Restaurant Chains We Still Miss

Jul 14, 2021Sonali Pandey

The places we went to and the food we ate as a child have created some of our best memories. After all, who does not miss going to their favorite burger joints or being treated to a fast-food meal? Sadly, there are several giant restaurant chains from the past that are not around anymore. And, despite having other options, we just can’t forget the restaurants we went to as kids, isn't it? Read on to walk down memory lane and rediscover some restaurants that aren't available to us anymore.

Image Credits: Unsplash/Jay Wennington

VIP'S

If you're from the Northwest, you might remember the VIPs. Founded in 1968, the Oregon-based restaurant chain was very successful. At one time, it was the largest state-based restaurant chain and had 53 locations during its heyday. Their outlets were referred to as coffee shops at the time, but we'd refer to them today as diners, similar to Denny's. Their restaurants were also immensely popular for having their locations near freeways. Unfortunately, in the early '80s, VIP's began going bankrupt and actually sold 35 of their locations to Denny's Inc.

Image Credits: Instagram/diegonabalada

CHILDS

Childs, named after its creator, Samuel Childs, was a chain of restaurants that was established in 1889 in New York City. After a successful development in the 1920s and 1930s, they soon heralded over 125 different locations, serving over 50 million meals per year. Unfortunately, the company went bankrupt in the 1940s, but it managed to survive and later became the Hotel Corporation of America. In the '60s, the restaurant venues were sold off to other firms.

Image Credits: Instagram/urbanarchiveny

NAUGELS

Naugles was a Southern California chain of Tex-Mex restaurants, founded in Riverside in 1970. The company’s motto was “Prepare food fresh. Serve customers fast. Keep the place clean!” What more could a restaurant customer ask for? Well, maybe better grammar, and restaurants that actually remain open? The chain ended up integrating with the restaurant chain Del Taco, resulting in the move from Naugles to Del Taco in most locations. Just two sites are still open today, in Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach respectively.

Image Credits: Instagram/titan_qx80

CHI-CHI’S

Chi-chi's was a restaurant that served Mexican cuisine to its visitors. It was founded in 1975 and by 1995, the company rapidly boomed to a total of 210 locations. But, sadly, business with Chi-Chi did not go well. After a Hepatitis A outbreak in one of their stores, the business steadily deteriorated. The business never recovered and they eventually sold them off to Outback Steakhouse, which sold them off again later. Presently, they have a few franchises operating in UAE, Kuwait, and Belgium.

Image Credits: Instagram/restochichiopimall

RAINFOREST CAFE

The United States already has 17 Rainforest Café sites, but kids from the 90s can tell you that there used to be dozens more. With animatronic animals and trees making noises during the meal, the restaurant was a delight for children. While we have plenty of options for kids since its operations ceased, none of those can match the legacy of the Rainforest Café.

Image Credits: Instagram/rainforest_cafe

CHEVYS FRESH MEX 

Chevys, a Mexican chain, was founded in California in 1986. With locations in high-traffic places like Times Square in New York City, the chain had spread across the country. Yet its parent company filed for bankruptcy in 2018. In California, more than a dozen Chevys sites, as well as the outpost in Times Square, have since closed.

Image Credits: Instagram/chevysfreshmex

SOUPLANTATION

Established in the early '80s, this chain, along with soup and pasta buffet options, specializes in a build-your-own salad bar. There were more than 100 sites around the country at its peak. But in 2016, Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp., the parent company of Souplantation, filed for bankruptcy protection, which included plans to close about 30 locations. Then, during last year, Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes closed all 97 remaining sites.

Image Credits: Instagram/californian.life

MAGGIEMOO’S

MaggieMoo's started in Kansas City in 1989, probably around the time when Cold Stone and Marble Slab were establishing their customized ice cream stores. Like other ice cream shops, apart from mixing the ingredients in front of you, MaggieMoo's prepared made-to-order ice cream cones. There were hundreds of MaggieMoo's shops in the '90s. But Marble Slab and MaggieMoo's merged in 2011, and the MaggieMoo's name was folded into locations of Marble Slab.

