Malls, waterparks, clubs, and movie halls are some of the places that come into mind when we think of outdoor trips, but this wasn’t always the case.
There were times when these dominating buildings and fun parks were not typical. Those were the times when people preferred restaurants and burger joints for get-togethers. Unfortunately, with time, trends change, and most of these places disappeared into thin air. We kept moving on, but deep down, there are still memories of these places in many minds. There are untold stories of the rise and demise of many famous restaurants. You might remember the restaurant that you visited in your childhood, which then got shut and never opened again.
Long before the era of smartphone applications and online ordering, these restaurants were a significant part of every life. They were the center for teenager hang-outs, couple romantic dinners and family get together. They served some of the most authentic tastes and witnessed the beginning of many life long bonds. We don’t know which were appreciated more, but we do know that all of these places are missed. Well, here are 40 such restaurants that were once the grand attraction of their customers and states but do not exist anymore. Some of these held more than a few hundred locations before they shut.
Beefsteak Charlie’s opened its doors in Manhattan, New York, way back in the year 1910. The restaurant started getting popular and rose to fame when they became known for taking care of their customers by spoiling them.
How did they spoil them? By providing patrons with all-you-can-eat salad and shrimp. Then, of course, there were all the alcoholic accompaniments to come with the meal, like sangria, beer, and wine.
Generous to a Fault
If you think this sounds just too good to be true, you are right. Beefsteak Charlie’s was too generous and took care of their customers a bit too much. It was the reason they couldn’t earn a decent profit in the end.
The establishment tried to live up to its own slogan of “you’re going to get spoiled,” but unfortunately, the restaurant just couldn’t keep up with its losses. Eventually, the restaurant had to put all that “spoiling” to an end and close its doors for the last time in 2010.
Howard Johnson’s, which might be better known as Hojo’s, was one of the largest restaurant chains in America in the 1960s and 1970s. The chain was known for its iconic and unique buildings, orange roofs, weather vanes, and their peaks.
With over 1,000 locations in the country, they soon became a fan favorite of many Americans. The chain had a unique twist when it came to the patron’s dining experience.
The Downfall of Hojo’s
All good things come to an end. And Hojo’s end came after several years in the business when the chain started to fall behind its competitors. It didn’t leave much room for any growth and innovation.
“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,” according to one critic.
Official All-Star Café
We have all been to Planet Hollywood at least once, but did you know that they own The Official All-Star Café? The restaurant was founded in 1995. The restaurant was heavily invested in by several famous athletes.
Wayne Gretzky, Joe Montana, Shaquille O’Neal, Ken Griffey, Jr., Andre Agassi, and Monica Seles sign on to invest in the concept. In its prime, the café grew to 10 locations, which included areas like Times Square and Walt Disney World.
The All-Star Café Closed its Doors
Planet Hollywood got several sports icons to invest in the café. Of those names, we mentioned. Most of them were quite popular during that era. And it was also an incentive for people to come to the restaurant.
Much like The Hard Rock Cafe chain, Planet Hollywood’s mission was to come up with a fun place for sports fans to dine that had a theme to match. But, the concept did not last long. Its popularity began to die down, and they shut down all the locations in 2007.
VIP’s was a popular fast-food chain based in Oregon. It opened its doors in 1968 and became popular quite fast. VIP’s was known for being one of the largest restaurant franchisees to be both a coffee shop and a diner.
VIP’s had 53 locations in the country, with people flocking in from all over the place to test the new chain out. In the middle of a road trip, this was an excellent choice for a rest and a meal.
Closing its Doors
VIP’s was trying to copy the same concept and dining experience of Denny’s, where they would serve breakfast at any time of the day or night. Since most of VIP’s locations were found along the highway, the spot became an accessible dining destination for travelers.
Unfortunately, the diner began heading down the road of bankruptcy. They started to decline in sales in the early 1980s and sold 35 of their franchise’s locations to Denny’s.
Horn & Hardart
Philadelphia’s Joseph Horn and New Orleans-raised Frank Hardart opened their first restaurant together on December 22, 1888. It became the first automated, fast food joint, also known as “Automats.” Here, you could buy food already laid out and prepared from behind a glass window.
Horn & Hardart was a food services company noted for operating the first automats in Philadelphia and New York City. The unique experience kept people flocking back for more, which is the reason why it became so famous.
Although Horn & Hardart’s automatic and convenient set up seemed like the easiest way to get some food on the go without needing to line up behind a checkout counter, it just did not work out the way they had hoped.
The last location closed down in 1991. The last Horn & Hardart Automat in New York closed in April 1991. Horn & Hardart still had a catalog division, renaming themselves as Hanover Direct in 1993.
Burger Chef was founded in 1954 by the company General Electric in Indianapolis. The fast-food chain had more than 1,200 locations in the country during its prime, and quickly became a popular place to eat.
With all their success, you may be wondering what happened? Maybe if we tell you that its biggest competitor was McDonald’s, then you might be able to figure out how it went down.
They Couldn’t Compete
Even though Burger Chief was very popular, it started losing quality and eventually lost to its competition – the superpower of McDonald’s, their golden-arched competitor.
After losing tons of money, the chain was sold to General Foods, and then they sold it once more. After all the changes were made, the restaurant was rebranded and reborn as Hardee’s.
Isaly’s was founded a long time ago, back in the early 1900s. Isaly’s was a family-owned chain of dairies and restaurants that started in Mansfield, Ohio. But they branched out to start locations throughout the American Midwest.
