Site of the old Howard Johnson's on the Asbury Park boardwalk. It is now Tim McLoone's Supper Club.
Site of the old Howard Johnson's on the Asbury Park boardwalk. It is now Tim McLoone's Supper Club (Bud McCormick)

I came across something on Facebook about well-known chain restaurants that are no longer around or if they are have been reduced to only a handful of locations.

Many of them are ones that likely never made it to the Northeast but seeing the list brought back some great memories.  See how many you remember or for those of you too young might have heard about from an old timer.

  • Howard Johnson’s-These hotel-restaurants at one point in the 1960’s had over 1,000 locations. There is still one left, sort of. The Howard Johnson by Wyndham on Hooper Avenue in Toms River does have a restaurant but I don’t think “Christopher’s Pub” offers ice cream in 28 flavors.
  • Chi-Chi’s-A Chain of Mexican restaurants that numbered over 200 before closing in the US in 2003. They were done in by a hepatitis outbreak that killed at least 4 people in Pennsylvania.
  • Gino’s Hamburgers-Originated by former NFL stars Gino Marchetti and Alan Ameche. There were over 300 in the 1970’s including one near Corinne Jewelers on Main Street in Toms River. Gino’s actually owned the franchise for Kentucky Fried Chicken and eventually they were sold to the Marriott Corporation who later converted them into Roy Rogers Restaurants.
  • Burger Chef-I mention this because before becoming a Roy Rogers the location in Pine Beach was a Burger Chef and for my money was the best ever fast-food hamburger spot (I remember eating there with Bob Levy on the day he began doing this show called Topic A). There were once over 1,000 locations who were later sold to Hardee’s in the 1980s.
  • Wetson’s-They opened in 1959 on Long Island and I remember one near where I grew up in Rockaway Beach, Queens. Known for their 15 cent hamburgers. Had 70 locations at one time but closed in 1975.
Bennigan's Reportedly Closing Down Nationally
Bennigan's in Chicago in 2008 (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
  • Bennigan’s-Known as among the first casual dining/sports bar chains there were several in this area. They never quite caught on and the company went bankrupt in 2008. There are still a handful left with the nearest location in Vineland.
  • Ponderosa & Bonanza- You must remember those Steakhouses. There were over 600 at one time and now only about 75 and none in New Jersey. My favorite was Ransko’s Bonanza on Route 37 in Toms River.
  • White Tower Hamburgers- I don’t know if they ever made it to the Jersey Shore but I do remember seeing them in New York. There were over 200 locations at one time and clearly they were a rip-off of White Castle and they were pretty much done it by a lawsuit from that company.

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