Image Credits: Instagram/magncheese_

HOUSE OF PIES

Established in 1965 by Al Lapin Jr., this fast-food chain offers a wide variety of pie options to choose from. There was no pie that House of Pies didn't serve. Name the pie and they've got it. But the restaurant began to go downhill and filed for bankruptcy. However, there are a handful of the original House of Pies still running in Houston and Los Angeles.

Image Credits: Instagram/houseofpiesrestaurants

BENNIGAN’S

Established in 1976, the Irish restaurant chain Bennigan's started out in Atlanta, Georgia. The idea for the chain came from the vice president of Steak and Ale, Norman Brinker. In 1983, Brinker led an exodus from the firm and those who left with him went on to create Chili's. With many other restaurants offering the same theme and menu, Bennigan's suffered due to a lack of brand loyalty. Slowly, locations started to close in the US and abroad. There are just about 23 locations left in the US at the time of writing.

Image Credits: Instagram/bennigansrestaurant

THE ALL-AMERICAN BURGER

While it was no more than localized popularity for the Southern Californian All-American Burger, it made its crowning achievement when it was featured in the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The cult of the film outlived the restaurants, and its final location on the west coast closed in 2010. East Coast residents will be excited to hear, however, that since 1961, a Massapequa, Long Island restaurant using the same name and logos has flipped burgers to offer.

Image Credits: Instagram/nbpartin

BUGABOO CREEK

In 2010, this Canadian-themed steakhouse chain filed for bankruptcy, and shortly after, most locations closed. There are some potential reasons why the eventual extinction of Bugaboo Creek was less than shocking, including but not limited to its scary talking animatronic animals and the not-so-appetizing "Bugaboo" name.

Image Credits: Facebook/Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse - Poughkeepsie

OFFICIAL ALL STAR CAFE

Established in 1995, the official All Star Café restaurant was owned by Planet Hollywood. This restaurant, when it started, managed to get investments from a lot of famous sports stars of that time, such as Andre Agassi, Joe Montana, Ken Griffey Jr., Shaq, and Wayne Gretzky. At its peak, the restaurant chain expanded to ten cities, including prime locations such as Times Square and Walt Disney World. Planet Hollywood wanted to make the restaurants, like its Hard Rock Café chains, themed, and All Star has a sports theme as opposed to Hard Rock Cafe's music theme, but they did not last long. The last of the All Star Café locations closed down in 2017.

Image Credits: Instagram/disneyswan90

THE GRILL AT FOUR SEASONS

The Four Seasons revealed that it would close the East 49th Street dining room less than a year after reopening, as "the restaurant world has changed," managing partner Alex von Bidder told the New York Times. Before closing, the establishment had been open for more than 60 years.

Image Credits: Facebook/The Four Seasons Restaurant

BARBUTO

After 15 years of serving delicious roast chicken, authentic kale salad, and famous wood-fired pizza, this easygoing, but sensationally chic chain closed down in May 2019 in New York City's West Village. This was indeed sad for all the '90s food lovers who had some of their most precious memories in this restaurant.

Image Credits: Facebook/Barbuto (Sydney)

LE CIRQUE

In the '80s, Le Cirque became renowned for its delicious French cuisine and had a fine dining image. A branch in Bloomberg Tower opened in 2006, but the restaurant was forced to shut down in 2018 because of high rents. Though this restaurant operated only for a short while, it managed to attract a huge fan base comprising mostly the French population.

Image Credits: Instagram/thepinkhoneyjumble

SUSHI SAMBA

The Japanese, Peruvian, and Brazilian diner in the West Village of New York City had its share of fame and was a sensation in the late '90s and early '00s. The iconic New York lounge shut down in 2017, but the Miami location was still functioning. Unfortunately, in December 2019, the Miami location also ceased its operations.

