With the further expansion of Chick-fil-A in Los Angeles, the recent announcement of Papaya King coming to Hollywood and the arrival of Australia's Oporto to the Southland, we at Squid Ink thought it was an opportune time for a trip down memory lane. Here, in no particular order, are our top 9 now-defunct L.A. fast food chains, plus one (#3) that recently returned.
Started by Richard Naugle, there were just three Riverside County outlets in 1971 when Harold Butler, the founder of Denny's, bought them. 10 years later, there were 68 in six states and 14 in Los Angeles County. By their peak in 1984, there were more than 200. Known for menu items prefaced by "Macho" (i.e. "Macho Burrito", "Macho Taco") and 24 hour drive-thrus before it was common, Naugles was bought by Collins Foods, parent company of KFC and Sizzler, before being merged with Del Taco in 1988. Some outlets continued as Naugles for some time, but now there are none.
9. The All American Burger:
Known for its quarter pound All American burger, chili burger and hickory burger, this chain had several outlets on the Westside. It grew enough in the 1970s to purchase other chains before an abrupt fall. In 1981, the chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which was quickly followed by the founder being accused of fraud by the SEC. The sole surviving All American Burger, on Sunset Blvd., soldiered on until it closed last year.
8. Pup 'n' Taco:
With orange and white signs and orange roofed A frames, Pup 'n' Tacos were once a common sight around the area. Started by Russ Wendell, the same man who brought us the Big Donut, the first outlet opened in 1965. Obviously, known for hot dogs and tacos, Pup 'n' Taco menus also featured a variety of slushes. There were 99 locations, mostly in Southern California, when Taco Bell bought them out in 1984. Last year, the familiar orange roof was spotted in the biopic The Runaways, under the guise of "Pup 'n' Fries".
An institution in Texas and repeatedly referenced on TV's King of the Hill, Whataburger has nearly 700 locations stretching across the southern part of the continent. In the mid-70s, the orange and white roofed buildings could be found in Southern California, with six locations in Ventura County and one on Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Canoga Park. By the mid-80s, they'd disappeared. Now, the nearest location is in Goodyear, Arizona, west of Phoenix.
6. Kenny Rogers Roasters:
Founded in 1991 by the popular country-pop singer and former Kentucky governor John Y. Brown (the man who bought and expanded Kentucky Fried Chicken from Harland Sanders), Kenny Rogers Roasters experienced rapid growth. In four years, the chain had over 350 restaurants and had expanded their menu from wood fired rotisserie chicken by adding turkey, ribs and sides, including broccoli. The following year, the restaurant was the centerpiece in a memorable Seinfeld episode, but in April 1999, Kenny Rogers Roasters filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Nathan's bought the chain, and by 2000, there were only 40 restaurants in the United States. In 2008, Nathan's sold the chain to their Asian franchiser who grew the chain on that continent. Currently there are many outlets in Malaysia and the Phillipines as well as five locations in Beijing. There is still a chance to sample Kenny Rogers Roasters nearby as one location still operates in the U.S., at the Ontario Mills Mall in Ontario.
5. Roy Rogers' Roast Beef:
In the late 60s, a major trend was fast food franchises named after entertainers and sports figures: Arthur Treacher, football's Joe Namath, basketball star Jerry Lucas, gospel songstress Mahalia Jackson and country comedienne Minnie Pearl all had restaurants in their name (Minnie Pearl's Chicken is a story in itself). Along those lines, Roy Rogers, the famed singing cowboy of recordings, movies and TV, licensed his name to Marriott Corporation, which opened a chain of restaurants featuring roast beef served on toasted, buttered sesame buns. When ground was broken in October 1968 for the fifth location in Southern California, at Van Nuys Blvd. & Hartland in Van Nuys, Rogers was joined by franchise overseer and Marriott VP, Bob Wian — the "Bob" in Bob's Big Boy. The architectural design was "informal and inviting" with exposed beams, redwood and used brick and the interior dominated by a massive brass hood over, and extending beyond, the food preparation area. Fried chicken, fries, coleslaw and four flavors of milk shakes were also on the menu of the restaurants marked by a sign shaped like a covered wagon. After a convoluted history, including being owned by Carl's Jr., and nearly disappearing, there are currently 47 Roy Rogers' locations in nine states, with Cincinnati, Ohio the closest to Los Angeles.