From the early 20th century to the 1970s, it is still known today as one of the best American restaurants/diners. They were known for their chipped chopped ham, but also became famous for inventing the Klondike Bar!
The restaurant was named after the founder, William Isaly, but in advertisements, the word “Isaly’s” was meant to stand for “I shall always love you, sweetheart.”
The company was sold off a few times over the years until it slowly started losing its fire. But regardless of having to close down its doors, Isaly’s remains a fixture in American history.
Lum’s was founded in 1956 in Miami Beach, starting out as a regular hot dog stand. It then slowly turned into something a lot bigger. Stuart and Clifford S. Perlman purchased Lum’s hot dog stand for $10,000.
The owners started with four locations in 1961, and Lum’s was best known for their beer-steamed hot dogs. After becoming a success as a hot dog stand, the owners decided to expand the business.
By 1982, They Were Gone
Lum’s grew in popularity almost overnight and got to over 400 company-owned franchise restaurants by 1969, which included spots in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Europe. However, sometimes growing too fast can be detrimental.
Because of their quick expansion, they overdid it and were unable to sustain their reach. So they were forced to file for bankruptcy. All the original stores ended up being closed by 1982.
Steak and Ale
Steak and Ale was an American casual dining restaurant that was first founded in 1966 in Dallas, Texas. The restaurant chain offered diners a new vibe. It was marketed as cheap and affordable, becoming became very popular very fast.
Another reason why people loved Steak and Ale so much was because the steak was always to die for. And we all know how a good steak is going to make you want to head back to the restaurant for more.
In an attempt to keep up with the competition, they started to lower their prices and offer free meals. In the end, the plan failed, and the last location was closed in 2008. But in 2017, the parent company started offering franchises.
Steak and Ale went bankrupt in 2008. But the brand, recipes, and the other intellectual property associated with the chain is currently owned by Legendary Restaurant Brands, LLC, which is the parent company for Bennigan’s.
White Castle was founded in 1921, and in 1922, its imitator showed up: White Tower. So if you’re wondering, what is the difference between them? There isn’t a whole lot, unfortunately.
Unfortunately for White Tower, it wasn’t just the concept that was taken from White Castle. They took a lot more as “inspiration” and ended up getting into some legal trouble.
They Got Sued
White Tower took pretty much everything from the original White Castle except their kitchen sink. White Tower took the same advertising methods, style, and even the building’s architecture.
Their fast-food chain turned into something of a photocopy of the original. 230 locations existed around in the 50s, but many closed down because of the legal actions made against them. What a surprise. The last location closed in 2004.
Schrafft’s started out as a candy, chocolate and cake company, which was based in Sullivan Square, Charlestown, Massachusetts. The famous neon sign became a significant landmark in Boston.
It didn’t take long for Schrafft’s to turn into a fully-fledged restaurant with multiple locations in the country and ongoing growth. Fun fact: at the time, it was one of the few restaurants that allowed unescorted women.
Went Down in the 80s
Schrafft’s had at least 43 locations on the East Coast alone by the year 1937, which were mostly in New York City. But there were also quite a few locations of the chain in Philadelphia and Boston.
The company started going downhill by the 80s. With all the competition that they were up against at the time, Schrafft’s just wasn’t going to stand a chance. So they decided to close shop.
Red Barn was a fast-food restaurant chain that was founded in 1961 in Springfield, Ohio, by Don Six, Martin Levine, and Jim Kirst. As the name of the place indicates, Red Barn is known for its red barns.
The exterior walls were always painted red to give the impression of being a typical barn. It means that customers could never mistake the place for any other restaurant, and so it became quite popular.
Only One Left
Red Barn had over 400 locations in America and overseas during its prime. Today, there is only one more location left, and it sits in Wisconsin, Racine, and the name was changed from Red Barn to The Farm.
The Red Barn experience was refreshing, which is why it gained so much popularity in its day. People kept wanting to come back, not just for the food but for the enjoyable dining experience.
Minnie Pearl’s Chicken
Minnie Pearl’s was just one of the many chicken-based restaurants. Its biggest competitor was none other than KFC. Minnie Pearl’s Chicken was one of the few fast-food chains that were built to compete with KFC.
The chain was co-founded by John Jay Hooker and the famous country singer Minnie Pearl herself, which is how they came up with the name, duh! Have you heard any of her songs?
Success Before the Failure
Minnie Pearl’s was a huge success, and at one point, there were more than 500 restaurants in the country. But, because of the lack of foresight in establishing cohesive menus and recipes, the venture started to crash down.
In the end, the restaurant that was meant to withstand the pressure KFC started to lose to its Kentucky Fried competition. So they did what they had to do and closed the place down.
Gino’s Hamburgers was founded by football Hall-of-Famer Gino Marchetti in 1957. The chain started gaining popularity by the 60s, and it became a culinary success. Their slogan: “Everybody goes to Gino’s.”
The fast-food chain started out in Baltimore, Maryland. Alongside Marchetti, running back Alan Ameche and their close friends Joe Campanella and Louis Fischer also invested in the restaurant.
Not too long after the initial surge in popularity, Gino’s expanded to over 300 locations, mostly on the East Coast. They also opened locations in the Midwest, too, but unfortunately, it was all very short-lived.
Eventually, the popular burger joint was sold to Marriott. They then converted all of Gino’s locations into Roy Rogers restaurants. The last Gino’s, which was located in Pasadena, Maryland, closed in 1986.
