TAKE A TRIP DOWN FOODIE MEMORY LANE

Do You Remember These 10 Vanished Restaurant Chains?


Published on June 4, 2024


Credit: Tim Mossholder

As the writer J.L. Borges said, "It is not the places that we miss, but the moments spent in them." We all have memories of family dinners and friend gatherings in places that no longer exist. Often located in mall food courts, but also in the middle of the city, in highway stops, or many other locations, these once popular places faded into obscurity, devoured by the competition or simply fell out of pace with the modern tastes.

From big celebrity-backed restaurants like Planet Hollywood to the more humble family-oriented Chi-Chi’s, many of these chains went quietly and without much notice but were once beloved meeting points. Read on and try to remember if you ever attended any one of these.

1

Kenny Rogers Roasters

Credit: Bindydad123 CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Even if you’ve never been there, you probably have heard of this one: a wood-fired rotisserie chicken restaurant chain fronted by The Gambler himself, Mr. Kenny Rogers. That was the idea and, for several years, it worked quite well. The brand advocated healthy eating, by claiming that roasted chicken has less fat, salt, and calories than fried chicken.

The brand was a 90s creature, as it was born and saw its heyday in that decade, with locations all over the United States and even many abroad. But, as it happens, it filed for bankruptcy in 1998 and the last Kenny Rogers Roasters in America shut its doors in 2011.

Surprisingly, the brand is still very much alive and thriving in Asia, where it's still going strong.

2

Bennigans

Credit: Phillip Pessa, via Wikimedia Commons

A staple of the so-called "fern bars" scene (upscale bars that featured plants, wooden bars, and fake Tiffany lamps in their decoration), Bennigan’s was born in the 1970s and it quickly grew with locations all over the country.

While the concept was not new or special, Bennigan’s restaurants were popular hangouts in their respective locations, catering to families, after-office workers, and local clientele. To this day, there are still a few Benningan’s left in the United States and abroad, with plans to make a comeback sometime in the future.

3

Steak and Ale

Credit: natasha t

As the name implies, the premise was simple: a steak dinner experience at affordable prices. Steak and Ale restaurants featured an unlimited salad bar or a choice of soup with most of its entrees on the dinner menu. It also featured free drink refills, honey wheat bread, a lunch menu with many items for $6.99 , and even wine samples for only 25 cents.

Despite all these amenities, the Tudor-styled chain’s market presence was eaten up by the competition and most of its restaurants closed its doors by the late 2000s.

4

Howard Johnson’s Restaurants

Credit: Pub. by Howard Johnson Publishing Department, Bedford, PA. Tichnor Quality View, Reg. U. S. Pat. Off. Made Only by Tichnor Bros., Inc., Boston, Mass., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Howard Johnson’s might be a familiar name in the current hotel industry but, believe it or not, there was a time when the brand was known as a restaurant chain. Howard Johnson’s restaurants were as popular as McDonald’s and Starbucks are today. With more than 1000 locations in the 1970s, it was once the biggest food chain in America.

The first restaurant opened in the late 1920s and a few years later, franchises started opening all over the country. In 1954 the first Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge was opened in Georgia next to the restaurant and history was made. But, a few decades later, the restaurant business was separated from the hotel business and the eateries started losing its public until the final HoJo’s restaurant closed its doors in 2022.

5

Red Barn

Credit: Hien Nguyen

A restaurant chain famous for its barn-shaped locations, Red Barn was born in Ohio in 1961 and featured items like the "The Big Barney" and "Barnbuster" hamburgers and the first self-service salad bar.

After passing hands a few times, the food chain ended up being sold for the land and the franchises were allowed to expire but, to this day, many Facebook groups plead for a comeback of the Red Barn brand.

6

Burger Chef

Credit: amirali mirhashemian

With a very straightforward name, Burger Chef opened business in Indianapolis, in 1954, and expanded throughout the country until peaking in 1973 with 1050 locations. The restaurant offered a double burger, called the Big Shef, the quarter-pound hamburger, Super Shef, and the Works Bar, where customers added their own toppings to hamburgers.

In 1973 the chain introduced "Funmeal," a kids’ menu meal that included a small toy. A few years later, in 1979, McDonald’s introduced its own Happy Meal. Burger Chef sued the big M but ultimately lost the case. The brand was sold to Hardee’s and the name phased out in favor of the latter.

7

Chi-Chi’s

Credit: Sarah Stierch via Wikimedia Commons

If you went out for Mexican food in the Midwest in the 80s and 90s, there was a big chance you were going to a Chi-Chi’s . While the food might not have been the most authentic Tex-Mex you could find, it provided an introduction to Mexican flavors for many families.

By the early 2000s, the brand filed for bankruptcy but the final blow came the year after that , when a major hepatitis epidemic in the Pittsburgh area was traced back to a batch of green onions in one of the chain’s restaurants.

8

Showbiz Pizza Place

Credit: Ray or Jane Schumin, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Did anyone call for weird animatronic stage shows? Showbiz Pizza Place was a family restaurant pizza chain that entertained its guests with a large selection of arcade games, coin-operated rides, and stage shows featuring singing and dancing robots disguised as animals.

The chain saw its heyday during the 80s thanks to the rising popularity of arcades but, a decade after that, it rebranded all its locations to the Chuck E. Cheese we know today.

9

Planet Hollywood

Credit: Yarkob, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Maybe you even owned a hat or a T-shirt with this logo. Few restaurant chains started as big as Planet Hollywood . Backed by heavy hitters like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis, among many others, each location was decorated with memorabilia from movies, famous actors and actresses, music stars, and more.

