Top 10 Restaurants That Don't Exist Anymore

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Top 10 Restaurants That Don't Exist Anymore

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio WRITTEN BY: George Pacheco
These famous restaurants have gone the way of the dodo bird. For this list, we'll be ranking the most missed or iconic eateries that have sadly bitten the dust. Our countdown includes Minnie Pearl's Fried Chicken, Lum's, Howard Johnson's, and more!
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Top 10 Restaurants That No Longer Exist


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Restaurants That No Longer Exist.

For this list, we'll be ranking the most missed or iconic eateries that have sadly bitten the dust. We'll be excluding restaurant chains that have moved their operations overseas, such as Kenny Rogers' Roasters, who shuttered all their North American franchisees, but still have locations open in Asia.

Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments?

#10: Official All Star Cafe

Just because an idea works once, it doesn't mean that it'll take again. Case in point? The Official All Star Cafe, which took the concept pioneered by the Planet Hollywood chain and tried to apply it to the sports world. Yup, just like the failed Fashion Cafe concept, the Official All Star Cafe fell by the wayside after an overpriced, tourist trap eatery filled with sports memorabilia and "stadium cuisine" didn't go the way investors planned. And there were some BIG NAME investors, including Joe Montana, Wayne Gretzky and Andre Agassi, but even those names couldn't keep the Official All Star Cafe from going under.

#9: Minnie Pearl's Fried Chicken

Believe it or not, there was a big time trend, particular in the sixties and seventies, for celebrities to lend their names to various fast food restaurants. One such celebrity was famous country music personality and comedienne Minnie Pearl and the chain of fried chicken joints that bore her name. A number of factors led to the decline of Minnie Pearl's Fried Chicken, not the least of which was that each franchise was apparently allowed to tinker with their own recipes, without any brand consistency. This actually didn't stop customers from digging pretty hard into Minnie Pearl's vittles, but accusations of fraud with regards to their business practices and stock prices led to this chicken chain going foul.

#8: D'Lites

Let's face it, no one really heads to fast food restaurants for healthy eats. Still, that didn't stop D'Lites from trying to provide a healthier alternative, at a point in history prior to the bigger chains even giving a passing thought to lighter fare. The chain was founded in Georgia back in the late seventies, offering up healthier substitutions and ingredients in the land of delicious drive-ins and badass barbeque. In a way, D'Lites were pioneers, but they couldn't compete when the McDonald's and Burger Kings of the world also began serving up healthy alternatives. In an ironic twist, many of the remaining D'Lites locations were converted into Hardee's, which are probably one of the least healthy fast food options out there.

#7: Lyon's

So, you may have heard the brand phrase SB [00:13 “Nobody doesn’t like Sarah Lee.”] but how about, "nobody doesn't like Lyon's?" Well, it turns out that quite a few customers DID like Lyon's, a chain of 24 hour diners that was the Sara Lee company's attempt at competing with Denny's. The earliest origins of Lyon's actually date back to the early fifties, and many of the locations were centered around the California area. But nothing lasts forever, with Lyon's limping along to about 2012, then re-opening three locations in 2015, before finally saying farewell two years later.

#6: Bill Knapp's

Sometimes, it isn't about the innovation, but the preparation. Bill Knapp's knew that it wasn't reinventing the wheel with their traditional, family style meals. However, what they had in their back pocket was an exclusive supply chain deal to bring fresh ingredients to their locations daily, where all of these meals were made from scratch. Additionally, birthdays at Bill Knapp's meant that you'd get a percentage off your meal equivalent to your age, meaning a fiftieth birthday celebration means half off the meal, bay-bay! Sadly, troubles with Listeria in said supply chain, and a failed attempt at "hip" rebranding led to the chain's demise, although you can still find Bill Knapp's brand cakes in some local grocers.

#5: Red Barn

There were few fast food chains that welcomed as many competitors as Kentucky Fried Chicken. One strong contender to the Colonel's throne was Red Barn, which at one point saw franchises in America, Canada and even Australia. The folks at Red Barn liked to lay claim to being the first to pioneer a salad bar, and their fried chicken was deep fried and prepared in pressure cookers designed exclusively for the Red Barn chain. The chain was eventually laid low by real estate interests, when its parent company allowed their leases to expire and ceased promotion and advertising for the brand. Red Barns closed one by one, with the remaining locations being turned into McDonald's restaurants.

#4: Lum's

Sure, you've all heard of a Big Mac or a Whopper, but what about an Ollieburger? Many customers flocked to the Lum's chain for this after it obtained the recipe in 1971. Many other family style treats attracted patrons throughout the sixties, seventies and into the eighties. The brand actually did pretty good for itself after humble beginnings as a simple hot dog cart, even managing to snag Hollywood icon Milton Berle as spokesman for a time. The bankruptcy of its parent company sadly led to Lum's limping off into the sunset, but fear not, for a spiritual successor named Ollie's Trolley does exist in Washington, D.C. So, head on there if you're searching for a little slice of restaurant nostalgia.

#3: Burger Chef

You may be very familiar with all of the main names in the fast food burger wars out there, from McDonald's and Wendy's to Burger Chef. Wait, you've never heard of Burger Chef? Well, at one time this fast food brand was so popular that it had its sights set firmly on those golden arches. One of the reasons for its success? iT was the first chain to offer a kid's meal! The company even tried suing McDonald's when the Happy Meal was introduced back in '79, claiming the idea was too close to its own. The Burger Chef branding also included plenty of commercials, as well as a cast of cartoon mascots, including, ahem, "Count Fangburger." The chain was sold by its parent company, with many remaining restaurants converting into Hardee's.

#2: Wag's

What do you think of when the Walgreen's brand of pharmacy and convenience chains comes to mind? How about sit-down dining? Well, that was the idea behind Wag's, a franchise of 24-hour diner-type establishments owned and operated by the Walgreen's folks. They were around primarily during the 1970s and '80s, and tried like hell to compete with other big names in that market, such as Denny's. Unfortunately for Walgreen's, the idea of eating in a place that shares similar iconography as the place where you grab cold medicine didn't take, and Wag's was sold to the Marriott Hotel Corporation in 1988. Any remaining Wag's locations were eventually shuttered and turned into places like Shoney's or IHOPs.

#1: Howard Johnson's

We've covered a lot of bygone restaurants during this list, but Howard Johnson's might be one of the most missed. That's largely due to its status as an icon of America, of the open road, of stopping for a quick bite to eat off the highway in the family car. It's the sort of roadside attraction that, well "attracted" so many diners to the chain, thanks to the restaurants' family atmosphere and warm, retro decor. Oh, and the clam strips. Definitely the clam strips. To be fair, there actually is one Howard Johnson's (in name only) open in Lake George, New York, but its status as a "legitimate" franchise is controversial, thanks to its different menu, limited hours and the arrest of its manager for sexual harassment.
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