Sambo’s was founded in 1957 and became a popular food joint on the country’s West Coast. There were over 1,100 locations up and running by the late 1970s.
The name Sambo’s started to spread, reaching the northeast, where it also became popular. Although Sambo’s was famous for their food, most people knew of Sambo’s for the controversy surrounding its name.
A Controversial Name
Maybe you didn’t know this, but the name “Sambo” is actually a derogatory term. The company claimed that the name was a derivative of the owners’ names combined (Sam Battistone Sr. and Newell Bohnett).
But, sadly, it made people uncomfortable and caused people to stop dining at the restaurant. The business went bankrupt, and they tried to rebrand themselves multiple times before giving up and shutting down completely. The last Sambo’s was in Santa Barbara, California.
D’Lites was founded in 1978, and in less than a decade, the fast-food chain expanded to over 100 locations in the country. The restaurant was based in Norcross, Georgia and was popular for serving fast food with an emphasis on nutrition.
The menu featured reduced-calorie dishes. There were even hamburgers made with lean beef, high-fiber buns, and low-calorie cheese. However, this success was short-lived as they were ultimately unable to offer enough healthy food options.
Not Healthy Enough
Most of D’Lites competitors, like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s, started adding healthier food choices to their own menus and so it left D’Lites lagging behind. They were miles ahead as far as non-healthy fast food was concerned, but they lacked the foresight to adapt their menu to suit the healthy eating trends.
Eventually, the company just couldn’t keep up with their competition, and so one by one, they had to close all of their stores’ locations. At least we can say that health has prevailed in this case.
An ice cream company opened Henry’s Hamburgers in 1954. They were trying to expand on their famous shakes and malts. A the time, people were going crazy for good chocolate shakes and burgers, so no wonder this place became famous.
Henry’s was put in place to go after their strongest competitor – yes, McDonald’s. Compared to McDonald’s, Henry’s didn’t have a drive-in. And beyond that, they had a much less diverse menu.
Losing to Competition
While they didn’t compare to McD’s, they did, however, have cheap meals. This is what helped them stay alive as an alternative to the competition. But it didn’t last too long.
Not long after the restaurant’s inception, the company started to lose to its competitor and decided to close down a large chunk of its store locations. Only one store is still standing: in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
Sandy’s first opened their doors in 1956 in Central Illinois by four businessmen: Gus “Brick” Lundberg, Robert C. Wenger, Paul White, and W. K. Davidson. Sandy’s is the ancestor of the Hardee’s restaurant chain.
Initially, the four founders wanted to open McDonald’s franchises, but the area they were going for was high in traffic (which meant higher fees to pay). So they didn’t pursue the idea further.
Lasted 20 Years
By the end of the 60s, Sandy’s was still popular but short on cash. It was very costly with all the pricey new TV advertising that was being actively employed by its competitors. Instead, Sandy’s ended up opening a new chain of burger joints.
They opened up a new chain to imitate their competition. Sandy’s was around for a good 20 years before McDonald’s took over, and Sandy’s shut down. McDonald’s was just too strong of a force.
The Wimpy’s brand was established by a man named Edward Gold in 1934, in Bloomington, Indiana. Then Wimpy’s first shopfront was established in Chicago during that same year.
In 1954, the diner was going abroad and was introduced to the United Kingdom as “Wimpy Bar.” It was met with success, and the chain quickly expanded into a whopping 1,500 locations worldwide.
Inspired by Popeye
The name Wimpy was inspired by the character from the Popeye cartoon, which had been created by E.C. Segar. Despite the popularity, in the beginning, all the Wimpy locations in the United States started to go down after the death of the owner, Edward Gold.
The rights and trademarks were never purchased from the Gold family after his death, but there are still some locations open in the UK. And the name has also remained very popular in America. Everyone’s heard of Wimpy’s.
Do you remember Wetson’s? Maybe reading their slogans “Look for the Orange Circles,” and “Buy a bagful,” might ring a bell and leave you with a feeling of déjà vu. If those rang a bell, then it’s probably because you’ve heard them before from other establishments.
There were very similar, pre-existing slogans that belonged to McDonald’s and White Castle, respectively. In general, Wetson’s was a mixture of all the fast-food joints combined. That was their selling point.
A Mix of Everything
Because Wetson’s took the best part of each one of their competitors and became a mixture of everything, the chain quickly started to gain popularity, and they grew, getting to over 70 locations at its peak.
Wetson’s was named after Herbert Wetanson, its founder. In 1975, the mishmash joint merged with the then-popular hot dog chain, Nathan’s Famous. But the brand eventually shut down altogether.
Childs was first established in 1889 in New York City and was named after the founder, Samuel Childs. Almost all of their locations were in the United States and Canada. In the 20s and 30s, the company’s popularity simply skyrocketed.
The restaurant had 125 locations and served more than 50 million meals every year. The more notable locations of Childs had a nautical theme, and that seems to help them rake in cash.
Went Bankrupt in the 1940s
While they were huge in the 20s and 30s, the 40s were their worst years. The company eventually had to file for bankruptcy in the 1940s but managed to continue operating despite the lack of finances.
Childs, later on, was turned into the Hotel Corporation of America, which was before the restaurant had been sold off to different companies in the 1960s.
