Ah this iconic turquoise and orange pointed roof and the best breakfast in town. That familiarity when you find one along the way traveling somewhere else and you know you’re going to have a good meal. America’s last Howard Johnson—a 7,500-square-foot bungalow that’s been sitting off Lake George, Route 9 in New York for nearly 70 years—closed its doors only last June.
It had over 60 locations in the early 1980s, many of them here in New Jersey, but the last known store closed in 2009. Beefsteak Charlie’s was a fun and reliable place to eat. I tried to win people over by giving them what they wanted: plenty of good, simple food and drink at a reasonable price.
One of the most popular Mexican food chains ever, Chi-Chi’s has found its way into the hearts of America with its famous Cancun enchiladas, sweet corn cake and twice grilled burritos.
On the weekend of September 18, 2004, Chi-Chi’s closed all 65 of its remaining restaurants. There are still Facebook pages dedicated to bringing back Chi Chi.
Kenny Rogers Roasters
Founded by the singer, his restaurants bearing his name were legendary. The chicken strips were addictive. Even Kramer on Seinfeld became addicted to it. The only complaint about the chain? Continuous playback of the star’s music over and over again in all its locations. Now the chain is only found in parts of Asia and the United Arab Emirates.
Steak and beer
Who can forget the herb-grilled signature prime rib, Kensington club, New York strip, filet mignon, Hawaiian chicken, and spicy grilled chicken pasta? The restaurant features an unlimited salad bar or a choice of soup with most entrees on the dinner menu. Complimentary beverage refills and honey-wheat bread also appeared.
At one time, there were 8 to 10 Sambus sites in New Jersey, mostly in South Jersey. Although the name is taken from parts of the names of its founders, the series soon found itself linked to the popular book, The Little Black Sambo Story. The owners ran with this, decorating the walls of restaurants with scenes from the book. The restaurant went bankrupt in 1981 and took with it its New Jersey locations.
The relaxed atmosphere, peanut husks on the floor, and simple inexpensive fare are what made the Ground Round such a sensation. We’ll always remember them projecting silent movies and cartoons on a big screen, mascot named Bingo the Clown, and passing those famous peanuts. Although there is a refurbished version in many states across the country, unfortunately, New Jersey is not one of them.
NJ Greasy Tony’s was originally a joint in Tucson, Arizona, near Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Tony Dahni is best known for his cheese steak subs and Italian sausage. Many Rutgers University students remember the famous slogan “There is no charge for excess fat.” Owner Tony Giorgani’s specialty was the “Trashcan,” a RU fat sandwich containing the items that just so happened to be there at that very moment.
Now only in about 10 locations in some of the US flying over the states as well as in the UAE, Bennigan’s was once home to the great food and fun of many New Jerseyans. With an Irish pub theme, Bennigan’s was the place to be if you just want good prices, casual dining and a fun night out with family or a couple of friends.
Famous for hamburgers such as Sirloiner, which was made with sirloin (and was originally a staple at Tops Drive Inn), Jumbo Gino, which was very similar to Whopper and Gino Giant, which earlier and later also had the exclusive distribution rights to Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Burger Chef was a great alternative to the fast food hamburger craze. In fact, New Jersey in particular loved burger chefs. They were famous for giving McDonald’s a serious run for their money. Best known for their Big Shef and Super Shef hamburgers, they went out of business in 1996, but no one remembers exactly when the New Jersey location last closed.
The opinions expressed in the above post are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco only.
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New Jersey License Plate Designs Through the Years
NJ’s Route 22 circa 1984 – Did you recognize these companies?
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