8 Defunct Restaurant Chains We Genuinely Miss

With equal parts love and longing, we present this mouth-watering list of the popular chains that are now serving burgers in restaurant heaven.

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Howard Johnson’s

Howard Johnson’s was born in 1929 with a single location in Massachusetts. It grew up to become the most iconic restaurant chain in the country. Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, the orange-roofed restaurants you know and love were famous for fried clams and 28 ice cream flavors. (Still craving Howard Johnson’s fried clams? We’ve got you covered with this recipe.)

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by GENE J. PUSKAR/AP/REX/Shutterstock (6414497b) CHI-CHI'S FILE ** Customers at Beaver Valley Mall's food court eat their lunch, in Monaca, Pa. One year ago, more than 600 people were sickened, and four eventually died, from hepatitis A-tainted green onions served at the Chi-Chi's at Beaver Valley Mall. Since then, Louisville, Ky.-based Chi-Chi's chain has vanished; more than 300 legal claims have been settled for about $10 million; and most importantly, experts and industry officials say, the produce industry and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are working together to make the nation's fresh fruits and vegetables safer than ever HEPATITIS OUTBREAK, MONACA, USA
Shutterstock/GENE J. PUSKAR/AP/REX


Chi-Chi’s, the casual Mexican restaurant chain, was founded in 1975, and by 1995 it had over 210 locations. You know it as the absolute best spot for any family’s special celebrations. Chi-Chi’s restaurants may be gone, but you’ll still see the Chi-Chi’s name on nacho chips and salsa in grocery stores.

Sample Chi-Chi’s salsa at home with our top Mexican dinner recipes.

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Steak & Ale

Steak & Ale was a steakhouse chain that offered an “upscale” dining experience at affordable prices. It all began in 1966 with the same guy who founded Jack in the Box and Chili’s. By the 1980s, there were over 100 locations, due in part to the popularity of its self-serve salad bar. (It was the first ever—who remembers that?)

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Kenny Rogers Roasters
Shutterstock / hilalabdullah

Kenny Rogers Roasters

Founded by country music legend Kenny Rogers, the rotisserie chicken chain once had 425 locations around the world. By 2011, the last restaurant in the U.S. was closed, but Kenny Rogers Roasters still has 150 locations in Asia.

Don’t want to travel around the world for your next meal? Here are 30+ ways to turn a rotisserie chicken (from the supermarket) into dinner.

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White Tower

John and Thomas Saxe opened White Tower by copying the White Castle concept and menu. They saw great success—until White Castle took legal action against White Tower in the 1950s. (Yikes!) As long as you promise not to open a knockoff White Castle of your own, try making White Castle-inspired Mini Hamburgers.

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Burger Chef

Ah, Burger Chef. This restaurant chain served the greatest, most mouth-watering burgers ever. You remember how Burger Chef introduced a kids’ meal with a toy AND a burger-fries-and-drink combo meal? This restaurant chain left a mark on the industry—and our hearts.

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"Photo by Roy Erickson, courtesy of State Archives of Florida"


Brothers Clifford and Stuart Pearlman started Lum’s in 1956 as a hot dog stand that became famous for hot dogs steamed in beer. (How could an idea that amazing not be a success?) Sadly for us all, its last location closed in 2009.

Don’t panic—delicious hot dogs are still an American classic.

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Arthur Treacher’s fish and chips logo
Shutterstock / claudio zaccherini

Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips

Arthur Treacher’s served up the best “batter dip’d” fish and chips around. So crispy! You can actually eat at Arthur Treacher’s today, but you’ll have to visit the last locations in New York or Ohio. Devour everything with malt vinegar like we all used to in the ’70s.

Not ready for a road trip? Try our Crispy Fish and Chips recipe at home.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly in The Huffington Post as well as a variety of other publications since 2008 on such topics as life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. She is also a writer of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.