Naugles was a fast-food chain of Mexican restaurants from Southern California, which was established in 1970. Former Del Taco partner, Nick Naugle, founded Naugles. And so the name was after him.
Their first restaurant location was in Riverside, California. Naugles’ motto was, “Prepare food fresh. Serve customers fast. Keep the place clean!” It sounds more like a sign on the bathroom wall than a slogan.
They Merged with Del Taco
After a matter of time, Naugles had to merge with Del Taco, and they changed the name to Del Taco in most of the store locations across the country. Now, there are only two open locations.
The last two are located in the areas of Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach in California. In 2015, a newly revived Naugles chain was established by Christian Ziebarth. This was after he discovered that the trademarks were abandoned by the original successor.
Casa Bonita in Spanish is translated to “Beautiful House.” It only makes sense when you look at the place! It was a chain of Mexican-themed restaurants that originated in Oklahoma City.
Casa Bonita was founded by Bill Waugh back in 1968. The lively restaurant was known to give its customers a spectacular show and serve great food at the same time, which made people happy customers.
Only One Location Left
They had several locations in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, as well as Lakewood, Colorado. But now there is currently only one location still open, which is in Lakewood. That location, though, started operating under a different name.
Casa Bonita enjoyed its 15 minutes of fame after an episode aired of South Park that was titled “Casa Bonita.” By the looks of it, this place was not just huge, but grand!
In 1975, Chi-Chi’s opened its first location, and 20 years later, by March of 1995, they had 210 locations. “A celebration of food” was their first slogan, which was later changed to “Life always needs a little salsa.”
The company fell on difficult times after there was a Hepatitis A outbreak at one of their establishments. Something like a zombie attack, the outbreak of killed at least four people, and the company obviously struggled to recover from that.
Sold to Outback Steakhouse
After a clearly traumatic outbreak of a deadly disease, it’s no wonder that Chi-Chi’s wasn’t able to recover. Their real estate was then sold off to Outback Steakhouse, who, in turn, sold them off to other companies.
Chi-Chi’s does still exist, believe it or not, just not in the United States. They still have a few locations in parts of the Middle East, and some scattered across the globe.
House of Pies
Pie lovers must have loved this spot. The Original House of Pies was a chain of restaurants founded in 1965. The sweet spot offered pretty much any kind of pie you could ever imagine.
By 1979, the chain quickly picked up its deserved popularity. But in 1986, however, the franchise was starting to head on a decline, and they had to eventually file for bankruptcy.
A Few Are Still Around
If you’re reminded of IHOP, then you might be psychic, because The House of Pies was founded by the same man behind the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) – Al Lapin Jr.
These days, there are still a few of the Original House of Pies that are up and running, alive and well. They are all located throughout Houston and Los Angeles.
Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse
Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse was founded in Warren, New Jersey, by three businessmen in 1966. The first flagship location was opened on Valley Road in Warren, next to Watchung.
The business became successful enough that they opened various locations throughout New Jersey, and expanded to New York and Pennsylvania. In the 80s and 90s, the restaurant started growing.
They Closed Most of Their Locations
After that initial boom, the business started going down. They closed more than 47 of their locations as part of a reconstruction plan. Charlie Brown’s was sold to Castle Harlan, and in 2005 it was sold to Trimaran Capital Partners.
As of April 2011, the Steakhouse is owned by Praesidian Capital, a private equity company. There are still a few locations around, mainly in New Jersey, with a few in New York.
The Irish restaurant Bennigan’s was established in 1976 in Atlanta, Georgia. The idea for the franchise came from Norman Brinker, who was the vice president of Steak and Ale (another restaurant on this list).
Bennigan’s didn’t get the kind of success that Steak and Ale experience. They suffered due to a lack of brand loyalty, as many other restaurants featured the same style and menu. They weren’t unique enough.
Slowly, locations started to dwindle down in both America and abroad, and they began to close down. Currently, there are 23 locations left in the United States. But there was some light at the end of the tunnel.
After the owner left the Bennigan’s, those who also decided to leave with him went on to come up with Chili’s, the popular restaurant we all know of today. Who doesn’t love Chili’s?
Kenny Rogers Roasters
Kenny Rogers Roasters first popped up in 1991, in Coral Springs, Florida. Yes, as you probably guessed, it is indeed owned by the famous country music star, Kenny Rogers.
There were over 350 locations at its peak, and a large part of its popularity came after the Seinfeld episode aired on TV, where Kramer develops an obsession with chicken. Remember that one?
Doing Well in Asia
While it rose to fame after Seinfeld gave it a nod, by 2011, all the Kenny Rogers Roasters chains closed in both the United States and Canada. But surprisingly, KRR is doing well in many parts of Asia.
There is a total of 156 locations of the chicken restaurant open worldwide, mostly in Asian countries. But the country music star isn’t involved any longer.
Ponderosa and Bonanza Steakhouses
Ponderosa and Bonanza are sister steak joints that became popular because of the hit show, Bonanza. The restaurants were considered Homestyle dining and were started out in Plano, Texas.
The menus mainly consisted of food like seafood, chicken entrees, and steaks with side buffets (who doesn’t love a side buffet?), and it was all offered at a reasonable price.
The Owner Sold It
During the sister restaurants’ prime, there were more than 600 different locations of both Ponderosa and Bonanza Steakhouses across the country. Despite all their success, they had to change direction.
The businesses weren’t doing well and after a while, the owners decided to sell. Now, the chains are still owned by the same company. They had to downsize to only 20 locations.
