Hot ‘n Now

14 Beloved Fast-Food Chains That Aren't Around Anymore

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Wimpy Grills

Fast-Food Nostalgia

Today’s fast-food staples are pretty universally known. After all, do you know anyone who hasn’t heard of McDonald’s? But before the industry was dominated by the likes of the golden arches, Burger King, and Taco Bell, there were a slew of beloved fast-food chains that each had their heyday. Here are some of the ones that fans miss the most.


Related: The Biggest Fast-Food Flops of All Time

Pop ‘N’ Taco
Pop ‘N’ Taco by John Phelan (CC BY)

Pop 'N' Taco

The dreaded, “What sounds good to eat?” wasn’t such a back-and-forth debate when Pop ‘N’ Taco was around. The fast-food joint offered hot dogs, tacos, burgers, and pastrami sandwiches. Founded in Pasadena, California, the chain operated 99 locations across California at its peak, along with three in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1984, Taco Bell bought all 99 California locations, and by the 2010s, the New Mexico restaurants were defunct, too.


Related: Fast Food Restaurants Then and Now

Chicken George
Chicken George by Phillip Pessar (CC BY)

Chicken George

In addition to chicken and chicken salad, patrons at Chicken George could also order gumbo, fish and chips, and myriad side options including rice, greens, biscuits, and French fries. The chain was based in Baltimore, Maryland and expanded to several other states before filing for bankruptcy and dissipating in 1991.


Related: Ball Pits and Other Things We Miss at Fast-Food Restaurants

Naugles
Jay P. / Yelp

Naugles

Mexican fast-food chain Naugles operated from 1970 to 1995. The first restaurant opened in Riverside, California, and grew to include establishments in a number of other states including Nevada, Missouri, and Florida. Naugles merged with Del Taco in 1988 and slowly converted every Naugles restaurant to the Del Taco brand by 1995.

Red Barn
Ebay

Red Barn

Founded in 1961 in Springfield, Ohio, Red Barn expanded throughout the ‘60s and eventually grew to around 400 restaurants across 19 states. The fast-food joint was known for its Big Barney and the Barnbuster burgers. Red Barn was also the first chain to offer self-service salad bars. Another calling card for the chain? Every restaurant was designed to look like a red barn. By 1988, most Red Barns closed down with the few remaining locations renamed “The Farm.” Unfortunately, those locations didn’t go the distance either, with the last one closing its doors for good in 2020.

Hot ‘n Now

Hot 'n Now

Hot ‘n Now’s roots trace back to Kalamazoo, Michigan. It was founded in 1984 and by 1990, the chain had more than 100 establishments scattered across 15 states. Menu favorites included the olive burger and cheesy tots. The company declared bankruptcy in 2004, closing every location except one remaining restaurant in Sturgis, Michigan.

Royal Castle
Wikimedia Commons

Royal Castle

Miami-based Royal Castle was famous for its mini hamburgers, which were “fit for a king,” according to the restaurant’s slogan. Also popular at the restaurant was its Birch beer beverage, a root beer-inspired drink. The restaurant's origins go all the way back to 1938. At its peak, Royal Castle operated 175 restaurants across four states. While the chain failed to keep up with competitors and eventually faded away, one location in Miami still serves up those coveted bite-size burgers.

Rax Roast Beef
Wikimedia Commons

Rax Roast Beef

Before you could indulge in a Beef ‘N Cheddar at Arby’s, Rax was the spot to be if you wanted a roast beef sandwich. The chain started in Springfield, Ohio, in 1967 and in its prime during the ‘80s, Rax boasted over 500 restaurants in 38 states. The once wildly popular fast-food chain is now rare, with just five remaining locations.


Taco Viva
Taco Viva by Phillip Pessar (CC BY)

Taco Viva

Today, Taco Bell dominates fast food with a Mexican flair, but throughout the 70s and 80s, Taco Viva was pretty popular too. The now defunct chain operated 85 restaurants in eleven different states during its heyday. 

Chicken Unlimited
Ebay

Chicken Unlimited

Chicken Unlimited might not have had Colonel Sanders as a front man, but the chain served up some delicious fried chicken. The restaurants were particularly popular in the Chicago area during the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Sandy's
Ebay

Sandy's

The ancestor of Hardee’s, Sandy’s was a fast-food chain based in Illinois that was founded in 1958 by four friends who were also McDonald’s franchise owners. Their family-owned, inviting aura brought them plenty of success, but the owners couldn’t afford to maintain the brand and eventually merged with Hardees in 1979.

Burger Chef
Wikimedia Commons

Burger Chef

Once wildly popular, Burger Chef got its start in Indianapolis in 1954. The chain spread like wildfire throughout the nation, growing to 1,050 locations by 1973. Over the years, restaurants were bought out by Hardee’s, with the very last Burger Chef closing its doors in 1996.

Burger Queen
Wikimedia Commons

Burger Queen

What’s a king without his queen? Apparently that logic doesn’t apply in the fast-food world, as it seems there’s only room for one royal figure to sling out burgers and fries. Burger Queen debuted in 1956 but couldn’t go the distance, transitioning to Dairy Queen restaurants by 1990.

Beefsteak Charlie’s
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Beefsteak Charlie’s

Known for steak sandwiches, Beefsteak Charlie’s had a horse-racing theme. Although the chain had a good run from 1914 to 1987 with the last individual restaurant closing in 2009, it unfortunately wasn’t built to last forever. 

Wimpy Grills

Wimpy Grills

With a name inspired by the Popeye cartoon shorts that first debuted in 1933 and continued to arrive in theaters for almost 25 years, it’s hard to go wrong. Despite the origin of its moniker, Wimpy Grills didn’t serve cans of spinach but the burgers preferred by J. Wellington Wimpy, who was known to do anything to get a burger. Since its founding in 1934, Wimpy Grills grew to 26 locations by 1947 before selling and getting a new name. 


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