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They say that only the good die young, and I couldn’t agree more… especially when it comes to some of our favorite places to eat! Who can forget the deliciousness of Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips during Lent or the decently-priced filet mignon at Steak and Ale? Join us now as we take a delicious and nostalgic walk down memory lane via these 11 classic restaurants that are gone forever:
Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips
Since we mentioned it in the intro, let’s get right to it! Arthur Treacher’s was a unique concept in fast food that was gobbled up by hungry Americans (just like its tasty fried fish and chicken), boasting a whopping 800+ stores during its peak in the 1970s. Sadly, the concept didn’t remain as popular as it had once been, and, as of this writing, only one standalone location remains in the U.S.
The name Howard Johnson is synonymous with motels, but not everyone will remember that – until early 2022 – it was also a restaurant chain! Founded in 1925, Howard Johnson’s was the country’s largest restaurant chain in the 1960s and 70s but hit a hiccup in the 80s after Marriot bought the brand and eliminated the company-owned eateries. Despite franchisees attempting to keep their investment afloat, it would slowly decline before dissolving completely.
JB’s Family Restaurant
If you hail from the west, you may remember JB’s Family Restaurant, a subsidiary of the iconic Big Boy brand that served the states of Montana, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, and Idaho. In 1988, JB’s and Big Boy parted ways, which proved to be the beginning of the end for this burger-slinging offshoot, which continued to be sold to different companies before filing bankruptcy in 2011 and 2019.
Steak and Ale
Known near and far for its steak, ale, and recognizable Tudor-style architecture, Steak and Ale was deemed a casual chain that served upscale fare, a la prime rib, pasta, and mediocre liquor. Founded in 1966 in Dallas, Steak and Ale, like many other chains, changed ownership a handful of times, leading to its decline and, later, closure. While rumors about a Steak and Ale revival have been circulating for years, one has yet to materialize.
Founded four years after the White Castle chain, White Tower was often considered a knock-off of the latter and their famous bite-size burgers. Despite these rumors, White Tower managed to thrive and expand, opening locations in Chicago, Detroit, and New York City. Famous for its menu and scrub-wearing staff, the White Tower would eventually collapse, with only one remaining (Toledo, Ohio).
Based on the controversial children’s book, The Story of Little Black Sambo, the Sambo chain and its name was long seen as problematic, resulting in lawsuits and boycotts throughout the 1970s. The restaurant could not stay afloat despite renaming and re-branding and closed all (but one) of its 1,000+ locations by 1984.
ShowBiz Pizza Place
Before Chuck E. Cheese, there was ShowBiz Pizza, a pizza restaurant and family entertainment center that boasted arcade games and animatronics. Founded in 1980, ShowBiz Pizza would acquire and merge with its competitor, Pizza Time Theater, before re-branding and re-emerging as Chuck E. Cheese.
Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour and Restaurant
Despite being founded in 1963, Farrell’s made you feel like you had traveled back to the Old West, thanks to its turn-of-the-century decor and staff attire (think straw boater hats). Known for its ice cream, sandwiches, and live pianist, Farrell’s was a favorite to many; however, poor management would drive the chain into the ground, with the final location (of 120) closing in 2006.
This one is going WAY back but is still worth noting due to its relevance and former popularity! Founded in 1889, Childs was one of the first national dining chains in North America and served an estimated 50 million meals per year between its 125 locations. Despite being a pioneer in the restaurant field, Childs – like so many others on our list – became the victim of poor management and bad financial decisions, resulting in its closure in the 1960s.
Stopping at any one of Nickerson Farms’ 60+ locations was an experience, as not only would you get a tasty meal but shopping via the extensive gift shop. While the easy-to-recognize barn-like buildings had a funny start (Nickerson was created by a Stuckey’s franchisee who didn’t like their rules and decided to launch his own business), its ending was anything but, with all 60-some locations faltering in the 1980s.
Did anyone else’s kids use to BEG to eat at Horne’s? Not only did the classic Southern-style chain have great ice cream and dessert, but diner food that my kids would actually eat! Unfortunately, their hearty all-day breakfast menu couldn’t save them from declining patrons, with all but one closing by 1982.
What I wouldn’t give for just one more ice cream sundae from Farrell’s or one more slider from White Tower! But alas, those days (and eateries) are gone, and we are left with their memories to keep us feeling full. I hope this little jog down memory lane was a good one. Until next time!