Bob’s Big Boy
Who can miss a big statue of a boy in checkered overalls? With their memorable statues, Bob’s Big Boy restaurant franchise became one of America’s iconic symbols of the 20th century.
Big Boy was founded by Bob Wian in 1936 and was based in Southern California. At first, the place was called Bob’s Pantry. When Big Boy was still popular, they had more than 200 different locations across America.
Bob’s Big Boy
Aside from the big statue, Wian was also responsible for coming up with the original double-deck hamburger, which included two beef patties and a bun that was sliced into three.
These days, you will still be able to find 80 Bob’s Big Boy burger joints that are up and running. Most of the locations that exist today are in Michigan, and a few are in Southern California.
Royal Castle was a burger restaurant chain founded in Miami, Florida. It was created by William Singer in 1938 and became popular for its mini hamburgers, similar to those people would be from White Castle.
During its heyday, the chain grew to include more than 175 locations throughout Florida, Ohio, Georgia, and Louisiana, but most of them were in Miami.
Not so Royal Anymore
Royal Castle’s slogan was “Fit for a king.” But by 1970, the burger joint lost most of its royalty. Royal castle started losing money due to heavy competition with big competitors, like McDonald’s and Burger King.
The company had no choice but to downscale majorly. They decided to close almost all of the Royal Castle locations, except for the one that’s still standing strong in Miami.
Pup ‘N’ Taco
Pup ‘N’ Taco was a chain that started out in Southern California. Their first branch opened up in Pasadena in 1965. Pup ’n’ Taco specialized in hot dogs, tacos, and pastrami sandwiches.
In 1973, a few years later, they grew to a total of 62 chains across the state. Pup ‘N’ Taco was known for their spots in prime locations, which brought in a lot of customers.
Pup ‘N’ Taco
But all those prime locations ended up becoming the reason for the company’s downfall. The high real estate prices were too much for the company to afford and eventually caused them to sell.
In 1984, the chain was sold to Taco Bell. Some are still standing, though. The last remaining locations flipped their name just slightly to “Pop ‘N’ Taco.”
The Mighty Casey’s fast-food chain started in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1980. They became popular in the downtown area and was known for serving quality fast food (as opposed to some other fast food joints).
Customers were served generously, which is a large part of why people found the spot so appealing. Mighty Casey’s menu included burgers, chopped BBQ sandwiches, Cajun Wings, and Frankfurters.
Mighty Casey’s set themselves apart from other fast food places by featuring more exclusive ingredients in their meals, including Wisconsin beef, signature sauces, and batter.
But the company didn’t last as long at the end. In 1994, the restaurant was bought out by a fast-food chain called Krystal. Almost all of the chains were converted into Krystal restaurants.
Yankee Doodle Dandy
Yankee Doodle Dandy opened its doors in 1966, and it was founded by brothers in business, Chris and Bill Proyce. After 10 years of being a local fast food joint, the restaurant began to explode in the Chicago area.
The chain branched out to 27 locations in its prime; most of them were franchised. Yankee Doodle Dandy was known for its red, white, and blue theme. And as the name suggests, it embodies the perfect American burger.
Getting Out of the Business
After a while, the two founding brothers decided that they wanted to get out of the fast-food business and chose to pursue another restaurant idea instead.
Slowly, the chains started closing down until the last one was finally closed. In 1988, the brothers opened their own casual dining restaurants – four of them to be exact – called Bailey’s Restaurant & Bar.
Doggie Diner was a small, fast-food chain that served hot dogs and burgers in San Francisco and Oakland, California. The first Doggie Diner opened in 1948 and grew in popularity. They became iconic for their trademark mascot, the Dachshund, who was dressed in a chef’s hat and a bow tie.
At one point, there were 30 locations around the San Francisco Bay Area. From its beginning in 1948, under the management of founder Al Ross, Doggie Diner started spreading throughout the area.
Went Out of Business
In 1986, the chain went out of business as they were trying to compete with the big chain restaurants, like McDonald’s and Burger King. Ross died in 2010 at the age of 93.
The restaurant filed for bankruptcy in 2010 as part of a restructuring. It included closing down 47 restaurants. While the chain went bankrupt, the mascot has remained part of the local pop culture until this day.
During the 60s, Ameche’s was a chain of drive-ins with five locations in the Baltimore area. It was initially founded by the legendary NFL football player Alan Ameche (hence, the name).
The brand’s mascot was a little football player, and he remained as the restaurant’s trademark.
Ameche’s Drive-In was famous for its Powerhouse Burgers. They were described as “a banquet on a bun.” Sounds pretty fancy, huh?
Some even say that this is where McDonald’s got their idea for the Big Mac, which came eight years before they made its debut. Despite all the rumors, Ameche’s is still a popular favorite.
G. D. Ritzy’s
G.D. Ritzy’s was the place to eat during the 80s. The restaurant was founded by ex Wendy’s executive, Graydon Webb, in 1980. Ritzy’s called themselves a “luxury grill” with a 1950s diner feel.
Aside from getting your daily fix of hot dogs and hamburgers, they also served ice cream to cater to many of those with a sweet tooth! It sounds like a great spot, tome! But nothing lasts…
G. D. Ritzy’s
The chain had 120 locations at one point, but they started going down slowly but surely. They ended up with just three locations in 1991, which was when they had no choice but to liquidate.
