Though the world around us continues to change, especially food trends and customer preferences, some restaurants will always hold a special place in our hearts no matter how much time passes. It's fun to remember the spots we used to frequent as kids, the family outings, or just high-quality dishes that we love.
A group of online forum members created a place for people to share memories of their favorite food joints that are completely gone or all but extinct; here are some restaurants that people wish would make a resurgence!
Bennigan's is an Irish-themed pub restaurant that focuses on casual dining for the typical American family. There are only six states that still have Bennigan's, with a total of 11 locations left in the country. Many people remember the prime burgers, celebrated sandwiches, desserts, and the famous buffalo wings. While it's hard to find a location near you, and the restaurants continue to close, there's hope that you can still get one of your favorite meals if you're willing to travel.
2. Don Pablos
Don Pablo's used to be a prominent name in American Tex-Mex cuisine, offering a delectable array of Mexican-inspired dishes. From sizzling fajitas to flavorful enchiladas, its menu resonated with patrons seeking a taste of the Southwest. Unfortunately, the last location closed its doors in 2019, and the parent company ultimately filed for bankruptcy. Nonetheless, many forum members said they have fond memories of the restaurant and wish they could get some of those delectable tacos once more.
Chi-Chi's, celebrated for its Mexican-American fusion fare, left an indelible mark on the culinary landscape. Iconic dishes like the chimichangas, the chajitas, and the various burritos, nachos, and more, left patrons wishing there was even just one left in their cities. As of 2004, Chi-Chi's stands as the sole Mexican restaurant in Vienna, Austria, marking the last surviving restaurant of a once-expansive chain.
Farrell's, a cherished name when it comes to ice cream parlors, created lasting memories with its whimsical sundaes and vibrant ambiance. Families and friends gathered to satisfy their sweet tooth, to host post-victory game celebrations, or just for quality time with those they love. The last location in Brea, California, closed in 2019.
5. Old Country Buffet
Old Country Buffet, a quintessential American buffet chain, offered a vast array of comfort food classics. From homestyle fried chicken to mac ‘n' cheese, it provided a familiar and enjoyable dining experience. Having recently closed their doors for good in 2021, one forum member says they miss going there after church for a hearty meal and plenty of laughs.
Fuddruckers, a celebrated burger joint, distinguished itself with customizable, large burgers with fresh ingredients and buns baked on the premises. Its commitment to quality and flavor made it a favorite amongst burger enthusiasts. As of now, the restaurant isn't technically shut down.
However, on September 8, 2020, Luby's, Inc., the parent company of Fuddruckers, unveiled its intention to liquidate its current holdings, which encompassed Fuddruckers' assets. Following the potential sale of these chains, patrons are concerned that the outlook is grim and the quality won't be the same even if the chain remains.
7. Damon's Grill & Sports Bar
Damon's is an American-themed dining establishment renowned for its focus on tasty offerings such as prime rib, grilled steaks, chicken, seafood, salads, and the acclaimed Damon's award-winning ribs. These signature dishes made it a go-to spot for family gatherings. Some locations remain, mostly in Texas and Florida, but a lot of the restaurants have been closing lately. Those who live in a state where there's just one left (instead of the ten locations they grew up with) are getting anxious!
8. Showbiz Pizza
Showbiz Pizza was a pizzeria that merged and eventually became Chuck E. Cheese Pizza, the infamous children's birthday venue that combined animatronic shows with pizza, games, music, and more. After multiple difficulties as a result of the pandemic in 2020 and filing for bankruptcy various times, the pizza/game spot closed more than 600 locations for months on end. With news that they are set to face more financial hardship in the near future, there's little hope that the franchise will recover.
Souplantation, a beloved salad buffet restaurant, offered an array of fresh and healthy options. They offered a variety of options, including salad, soup, bakery items, pasta, muffins, soft serve ice cream, fruits, vegetables, and other vegetarian choices.
On May 7, 2020, the company made the difficult decision to permanently close its doors and initiated the process of liquidation. Nevertheless, there is a glimmer of hope as a single restaurant in Tucson, Arizona, is in the process of reopening under new ownership, with the fate of other locations still hanging in uncertainty.
10. Gino's Hamburgers
Initially, Gino's Hamburgers was born as Gino's Drive-In, an enterprise dedicated to hamburgers that originated in Baltimore, Maryland, during the late 1950s. The company gained recognition for its celebrity endorsements, with figures like Muhammad Ali and comedian Soupy Sales, and for its colossal burger creations such as the “Sirloiner” and the iconic “Giant.”
In 1982, Marriott acquired the company, leveraging it as a strategic platform for expanding their Roy Rogers chain. However, by 1986, Gino's was gone.
11. Ground Round
In the 1970s and 1980s, Ground Round made a name for itself with its popular children's parties, featuring silent movies and cartoons on a large screen, a beloved mascot named Bingo the Clown, and a unique practice of serving whole peanuts, encouraging customers to drop the shells on the floor without hesitation. A
t its height, the chain boasted more than 200 restaurant locations but eventually closed all locations due to bankruptcy. The modern-day version of Ground Round caters to both families and adults, offering a Sports Bar and Lounge section for those seeking dining options and cocktails. Still, a few users say they miss the old vibes!
Ponderosa, a popular steakhouse chain, offered a hearty selection of steaks, buffet options, and American comfort food, including steaks, seafood, salads, and other classics. It offers a casual dining experience in a welcoming atmosphere and is a go-to destination for those seeking affordable yet satisfying meals.