Image Credits: Instagram/miami.lifestyles

BESO

The Hollywood hotspot of Eva Longoria, Beso, which opened in 2008, closed for renovations briefly in 2016. However, it was announced that the restaurant would re-open under new management and a novel identity in the coming years. However, due to unfortunate circumstances, it finally ceased its operations in 2019.

Image Credits: Instagram/ainhoaalclaz

CARNEGIE DELI

In the New York City deli scene, Carnegie Deli was a favorite among many, with clients ready to wait down the block for a seat at the famous delicatessen. But it closed permanently in 2016 after 78 years of serving pastrami and slaw. If you are a 90s kid from New York, you can probably relate to how dearly we miss this place.

Image Credits: Facebook/Carnegie Delicatessen & Restaurant

DA SILVANO

Da Silvano spent 45 years in Greenwich Village offering authentic high-end Italian cuisine. Unfortunately, owing to elevated labor costs and increased rent, the restaurant, renowned for its outdoor dining and regular celebrity presence, closed down in 2016. Although Da Silvano's operations were short-lived, we will always remember this restaurant for its delicious Italian food.

Image Credits: Facebook/Da Silvano

PASTIS

When Pastis started in 1980, it became a staple within the New York City restaurant circle with French cuisine and Parisian bistro decor. For most food lovers, it is a place that has been deeply missed since it closed its doors in 2014. The French bistro re-opened in 2019, however, much to the delight of the city, but in a new venue.

Image Credits: Instagram/die_forstgruppe

HORN AND HARDART

This restaurant was popular for serving fast food with automation support. They had this "automat" contraption, where you buy prepared food from a glass window. In simple words, it's like a giant sales machine that dispenses the food after money is inserted. You just had to pull the lever after making the payment to get your freshly made food. It was that easy!  Unfortunately, Horn & Hardart's last location closed in 1991, but other fast-food chains in Europe and Japan copied their automated restaurant model. 

Image Credits: Instagram/hornandhardartcoffee

BAHOOKA

Bahooka was opened in Los Angeles in 1967 to capitalize on the Tiki movement at that time in the United States. The family-owned restaurant became well-known for its many fish tanks and fresh decor, but unfortunately, in 2013, it served its last Tiki cocktail. This was probably one of those restaurants which could attract customers by just keeping a fancy name!

Image Credits: Instagram/chilidog3

THE STAGE DELI

The Stage, located on Seventh Avenue, was one of New York City's most popular delis after it opened its doors in 1937 and was renowned for having a menu full of dishes influenced by Broadway. But in 2012, after 75 years of operation, the popular restaurant went out of business.

Image Credits: Facebook/Jeff Hersh, Commercial Real Estate Advisor

LYON’S RESTAURANT

Customers at Lyon's, a rival to Denny's with casual dining and low-cost breakfasts, were told to "Eat like a king" The chain was founded in 1952, and over the years it continued to expand. However, the company was purchased and sold off in 2001 after filing for bankruptcy in 1998. In 2012, its last location closed.

Image Credits: Instagram/bernicematchbookcollection

ELAINE’S

Since 1963, Elaine's has been a New York City establishment and remained one until it closed down in 2011. Renowned for its celebrity customers and atmosphere, fans and paparazzi would often crowd the sides of the yellow awning just to sneak a peek at the entrance and exit of those signature wooden doors. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed for good after legendary owner Elaine Kaufman passed away in 2010.

Image Credits: Facebook/Fight With Your Dollar

GOOGIE’S ITALIAN DINER

New York City has seen many famous eateries die out since the early 2000s. Googie's was one of the finest casual Italian locations in the Upper East Side and has been greatly missed since it shut down in 2008. While we have other famous Italian restaurants out there, Googie’s Italian dinner will surely have a special place in our hearts.