Although most of their locations have already closed down, there are actually still some open in Evansville, Indiana, Huntington, and West Virginia.
Valle’s Steak House
In 1933, when Valle’s Steak House came onto the scene, it was considered revolutionary. Loyal customers were offered the restaurant’s famous surf and turf meal for a low price when it was opened by Donald Valle.
The fact that it was something new and different made people keep coming back. They eventually got big and expanded to more and more locations during the 1970s.
They Got Too Ambitious
According to rumors, the restaurant’s downfall started when they got a bit too ambitious with their expansion. They couldn’t keep up with all of their locations and the costs they endured.
To make things even worse, there was an oil crisis which caused many economic problems. Then, in the year 2000, the last location in Portland Oregon closed its doors.
La Petite Boulangerie
The name sounds classy, doesn’t it? La Petite Boulangerie translates to “The Little Bakery.” It’s a French term, but it was all-American. It was an American chain that started out with only two locations in 1977.
Shortly after opening its doors, the company was bought out by PepsiCo and became franchised. After that, the chains started growing fast. La Petite Boulangerie had 140 locations across the country during its best years.
Getting Bought Out
Then the chain was bought out by Mrs. Fields Original Cookies Inc. They ended up trading hands several times until they were finally taken in by Java City.
By the end of 2000, there were no longer any La Petite Boulangerie locations left. Despite all the times this restaurant was bought out and changed, it is still worthy of making this list.
The All-American Burger
The All-American Burger was a fast food joint from Southern California. While it never became more than a regional establishment, the burger joint got famous because it was featured in a famous 80s movie.
The restaurant was seen the teenager film, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. That topless guy on the left, by the way, is Sean Penn.
Closed in 2010
All-American Burger has been around since 1961, and they were still serving the same delicious burgers until 2010 when the final location was closed in 2010.
If you’re craving burgers, though, and you happen to be located on the east coast, Massapequa, Long Island has an establishment that started using the same name and logos.
Mr. Steak was popular in the 1970s. So, if you were born during that decade, then this restaurant chain might bring back some good memories. While the steak was obviously their go-to meal, Mr. Steak wasn’t juicy enough to keep up with the competition.
Their main competitors were Sizzler and Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus. It wasn’t easy to withstand the stiff competition, and thus, Mr. Steak had to file for bankruptcy in 1987.
All 300 Locations
But, before they closed down, they got to an impressive total of 300 locations all over the United States. That’s an accomplishment for such a difficult business to be in.
If you were around in the 1970s, then this restaurant will probably be on your list of nostalgic establishments that you dined in with your family.
While you’re obviously aware of Burger King, you might be surprised to learn that a Burger Queen existed, too. The queen was also known as Druther’s. Funny, huh? The chain was operating between 1963 and 1981.
They were based in Louisville, Kentucky, and the burger/fried-chicken joint had a mascot that was a giant bee. Her name: Queenie Bee.
In the spirit of typical old-school slogans, the restaurant’s motto was “I’d Ruther Go to Druther’s Restaurant,” which was purposely misspelled. Though the chain is long gone, one Druther’s actually holds on in Campbellsville, Kentucky.
The restaurant makes this list because of their mascots! They were cute, and, along with the food, Queenie Bees made everything that much more entertaining.
This famous fast food joint brings back a lot of memories. A&W Restaurants is a chain that came to be synonymous with their famous draft root beer and root beer floats. Whoever said beer had to be alcoholic?
Kids and parents alike loved to drink those floats. The restaurant was founded back in 1919 and remains one of the country’s oldest chains ever.
A&W was well known for its “Frosty Mugs,” as well as their floats. The chain was also one of the first ones to come up with drive-thru service.
The good news is, unlike many of the restaurants on this list, A&W is going to continue its legacy and open up more restaurants than it ever closed down.
Rax Roast Beef
One business that had the most name changes in the history of restaurant chains is Rax Roast Beef. It was initially called Jax Roast Beef but later was changed to Rix Roast Beef.
In the 80s, Rax reached its peak when they started adding a salad bar and other food stations. It turned them into one of the country’s most successful chains. It didn’t last long, though.
Problems in Management
The issues they were facing in their management caused problems in their business during the early 1990s. As of 2017, there was only a handful of the restaurants still up and running.
Well, if you ever want to try some Rax Roast Beef (which is their current name), you can always go and visit. I hope you’re hungry!
Claudia Sanders Dinner House
Claudia Sanders Dinner House could be described as a restaurant franchise that never came to be. By the mid-60s, Kentucky Fried Chicken’s founder, Harland Sanders, sold his interest in the famous restaurant chain.
While he was bought out, Sanders still kept his role as the chain’s iconic spokesperson. Meanwhile, he and his wife had set their sights on opening a new place.
Claudia Sanders, The Colonel’s Lady
They wanted to open a sit-down restaurant to serve his chicken. The name they chose was Claudia Sanders, The Colonel’s Lady. But in the eyes of the law (and KFC), the Sanders weren’t the owners anymore of the infamous, secret recipe.
Eventually, a settlement was reached in court that allowed the Sanders to keep selling their chicken at one location in Shelbyville, Kentucky. The location is still in operation today.
Just the name of this place sounds different from the rest. Pioneer Chicken was a staple in the 80s in California. The franchise got to a total of 270 locations in the country. It was even advertised by legends Chick Hearn and O.J. Simpson (pre-trial).
