Is there anything worse than a food craving that you can’t satisfy? What about loving a restaurant chain that has since gone out of business? No matter what kind of food you are into, it always stinks to see a food chain bite the dust. To honor some of our favorite meals from years past, let’s take a moment to go on a nostalgic trip past the restaurant chains that we know and love and have since shut down. If you are hungry, we caution that the following restaurants might make your mouth water!
Keep on reading to learn about 18 restaurant chains from yesteryear that have shut their doors forever!
Let’s start our extinct restaurant tour with a trip to the Red Barn. Prominent in the 60s and 70s, the Red Barn was known for its hyper-catchy jingle, “When the hungries hit, hit the red barn!” Red Barn offered a diverse menu that included fish, fried chicken, burgers, and a salad bar. Red Barn is still a popular mainstay to this day with fans on Facebook grouping together to share their love of the establishment.
Minnie Pearl’s Chicken
There is nothing better in life than a warm plate of fried chicken prepped by a cook from Nashville. Minnie Pearl’s Chicken would rise to prominence in the ’60s after Minnie Pearl was contacted by John Jay Hooker, an attorney from Nashville. Minnie Pearl used her legacy at the Grand Ole Opry to launch the venture before doling out some of the finest and cheapest chicken boxed meals of the era.
Ultimately, Minnie Pearl’s Chicken would be shut down after a financial investigation into John Jay Hooker.
Featured in an episode of the iconic series Mad Men, Burger Chef used to be known as a legitimate competitor to McDonald’s. Unfortunately, Burger Chef would over-extend its financial capacity before ultimately shutting down. Created by Frank and Donald Thomas, Burger Chef was known for its soft-serve ice cream and juicy flame-broiled burgers.
If your mouth isn’t watering for a burger, maybe the next extinct food chain has something for you!
Don Pablo’s rose to prominence in the mid-80s. Founded in Lubbock, Texas, Don Pablo’s was a fairly successful Tex-Mex chain that would expand to more than 120 locations throughout the region. Don Pablo’s offered fairly standard Tex-Mex fare with a focus on ‘made-from-scratch’ meals. While the food was decent and the prices were great, the chain would ultimately enter bankruptcy before shutting down.
Bresler’s Ice Cream
William J. Bresler would thrive during the Depression by selling ice cream in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. Eventually, Bresler would purchase a factory to sell his ice cream wholesale. Bresler’s Ice Cream would pop into existence in 1954 as a drive-in restaurant for the sweet-tooth inclined. With 33 flavors as well as frozen yogurt, this chain was incredibly popular until it was sold in 1987 to Oberweis Dairy.
If you wanted to eat a burger while a cardboard cutout of Tiger Woods stared at you, the All-Star Cafe was the place for you! The All-Star Cafe chain only expanded to ten total units but they were in hotspot locations like Walt Disney World, Las Vegas, and even Cancun. Despite prominent endorsements from professional athletes, All-Star Cafe couldn’t overcome its overpriced and middling offerings before shutting down in 2007.
Developed by Newell Bohnett and Sam Battistone, Sambo’s opened its menu to the world in 1957. Named after The Story of Little Black Sambo, Sambo’s was as well-known for its controversial name as its delicious breakfast platters. Sambo’s had some of the best pancakes of the area and their low prices certainly brought in business.
Before shutting the shop forever, Sambo’s would establish 1,100 locations.
Kenny Rogers Roasters
Kenny Rogers Roasters was more than just a location in an episode of Seinfeld! As it turns out, Kenny Rogers Roasters was created to rival KFC, even though it had been established alongside the KFC mastermind John Y. Brown! Kenny Rogers Roasters would grow to nearly 425 locations but its love of rotisserie chicken would catch on, ultimately going bankrupt in 1998.
The O.G. Beefsteak Charlie’s would be founded in 1910 in New York City by Larry Ellman. Larry fell in love with the name when he realized that it hadn’t been trademarked and the rest was history. The restaurant line would grow to nearly 60 locations along the East Coast before going out of business in 1989. Beefsteak Charlie’s was known for massive servings and low-low-low prices. Did we mention that the restaurant offered free beer, sangria, and wine?
Bugaboo Creek Steak House
A visit to Bugaboo Creek Steak House was likely a memorable one. Named after a giant talking pine tree, Bugaboo Creek Steak House was known for its bizarre animatronic talking heads and nature-themed decor. Despite being relatively unique, Bugaboo Creek would shut down all thirty of their locations by 2016.
Having lunch at ESPN Zone felt like falling into your television. Once inside of the building, you were surrounded by 13,000 square feet of television screens, video games, and arcades. Owned by Disney, ESPN Zone thrived for years thanks to its dual-level design and more than 10,000 square feet of arcade games.
Yeah, we didn’t mention the food for a reason. Disney would shutter the chain in 2010.
Pup ‘N’ Taco
If you were in the mood for simple and tasty tacos, Pup ‘N’ Taco was the place to go. Mocked by Johnny Carson, this oddly named restaurant chain sprout out of the ground in California in 1956. Known for hot dogs and tacos, the aptly named Pup ‘N’ Taco would thrive until it was purchased by Taco Bell in 1984.
Nowadays, there are three remaining Pup ‘N’ Taco franchises still in existence.
Steak and Ale
Steak And Ale was founded by Norman Brinker in Dallas, TX in 1966. Steak and Ale was primarily known for its cozy decor which included low lights, massive stuffed armchairs, and robust bookshelves. One feature that made Steak and Ale unique was its unlimited salad bar, an oddity for this time period.
Steak and Ale would be sold multiple times before going bankrupt in 2008.
The first ever Chi-Chi’s Mexican Restaurant would open its doors exactly where you’d least expect it — downtown Minneapolis. Established in 1975, Chi-Chi’s quickly became a favorite throughout the United States. The chain would hit a high of 237 total locations from New York City to New England.
Unfortunately, a Chi-Chi’s in Pittsburgh would spark a hepatitis A outbreak that would kill four people while sickening 660.
A famous local chain throughout the Northeast, Carrols rose to prominence in the 60s before ultimately dying out in the late 70s. Carrols was enormously popular in Pennsylvania as well as New York. A competitor to McDonald’s and Burger King, Carrols would ultimately be undercut by its more famous competitors before shutting shop down. We still yearn for the Triple-Decker Club Burger with Royale Sauce to this day.
White Tower Hamburgers
If you thought that White Tower looked sort of like White Castle, you were tricked by design! White Tower opened half a decade after White Castle in the year 1926. White Tower offered traditional burger fare though its staff would be forced to dress as nurses to instill the idea of cleanliness. White Tower would end up getting sued by White Castle and that would mark the beginning of this chain’s ultimate demise in the 50s.
Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill
The image above perfectly encapsulates what Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill had been attempting to do. Founded by Doug Guller, Bikinis would fundamentally open the door to the ‘breastaurant’ fad that we know of to this day. Waitresses were forced to wear skimpy outfits and diners ranged the gamut from leering patrons to uncomfortable guests.
Bikinis would experience a spike in fame when owner Doug Guller offered an employee abreast enhancement surgery on company dime. The franchise would be shuttered in 2018.
Let’s get this out of the way immediately, yes this is the Casa Bonita that was referenced and summarily immortalized in an episode of South Park. With that out of the way, Casa Bonita featured five prominent locations in Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, and Arkansas. The restaurant was known for its immensity as it was capable of seating more than one THOUSAND guests at a time. The elaborate decor was as inviting as it was impressive and the food wasn’t half bad.
Nowadays, only a single Casa Bonita is still operating.