day.  I wasn’t too taken with the food or the atmosphere, but I guess its reliability and price was appealing to businesses.  Gone now as it fell out of fashion and other meeting places took their place.

Kenny Rogers Roasters – The only time I ever ran into this one, oddly enough, was in China.  It seems the Chinese like their fried chicken; the KFC always had a line starting at 7am.  Roasters never had the lines, but had really good food.  My first trip I walked passed one every day and stopped in several times for take out.  They treated me like a king every time.  Not sure why it never took off.  Too much competition, I guess.

Bob’s Big Boy – Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory loved the burger at Bob’s Big Boy.  I liked just about everything else.  There was one directly across the street from me and down one block when I first moved to DC.  Their portions were large, well cooked, and delicious.  But they couldn’t compete, for some reason.  Slowly, they closed restaurants all over.  They’re not technically defunct.  There are five still open in So. California.

Bennigan’s – This was one of the up scale family style restaurants that proliferated in the 80s and 90s.  They were a great date night place and the yuppies loved it.  Brunch was also a favorite time for the restaurant.  But it didn’t stand out from the pack and eventually was bought out by competitors.  I always enjoyed the place, but found wait staff to be rude on occasion.  Maybe that’s why they didn’t last, who knows?

Ponderosa/Bonanza Steakhouses – I LOVED these places.  The way it was set up, you stopped at the front and ordered your entrée.  They had everything!  I always ordered a steak, because, why not?  Once inside the restaurant, you sat down wherever with a little flag stand that held a number.  From that point, you had three or four different buffets that you were welcome to enjoy.  Soon, your entrée arrived and you just hoped you weren’t full from all the sides you had eaten.  There was even a dessert buffet.  Free refills on your drinks as long as it wasn’t alcohol.  So, so, good!  I think once I had the fried chicken.  Yum!

A&W – Who doesn’t know A&W?  The best root beer in the world.  Defined the drive-in when I was a kid.  Specialty burgers and the best root beer floats going!  So far as I know, there’s just one left open and it’s in Rhode Island!  If you know of any others, let me know.

Steak and Ale – This was my favorite steakhouse of all times.  It was a lodge style ambience with a huge fireplace and lots of wood fixtures etc.  Thick steaks, thick fries, great salads, and home made dark bread made with honey.  Fresh salted butter to go with it.  A terrific wine selection and desserts to die for.  I have no idea why they went under, but they did file bankruptcy way back when.  My favorite meal was the herb crusted prime rib and Cesar salad.


Test time!  Who remembers any of these restaurants?  Who has any to add?  A trip down memory lane is always fun.

As Always,

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