In the 90s, however, the restaurant lost relevance as well as their market shares. Since 2017, there are two locations left, located in Boyle Heights, California, and Bell Gardens, California.
If you haven’t tried their food yet, and you happen to be either in Boyle Heights or Bell Gardens, it’s worth getting a meal while there are still two locations left.
We’re willing to bet it will be worth every penny and every second you spend in there!
Here’s another burger place with the power to stir up some nostalgic memories of the past. Carrols was around since the 50s, and they were operating up until the mid-70s.
One of Carrols’ signature menu items was their Club Burger. All of their items had the slogan “Home of the Club Burger.” The burger joint was established in the early 60s by Herb Slotnick.
Converted to Burger King
They started off as an ice cream franchise called Tastee-Freez and was even named after Carol Marantz, the daughter of Tastee-Freez’s founder. Then, in 1975, most of the American locations were converted to Burger Kings.
But there were locations around the world. The last Carrols was located in Finland, and it was converted into a Finnish chain in 2012.
Here’s another food fact for you folks: the first Little Tavern opened on the country’s East Coast, six years after White Castle opened their doors in Wichita.
Like the famous White Tower, Little Tavern was a little too similar to White Castle. They sold hamburgers from a castle-like design shop front.
Close, But No Cigar
They had 40 locations in and around Baltimore, Arlington, and Washington, D.C. But the last store closed in 2008. There were a lot of chains back then that tried to copy White Castle, and these guys were one of them.
They didn’t make it through the storm, but then again, they served some good food, which means they are entitled to get a spot on this list.
This chain was founded in New York City in 1913 and developed throughout the 50s. Nedick’s opened locations in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.
Do you want to know how they started? They originally only sold one item: an orange drink! Over time, they started to add coffee, donuts, and hot dogs to their menu.
Too Much Competition
Similar to many on this list, the competition was too much to handle. Since there was a lot of competition from McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts, for example, the chain had to close down in 1981.
In addition to their competition, they also got their share of criticism. In their Central Park Zoo location, they were accused of making bad quality food.
If you love seafood, then this restaurant might be on the top of your list – or at least was. Shrimp Boats was a seafood restaurant that was operating between 1955 and 1974. Their locations grew to a total of 95 in its prime.
While most of their locations have now closed, there are seven independent chains still open to this day, mostly located in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
Anyone hungry for seafood? We all love shrimp, and if you’re craving some, too, then this place will definitely be able to satisfy. Really, who could say no to some good shrimp?
Shrimp Boats is a place that’s given Americans a lot of fond memories to look back on. Have you been to one?
This list has its share of White Castle copy-cats, but this is a copy-cat one with a different spin to it. Top Hat was first introduced into the world of fast food by Peter Everet Westberg and Fred A. Simonsen in 1955 in Detroit, Michigan.
While most White Castle imitators were created from the outside looking in, founders Westberg and Simonsen had the benefit of insider knowledge. The two were both former White Castle employees.
Eventually Sold Out
The Top Hat chain of restaurants only had 12 operational locations, and they were eventually sold to Church’s Chicken and Elias Brothers in 1984.
The Top Hat saga may have been short-lived, but the burger and hot dog joint was still a good place to go, so they’ve earned their spot on our list.
In 1948, Clinton B. Knapp founded his own restaurant named after him: Bill Knapp’s. It was established in Battle Creek, Michigan, and known for its menu of breakfast baskets, sandwiches, and luncheon dinner plates.
This was one chain that was particularly a hit among senior citizens. Business declined when the chain decided to change its menu to home-style food in 1966.
They Changed the Menu
Their decision to change the menu was a cost-cutting strategy. But, since they couldn’t keep up, they had no choice but to close their last location in 2002.
Their menu changed, but as you can see, there was a lot of options! Knapp’s was a nice little place, and we will remember it for their signature dishes.
If you and your family went to church in the southern part of the United States on Sundays before 1998, then you most likely remember seeing or actually going to dine at a Morrison’s Cafeteria.
This diner was known for their authentic southern cooking. Morrison’s was established by J.A. Morrison in 1920 in Mobile, Alabama. They got up to a total of 151 locations in 13 different states in its prime.
Unfortunately for Morrison’s, the whole concept of cafeteria dining was on a decline by the 1990s. Eventually, Morrison’s was purchased by Piccadilly Cafeterias in 1998.
The diners were in the midst of a downturn, and although they sold out to Piccadilly, there is still one location left.
Po’ Folks was established in 1975 by Malcom Hare. The restaurant whose name sounds like it’s meant for people of lesser means was actually named after a 1961 single by country music singer, Bill Anderson.
The success if this country-style restaurant was short-lived, but when they started declining, they suddenly started to rise again very swiftly.
And So Forth
Nine years after the chain was established, the chain grew to 102 restaurants in 17 different states. Four years after, in 1988, the business was left to file for bankruptcy.
Although most of their locations had closed down and all their assets were sold, 8 restaurants are still up and running. They’re located in St. Petersburg, Florida, and in Enterprise, Alabama.
Here’s a name that will probably sound familiar to you. The Roadhouse grill was a well-liked casual dining steakhouse. It was the creation of John Y. Brown Jr., who founded it in 1992.
The franchise could be found along major interchanges throughout the eastern United States. Their original location was situated in West Palm Beach, Florida. In 2007, the chain had to file for bankruptcy.
Forced into Liquidation
In 2008, the company had no choice but to get into liquidation, which led to the abrupt closure of their last 20 locations.