The first location opened its doors in New York City in 1991 and it continued an aggressive expansion and diversification into other themed restaurants including the All-Star Cafe, a sports-themed restaurant, superstores, and even television game shows. But, a mere 8 years later, in 1999, the company filed for bankruptcy. As of today, only a handful of Planet Hollywood Restaurants remain open.

10

ESPN Zone

Credit: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Keeping on with the big themed restaurant chains, ESPN Zone was a major operation, also including arcades, TV and radio studios. It started with a modest sports bar in Disney World, but quickly developed into a full chain of sports-themed restaurants all over the United States.

One might be forgiven to think that a sports-themed restaurant backed by such a prestigious brand as ESPN would have been a huge hit in such a sports-loving country but, alas, by June 2010, all but two locations were closed -the parent company citing the financial crisis as the cause.


CURSED CINEMA

10 Scary Movies That Were Allegedly Haunted


Published on June 4, 2024


Credit: Jisun Han

When the spooks aren't limited to what happens inside the silver screen but also extend to the filming set and the actors' personal lives, it's hard to stay cool and rational. No matter if you believe in the supernatural or not, some of these terrifying stories will make your hair stand on end.

Join us in this macabre tour through 10 classic movies that were (supposedly) haunted by terrible curses or strange paranormal entities.

1

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Credit: Omar Lopez

Much like the movie itself, Roman Polanski's timeless horror classic is shrouded in mystery and tragedy. One of the producers had a near-death experience during which he claimed to see the main character approaching him with a knife.

2

The Exorcist (1973)

Credit: Ján Jakub Naništa

William Friedkin's horror masterpiece reportedly faced a series of eerie incidents during filming, including a fire that destroyed most of the set but somehow left intact the bedroom of the possessed Regan. Some of the cast believed that the movie's subject matter - exorcizing a demon - invoked a real curse, and they ended up bringing a priest to bless the set.

3

Poltergeist (1982)

Credit: aj_aaaab

This supernatural thriller of the eighties is infamous for its alleged curse, with several cast members meeting untimely ends. Among various unusual mishaps during filming, one of the child actors was choked by a creepy mechanical doll that malfunctioned, and shortly after filming the third installment, she tragically passed away at just 12 years old.

4

Ghost (1990)

Credit: Jr Korpa

While Ghost might not exactly fit within the horror genre, an urban legend claims that the ghost of Poltergeist's child star Heather O'Rourke haunted the set. The filming team heard someone running up on the empty catwalks and a child's laughter on numerous occasions. Coincidentally, the movie was filmed on the same set where O'Rourke had previously filmed episodes of the popular sitcom Happy Days.

5

Insidious (2010)

Credit: Kenny Eliason

Hospitals are always a bit scary. And during the shooting of the 2010 supernatural horror film Insidious, strange things seemed to happen in the hospital set. Several members of the cast and crew claimed to feel unwell immediately upon setting foot on the set, and some even claimed to hear a buzzer from an unoccupied floor repeatedly going off.

6

The Conjuring (2013)

Credit: m wrona

A bone-chilling experience all by itself, The Conjuring gets even creepier when you learn about the many eerie things that took place behind the scenes. Vera Farmiga, who plays paranormal investigator Lorraine Warren in the film, felt terribly uncomfortable during filming, to the point where she started leaving the script outside of her house. Among many other strange events, despite not doing any stunts, she and other members of the cast repeatedly found themselves covered in inexplicable bruises.

7

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

Credit: Christian Lue

The true story behind The Exorcism of Emily Rose is already terrifying without adding any behind-the-scenes elements, but according to various sources, the film set was also haunted by a supernatural entity. According to both actress Jennifer Carpenter - who played the titular Emily Rose - and the film’s director Scott Derrickson, at several points during filming, they experienced inexplicable phenomena. Among other things, TVs and radios would mysteriously turn on by themselves at random times, and music would start playing loudly.

8

The Possession (2012)

Credit: Edilson Borges

Inspired by the tale of a haunted dybbuk box, this supernatural horror film tells the story of a family terrorized by a malevolent entity. But besides the eerie premise and intense performances that likely left some cast and crew members feeling uneasy, strange occurrences also plagued the set. The film's lead actor, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, has stated that he didn't believe in ghosts before the movie. However, during filming, he experienced events that convinced him of the reality of supernatural phenomena. To make things weirder, the possessed box featured in the film was later destroyed in a mysterious storage facility fire.

9

Return to Babylon (2013)

Credit: Nagy Arnold

Another outlier in this list, though Return to Babylon was never intended as a horror movie of any kind, ended up having a reputation for being cursed. The indie film explores the scandals and tragedies of Hollywood's silent film era, delving into the lives of iconic stars like Clara Bow and Rudolph Valentino. Soon after filming, rumors of on-set mishaps and strange occurrences have circulated, including claims of actors' faces morphing into demonic shapes in certain shots, and apparitions of dead actors. In particular, actress Jennifer Tilly described feeling watched and touched by invisible forces during production.

10

Annabelle (2014)

Credit: Aimee Vogelsang

A spin-off of The Conjuring franchise, Annabelle follows the haunting of a possessed doll wreaking havoc on unsuspecting victims. John R. Leonetti, the movie’s director, claimed to have seen "three fingers drawn through dust" multiple times on set. This would be strange enough by itself, but there is more: the creepy doll featured in the film has only three fingers. Also, an actor dressed up as a demon was almost killed by a light fixture falling on his head in the same place on the set where a murder would take place later, according to the script.

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