4. Kentucky Roast Beef & Ham:
Everyone knows KFC, but how many of you are aware of the Colonel's venture into roast beef? Joining Roy Rogers and Arby's in competition for the burgeoning market, Kentucky Roast Beef & Ham restaurants began opening in the late 1960s. One could get fries or slaw with the sandwiches at the restaurants painted two shades of brown featuring signs sporting the Colonel's face. Area locations included 3844 S. Figueroa, North Hollywood and Long Beach. Though a few distant outposts carried on for years, most closed or were converted into KFC's in short order. It's just as well, as it's hard to imagine KRBH entering the vernacular.
3. Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips:
Ed McMahon was to Johnny Carson Andy Richter is to Conan O'Brien, Arthur Treacher was to Merv Griffin, the veteran British character actor serving as acerbic announcer/sidekick on Griffin's long running talk show. When fish & chips became a fast food trend in the late 60s, Treacher seemed a natural figurehead and lent his name. After buying the recipe from the most noted fish & chips shop in London, the first location opened in Columbus, Ohio in 1969 with a principal in the franchising being one Dave Thomas, who would go on to found Wendy's. The first in greater Los Angeles was store #700, located in Lakewood, which opened to great fanfare in March 1978 with an appearance by Jamie Lee Curtis, then starring on an ABC sitcom. Six more were planned in the Los Angeles area, and one was built in Canoga Park, but by the 80s they faded from the area. After passing through several corporations, including Mrs. Paul's, the company was acquired by Nathan's (yes, the hot dog stands). Last Summer, after a nearly 30 year absence from the area, one opened in Hawthorne.
2. Hickory Bell:
Glen Bell is known as the man behind Taco Bell, but in February 1970, the chain announced plans to franchise Hickory Bell: "a Western barbecue style restaurant." Owners of Taco Bell franchises were offered Hickory Bell franchises near their outlets. The buildings were dominated by wood facades and railings, giving the appearance of a cottage. Known locations of this short lived fast food eatery were in Lawndale, Canoga Park and a location at 301 N. Sepulveda in Manhattan Beach housing both Taco and Hickory Bells. Hickory Bell soon faded into history, a forgotten, obscure footnote.
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1. The Lone Ranger Family Restaurant:
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. Or maybe not. In 1969, Jack Wrather, the industrialist behind The Lone Ranger TV show, announced plans to open a chain of fast food restaurants themed around the masked man. A prototype was built on Wilshire in Santa Monica boasting of a 99-year lease, and three more followed: in Los Angeles on Crenshaw and on W. Pico, in Torrance and in Huntington Beach. The featured attraction were "Saddlebag" dinners (cardboard boxes made to look like saddlebags), with the choice of Western-fried Chicken, Sherrif's Steak Sandwich or Ranchburger served with Wild West Beans and coleslaw. Corn dogs were labeled Kemo Sabay, continuing the theme. Purchasing a 15 cent cup allowed refills of "refreshing, wholesome fruit flavored beverage" at the Quick Draw Drink Bar, and dessert featured cheesecake. The food was subpar, even for fast food of the era ("almost inedible" was a term used). Throw in servers dressed as The Lone Ranger and Tonto, at least at the Torrance location, and obviously the 99 year lease was ridiculously optimistic. By 1973, the restaurant equipment was up for auction, described as "used less than one year." Today only one of the distinctive buildings still stands, at 3630 Crenshaw, where it is now Earlez Grill.