Despite their demise, we still remember this place for their yummy, affordable steaks, and all the fond memories that came along with them.
Ground Round Grill & Bar
This is yet another Bar and Grill to add to the list. Ground Round was a family-style dining restaurant and bar that was founded in 1969. It was referred to as the “neighborhood pub” and catered to all kinds of guests, couples and families alike.
Everyone felt comfortable in this place, always. Like many of these other restaurants on this list, Ground Round eventually filed for bankruptcy. No surprise there, right?
Ground Round Grill & Bar
Unlike the others, though, Ground Road Grill & Bar didn’t completely disappear. So you still have a chance to check it out!
In 2004, the chain was bought by a former franchisee. While some changes were made, it has still struggled to survive recently, keeping only 25 restaurants as of 2011.
In 1939, Country Kitchen was introduced to America and came to life. They developed a reputation as being one of the top burger joints in Cincinnati, Ohio. It’s been a national chain since 1958.
But recent years have been hard on Country Kitchen as the chain has been struggling to continue attracting customers. However, it’s still concentrated in the Midwest and Plains states.
From 249 to 52 Locations
In 10 years, between 2001 and 2011, Country Kitchen had to close down almost 200 locations. The total number of restaurants went from 249 to 52 due to sales declining by more than 80% during the same period.
According to Technomic’s Tristano, the chain exists in the “highly competitive mid-scale family-style market,” which was crowded out by fast, casual dining.
Damon’s Grill & Sports Bar
Founded in 1979, Damon’s was based in Columbus, Ohio. They were considered “a leading full-service, casual dining restaurant concept,” and most of the locations ended up being in the Midwest and the Southeast United States.
They also opened up spots in the United Kingdom as well. The chain filed for bankruptcy in 2009, because it was part of the struggling, full-service barbecue restaurant segment of the market.
Damon’s Grill & Sports Bar
Damon’s had $70 million in sales as of 2011, which may seem like a lot, but in the restaurant business, it doesn’t equal to enough. They had gone down more than 75% from 2001, a period when they had nearly $285 million in sales.
Nonetheless, Damon’s was still a favorite and holds many sports fans’ memories. Damon’s was the place to grab a beer and some wings when watching the hockey and baseball games.
In 1981, TCBY started out as “the country’s first frozen yogurt shop.” And really, who doesn’t love some frozen yogurt? It’s healthy and a better alternative to ice cream!
The chain was bought out by Mrs. Fields Holdings in 2000. According to the Chicago Tribune, “both TCBY and Mrs. Fields have considerable brand equity among consumers.”
Unlike the other restaurants on our list, in 2008, the company filed for bankruptcy protection and requested a restructuring deal to avoid going fully bankrupt.
Between 2001 and 2011, TCBY shut down over 1,300 locations, leaving just 405 locations left as of 2011.
You can breathe a sigh of relief over this one because it is still alive today! Tony Roma’s was founded in 1972 and claimed to be one of “the largest casual theme restaurant chain specializing in ribs in the world.”
Their domestic sales fell more than 70%, while their total number of U.S. restaurants reduced from 162 to 46 between the years 2001 and 2011. Their parent company, Romacorp Inc., had filed for bankruptcy in 2005.
They Took a Hit
While Tony Roma’s took a definite hit, they were still able to remain active internationally, with several restaurants in 30 countries.
Even though they vanished from the United States, you can visit the other restaurants. You just have to leave the United States! Any excuse to travel, though, right?
“Big Tex Bold Mex” is what the restaurant Don Pablo’s described themselves as. Avado Brands was the company that owned Don Pablo’s, and they went bankrupt twice in the last 10 years. The first time was in 2004 and then again in 2007.
The chain was sold out to a restaurant group, which was started by Avado’s bankruptcy lender in 2008. Don Pablo’s was having difficulty staying alive as a fast-casual restaurant, similar to how it was for Chipotle Mexican Grill.
Despite their struggles, they still managed to become America’s preferred choice when it came to which Mexican food to eat.
If you were in the mood for a good burrito, taco, or nachos, Don Pablo’s was the place to be. Too bad, they went bankrupt!
Blimpie Subs & Salads
Here’s a name you probably heard before. In 1964, the first-ever Blimpie opened up in Hoboken, New Jersey. They were famous for being the first sub sandwich franchise.
Of course, it’s hard to beat Subway, but Blimpie was still one of America’s first favorite. In fact, at their peak, it was the third-largest sub sandwich chain.
Despite their success, Blimpie Subs & Salads was struggling over the last decade. In 2001, they had gone to just 739 stores and $115 million in sales, which was different from their original 1,853 stores and nearly $300 million in sales.
After a while, the joint was purchased by Kahala, a franchising company that bought Cold Stone Creamery as well in 2007.
Did you know that Walgreen’s was in the restaurant business in the 1970s? It’s true! Wags modeled all their restaurants after Denny’s and Big Boy, which was a clever move that made them quite a hit.
The thing we loved most about Wag’s was that they were offering a 24-hour diner. Unfortunately, the idea didn’t catch on like they had originally hoped.
Couldn’t Find a Buyer
By 1988, more than 90 Wag’s stores were sold to the Marriott. In the early 90s, the hotel chain chose to sell off the restaurants, but they weren’t able to find a buyer.
It’s sad to see these little diners go, but we have some replacements. Altogether, Wag’s was a great restaurant that gave Americans a lot of happy memories!