Fast Food

Top 9 Now-Defunct L.A. Fast Food Restaurant Chains + The Return of #3

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Mon, Mar 7, 2011 at 9:30 AM

click to enlarge DEL TACO CORP.
  • Del Taco Corp.
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.

10. Naugles:

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".

7. Whataburger:

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.

click to enlarge Kenny Rogers Roasters in Hollywood. - ANDREW NOVAK
  • Andrew Novak
  • Kenny Rogers Roasters in Hollywood.

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.

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