Image Credits: Pinterest/Smithsonian Magazine - Todd Lapin

STOCK EXCHANGE LUNCHEON CLUB

Ever wonder how Wall Street bankers spend their lunch hour? Well, most of them had their lunch at the Stock Exchange Luncheon Club for a while, a members-only dining club situated on the New York Stock Exchange's seventh floor, established in 1898. However, as the club closed in 2006, these are all distant memories now.

Image Credits: Instagram/ivanrgomez27

KENNY ROGERS ROASTERS

Kenny Rogers Roasters started their very first restaurant in Coral Springs, Florida, in 1991. By 1995, there were over 350 locations. Its success was attributed in part to a Seinfeld episode in which Kramer develops a chicken obsession. Sadly, in the United States and Canada, all of the Kenny Rogers Roasters chains closed down by 2011, but in many parts of Asia, the chain is still doing well. While Kenny Rogers is no longer associated with the restaurants, there are still 156 locations open globally.

Image Credits: Instagram/kennyrogerssingapore

ROYAL CASTLE

One of those burger outlets that really gave you the mom-and-pop vibe was Royal Castle. They were popular, similar to White Castle, for their mini hamburgers. The motto of the Royal Castle was "Fit for a King!" Started in Miami, Florida, the restaurants soon spread to Georgia, Ohio, and Louisiana. They had 175 locations at their peak. They also served breakfast and orange juice,' squeezed to order'! You really can't find such a facility these days. But no worries! If you are in Miami, there is still one location open in the city.

Image Credits: Facebook/RoyalCastle

MINNIE PEARL’S CHICKEN

Cofounded by John Jay Hooker and popular singer Minnie Pearl, Minnie Pearl's Chicken was a chain of restaurants developed to compete with KFC. The initial review of their estimates showed enormous success. Consequently, there were over 500 Minnie Pearl's Chicken restaurants across the nation at one point. But it all soon came crashing down. The whole company plan collapsed into itself with a lack of a coherent menu or recipes. The franchise went out of business and allegedly closed its doors in 1973.

Image Credits: Facebook/Lompoc Valley Historical Society

SAMBO’S

Sambo's was a pancake house that was opened in 1957 and expanded on the West Coast rapidly. When the chain started to expand to the Northeast, controversies surrounding the name of the restaurant began. Actually, the term "Sambo" is a derogatory word. While the owners believed that the name was a blended derivative of the names of the owner, people did not buy it, nor their pancakes for that matter. The company went bankrupt and tried numerous times to rebrand itself before finally closing down. The very last Sambo's can be found in Santa Barbara, California.

Image Credits: Facebook/Robert Gonser

HENRY’S HAMBURGER

An ice cream company had opened up Henry's Hamburgers to broaden their shakes and malts menu. Henry's was modeled after McDonald's, but they were also rivals at the time. They were renowned for offering burgers at a cheap rate of ten for a dollar. During the 1960s, Henry's Hamburgers were huge but began to decline in the 1970s. Their biggest concern was that they were unable to compete with their other fast-food rivals. Henry's had no drive-in and didn't diversify their menu either. There’s only one location left now in Benton Harbor, MI.

Image Credits: Instagram/lizprato

THE ORIGINAL SPAGO

When it opened in 1982 on the Sunset Strip, the restaurant of the world-renowned chef Wolfgang Puck became a Hollywood hotspot. While Puck owns Spago's other locations, the chef decided in 2001 to close the original, which had become an institution among the heavy hitters of Hollywood.

Image Credits: Instagram/bhrube

FASHION CAFE

One restaurant group decided in the '90s to capitalize on the supermodel era. New York City's Fashion Cafe pulled together iconic models such as Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Elle MacPherson, and Claudia Schiffer to back it up. The international chain ceased operations in 1999, however.

Image Credits: Pinterest/Doreen Nelson

SIGN OF THE DOVE

After being demolished in 1998, Sign of the Dove was finally considered one of New York City's missing gems. "It was more than physical the void it left in the landscape. The fine dining experience in its stain glass garden was reported to have been spectacular, one of many famous Upper East Side eateries owned by the Santo Family Company," explained the New York Times.