In 1989, there were over 700 Ponderosa's in the country, while as of 2023, there are about 20 left, and guests are worried that the beloved restaurant will continue to decline.
13. Beefsteak Charlie's
Beefsteak Charlie's was a chain of American restaurants that primarily served steak and seafood dishes. The restaurant was known for its all-you-can-eat salad bar, which was a popular feature. Customers could enjoy a variety of salads, including a famous Caesar salad, as well as steaks, seafood, and other classic American dishes. The restaurant was quite popular in the late 20th century but closed for good in 1987.
14. Burger Chef
Burger Chef, famous for flame-grilled burgers, began as a modest Indiana eatery in 1954 but blossomed into a formidable chain, boasting over 1,000 outlets and competing head-to-head with fast-food titan McDonald's. In 1982, the owners made the regrettable decision to sell the thriving burger establishment to Hardee's. Sadly, the last Burger Chef location bearing its name closed its doors in 1996.
15. Mr. Steak
Mr. Steak was an affordable and well-regarded steakhouse in the 1960s. Originating as a modest establishment in Colorado Springs, it rapidly expanded to over 200 locations across the United States and Canada. However, in the 1980s, the restaurant shifted its menu focus towards chicken and fish.
Subsequently, parts of the franchise were sold off, and it gradually faded away, with the final location shutting its doors in the mid-1990s.
16. Valle's Steak House
Established in 1933, Valle's Steak House experienced significant growth in the 1960s by aligning with the popular trend of offering a menu centered around steak and lobster. The quality was exceptional, according to people who remember going out to eat with friends and family.
Despite expanding extensively in the following decade, the economic challenges of the 1970s impeded its progress. Although the chain never fully recovered, it persevered for an extended period, ultimately closing its last restaurant in 2000.
Elaine's was known for its diverse American menu. They served a range of dishes, including steaks, seafood, pasta, and more. This iconic establishment in New York City since 1963 retained its status as a cultural landmark until its closure in 2011. Renowned among celebrities and the social elite, the restaurant's yellow awning often attracted fans and photographers eager for a glimpse of its distinguished clientele entering and exiting through those distinctive wooden doors.
Unfortunately, following the passing of the legendary proprietor, Elaine Kaufman, in 2010, the restaurant ceased operations permanently.
18. Rax Roast Beef
Rax Roast Beef, a fast-food chain, specializes in roast beef sandwiches and comfort food. It's the perfect spot for those craving hearty, satisfying meals on the go. Rax gained recognition for its abundant salad bar and a touch of elevated architecture, often featuring a front solarium.
Reaching its peak during the mid-1980s, the company faced bankruptcy around 1991, leading to the closure of most of its restaurants. Today, a handful of Rax locations remain operational, primarily in Ohio.
19. Carnegie Deli
Another New York City icon, the Carnegie Deli was a beloved neighborhood staple. Patrons were often willing to queue down the block for a coveted table at this renowned establishment. Some of its most well-known offerings included oversized sandwiches stacked high with pastrami, corned beef, roast beef, and turkey, often accompanied by pickles and coleslaw.
They also served other Jewish delicacies like matzo ball soup, knishes, and cheesecake. However, after a remarkable 78-year run of serving delectable pastrami and slaw, the deli closed its doors permanently in 2016.
20. Wendy's Superbar
Everybody loves Wendy's, and they have continued to maintain popularity, offering burgers, fries, chicken sandwiches, milkshakes, and their delicious chili. Many people don't even remember Wendy's Superbar; it featured a range of salad and pasta choices, but they discontinued it in the 1990s. A lot of users said they wished Wendy's would give it another go!
21. Po' Folks
Po Folks, a Southern-style restaurant, celebrated down-home cooking with dishes like fried chicken and biscuits. It was a place to savor comforting, soulful food with loved ones. In June 2023, there are still five PoFolks restaurants operating in Florida, specifically in Callaway, Lynn Haven, Niceville, Pensacola, and St. Petersburg. These locations were acquired after the company underwent liquidation in 1988.
22. Howard Johnson's
Back in the day, you couldn't drive far without spotting a Howard Johnson's restaurant with its distinctive orange roofs. They were a hot spot for fried clams and a place to grab a meal and a bed for road-tripping travelers. But sadly, as we moved into the new millennium, these beloved roadside gems started to fade away. The last restaurant location was in Lake George, NY, and it closed in 2022.
23. Bill Knapp's
Bill Knapp's, a family-friendly restaurant chain, served homestyle meals and beloved desserts like chocolate cake. It was a great place for special occasions. While the family-style restaurant chain closed its doors in the early 2000s, you can still find Bill Knapp's cakes, dunkers, donut holes, and other products available in stores such as Kroger, Meijer, and Spartan.
24. Kenny Rogers Roasters
Country music legend Kenny Rogers ventured into the fast-food industry in 1991, opening a Southern restaurant. Kenny Rogers' Roasters was known for its signature rotisserie chicken. The menu featured a variety of chicken dishes, including sandwiches and soups. They also offered side dishes like mashed potatoes, cornbread, macaroni and cheese, and coleslaw.
However, just seven years after it opened, in 1998, the chain faced financial difficulties and filed for bankruptcy. There are still some locations in Asia, however.