The Top 10 Fallen Restaurant Chains
Restaurants - Burger Chef

Do you remember those old restaurants that felt like more than just places to eat? The ones where the burgers tasted exactly how you wanted, or where you could pile your plate high at the salad bar? These long-gone restaurant chains were more than just spots to grab a bite; they were places where memories were made. And if you’ve ever wondered what happened to these beloved dining spots, you’re not alone. So, let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore the top 10 defunct restaurant chains.

Disclaimer: Before we start, we realize that some of these names may still be around but they sure ain’t the same!

#1. Burger Chef

Restaurants - Burger chef

Burger Chef kicked things off in Indianapolis in 1954, presenting the groundbreaking “works bar,” which was essentially the OG version of a burger topping station. Everyone remembers trying to create the perfect “Big Shef,” right? However, competition from other fast-food joints led to its downfall by the 1980s.

Burger Chef & Jeff gif

#2. Bonanza

Restaurants - Bonanza

Founded in 1963, Bonanza was the embodiment of the classic American steakhouse. The rustic, cowboy-themed interior drew you in, while the affordable steak offerings kept you coming back. Eventually, it couldn’t survive the sea of modern dining options and faded into obscurity, though a few locations remain in and outside the U.S.

#3. Ponderosa

Restaurants - Ponderosa

Like its sibling Bonanza, Ponderosa was another steakhouse giant that made it big in the ’60s. Where else could you find a kid-friendly buffet alongside a serious steak menu? Unfortunately, bankruptcy cut this adventure short, though a few locations remain in and outside the U.S.

#4. Sizzler

Restaurants - Sizzler

Sizzler, which was founded in 1958 in Culver City, California, was a popular spot for affordable steak, seafood, and the ultimate salad bar. Sadly, the chain couldn’t keep up with modern competition and filed for bankruptcy in 2020. But though it’s gone, we’ll never forget those all-you-can-eat shrimp! A few locations remain in and outside the U.S.

Video: Various Sizzler Commercials Through the Years

#5. Shakey’s

Restaurants - Sizzler

Shakey’s was more than a pizza joint after it launched in Sacramento in 1954. It was a go-to spot for family nights, complete with live jazz. The chain has vanished from most of the U.S., but those who visited will never forget the communal vibe.

#6. Beefsteak Charlie’s

Restaurants - Beefsteak Charlie's

Stepping into Beefsteak Charlie’s felt like entering a family reunion, one where unlimited shrimp and sangria were served, of course. The New York-based chain was your go-to for hearty feasts until it closed in 2010.

#7. Sweet Tomatoes

sweet tomatoes

Opening in 1978 in San Diego, Sweet Tomato’s was an outlier, offering endless salad bar options when burgers ruled the world. Its buffet stations were veggie havens until the pandemic hit in 2020, forcing the chain to say goodbye. They are slowly making a comeback in 2023

#8. Howard Johnson’s

Restaurants - Hojos

With its iconic orange roof, Howard Johnson’s was a roadside mainstay since 1925. What began as an ice cream parlor in Massachusetts morphed into a full-menu experience. The chain, famous for its fried clams, couldn’t keep up with the fast-food giants and eventually disappeared.

#9. Lone Star Steakhouse

Restaurants - Lone Star Steakhouse

Launched in 1989 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Lone Star Steakhouse offered enormous steaks in a Texas-themed setting. The atmosphere was as big as the Lone Star State itself, but competition in the steakhouse space was stiff. The brand faded away, and by 2017, all locations were closed.

#10. Hops Grill & Bar

Restaurants - Hops

Last but not least, Hops was known for brewing its own beer and those unforgettable honey-butter croissants that you just couldn’t stop eating. Established in 1983 in Florida, it had a unique atmosphere that mixed casual dining with brewery charm. Despite its cozy vibe, poor management led to its downfall, and it closed for good in 2010.

There you have it – a hearty helping of nostalgia served alongside the tales of eateries that once were. If there’s a spot you miss that didn’t make this list, be sure to let us know in the comments. After all, the best way to honor these places is to keep the conversation and the memories alive.

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3 responses to “The Top 10 Fallen Restaurant Chains”

  1. […] the TV western “Bonanza”. Dan founded Bonanza Steakhouse in 1963 and opened his first restaurant in Westport, Connecticut. Sadly, Dan passed away in […]

  2. […] in the Midwestern United States during the 1970s. Ultimately, the chain grew to 300-400 franchise locations across the United States, Canada, and […]

  3. […] The name “White Castle” isn’t about fairy tales; it’s about trust and cleanliness. After a book called “The Jungle” made people worry about beef safety, the founders, Anderson and Ingram, wanted to show everything was clean and open in their restaurants. So, they named it “White Castle” and let everyone see how they prepared their meat, promising high-quality beef. […]

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