Image Credits: Pinterest/The Match Group AD-MATCHES

CHASEN’S

In 1936, in a whirlwind of Hollywood clientele, Chasen's opened and drew attention immediately. The West Hollywood restaurant became as popular for its Academy Award after-parties as it was renowned for its chili over the years. After 24 years, however, in 1995, the glamorous watering hole closed for good.

Image Credits: Instagram/danlarsh

BOSTON SEA PARTY

It was hard to find a themed restaurant in the late '70s that didn't do well, but the Boston Sea Party was by far the most imaginative. The nautical-themed restaurant (as waiters wore colonial garb, no less) that served amazing seafood deals were scattered all over the world. Over the years, though, the chain closed quietly, and the last one was shut down in 1994.

Image Credits: Instagram/electrosigndesign

BROWN DERBY

After Herbert K. Somborn the original Wilshire Boulevard location in 1926, the Brown Derby became a Hollywood institution. The restaurant was famous for attracting celebrity clientele, caricature-decorated walls, and a quirky building that was shaped like a bowler hat. But as Hollywood left the golden age, so did the Brown Derby, and all four locations were closed by 1987.

Image Credits: Instagram/_old_gold_

DUBROW’S CAFETERIA

This family-owned, cafeteria-style establishment in New York City has served as a rallying point for hopeful politicians (JFK and Ed Koch both campaigned here) for 33 years, as well as a favorite dining spot for locals. But unfortunately, in the late '80s, Dubrow's closed down as the diner trend started to fade.

Image Credits: Facebook/Keith Newman

THE CLOUD CLUB

The Cloud Club, founded in 1930, offered more than just delicious food. It also had a private locker room and a view of Manhattan from two floors. The room has remained empty since the club closed in 1979, and many of the original old art-deco fixtures have been removed or destroyed.

Image Credits: Instagram/creneauinternational

TOOT SHOR’S RESTAURANT

Image Credits: Facebook/Roscoe Wellington

At Toots Shor's, every A-list star was a regular, from Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe to Jackie Gleason and Judy Garland. Owned by Bernard Shor, the exclusive New York City bar served steak and baked potatoes, among other items, but the crowd was the main draw. When the building was confiscated for taxation, the establishment closed down in 1971.

THE STORK CLUB

The Stork Club, which opened from 1929 to 1965, was a venue where celebrities and socialites alike could enjoy drinks, a steak dinner, and a dance night. In 1965, the prestigious hot spot closed down, and while there were discussions of it relocating, owner Sherman Billingsley died soon after. The famous building of the club was later demolished and transformed into Paley Park.

Image Credits: Facebook/The Stork Club

SANDY'S

Sandy's was a popular burger restaurant that originated in central Illinois. The four owners originally set out to start opening McDonald's franchises, but they had to pay higher fees due to the rent in desired locations. So the four businessmen, imitating McDonald's, decided on opening a new chain of burger joints. The company lasted just about 20 years before the market took over and closed down Sandy's. It also appears that they just couldn't compete with the bigger fast-food restaurants with their TV ads.

Image Credits: Instagram/thorsenmark

WIMPY'S

The name Wimpy was inspired by the character of the same name, Popeye. The business was started in 1934 in Bloomington, Indiana, by Edward Gold. The chain gradually grew internationally to a whopping 1,500 locations. But something bad happened then. All the Wimpy's locations in the United States began to disappear shortly after the owner's death. The explanation was that after his death, no one had bought the rights and trademarks from Gold's assets. So, legally, no one in the US owns the title Wimpy. There are, however, places in the UK that are still available.

Image Credits: Instagram/challengeher

Well, this was all that we wanted to share in this article. However, we hope that we brought back some of those precious memories of eating at your favorite restaurant. There’s not much we can do about it, but these restaurants will always have a special place in our hearts. We would also love to hear from you about your favorite restaurants. So don’t forget to let us know in the comments! And, until next time, enjoy reading!

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