Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Fall Check-In

Hot 'n Now's drive thru only service turned out to be an idea ahead of its time. 

I'm still here. I'm healthy. I'm employed. Most of all, I'm thankful I can make make those statements when so many cannot. 

However, it is a ridiculously bad time for one's hobby to be travelling long distances to eat in restaurants. I therefore have not dined inside a restaurant since March of this year, and it's looking like I won't feel safe dining in again until sometime next year at the earliest. It's been tough for me to keep up with my normal fiveish (Finkle) post per month schedule that I maintained as recently as the simpler time known as seven months ago. I hope that I can one day resume something that resembles my travel and post schedule from the before times. In the meantime, you probably won't hear much from me aside from occasional cutesy rhyming blog posts, as my motivation to write vanishes in all but the best of times. 

Back in early June when it looked for an instant like the worst was behind us, I donned my favorite mask  and took a cautious, socially distant, multi-state trip across the Midwest to order from some of my favorite broken chain drive thrus as well as some I hadn't experienced before. It was a welcome taste of the old normal, even if I did have to sleep in my car. Of course, not long after my return home, things began to trend much worse than they had been, and I haven't ventured out of my home state of Michigan since. I can't muster the motivation to write much about those experiences from the road in late spring, but I thought I'd share some of the pictures I took along the way, as well as a few from a late February trip to what was then Lexington, Kentucky's newest Taco Tico operating out of a nicely converted G.D. Ritzy's building. I reserve the right to author full Broken Chains posts about any and/or all of these experiences in the future, but for now, it is my hope that the pictures will provide some distraction from what has been a pretty terrible year, and is likely to stretch into an equally terrible two to three year period. 

The Taco Tico at the corner of Man O War Boulevard and Pimlico Pike opened in February. It's still going strong, and another location has since opened across town in a former Arby's, making a total of three Taco Tico locations in Lexington, more than any other town outside of Kansas.

Modern signage and menu boards adorn the drive thru.

The dining area has been completely remodeled. These pictures were taken in February. The dining area closed not long after this, but the drive thru remains open. 

A curved corner hints at the building's origins as a G.D. Ritzy's.

This may have been the last time I dined in at a fast food place. 

Tastee Freez once had 1800 locations all over the US. Today, there are nine of them still in operation, including this one in Mt. Carmel, Illinois, that sports a strangely familiar trapezoidal sign.

That's right. This Tastee Freez is a former Dairy Queen. That's like opening a new Sears in a former Walmart building or putting Studebaker badges on a Hyundai. 

Wienerschnitzel owns the Tastee Freez brand these days and still supplies them with menus that look modern, if a bit generic. 

Promotional signage is similarly contemporary, if unremarkable. 

Their ice cream parfait is like a vertical, banana-less banana split. 

A chili dog, outsize the Tastee Freez, free of Cougar-Mellencampian innuendo.

The Big T is Tastee Freez's Big Boy inspired double deck burger. 

Despite being a G.D. Ritzy's fanatic, I had never ordered from their drive thru. I remedied that at the First Avenue location in Evansville, Indiana. 

It was a popular place on a Saturday afternoon. 

The drive thru speaker was equipped with a modern order screen. 

But the nicely maintained menu board still had its vintage Ritzy's flair. 

I don't disagree, but I found the placement of this sign to be odd. 

Nicely branded packaging. 

Banana supreme ice cream, a flavor unique to the Evansville Ritzy's locations.

The fabled Double Ritz with cheese, my favorite fast food burger. 
The outside building was spotless as always. 

And I was pleased to find that the unique three sided sign that was absent from its pole on my previous visit had been repaired and restored. The owners of the Evansville G.D. Ritzy's go to great expense to keep their facilities looking as pristine as the day they opened 30+ years ago. 

A sign of the times.

Across the river in Owensboro, Kentucky, the Ritzy's menu board has a bit more patina. 

But the building is still presentable. 
The signage is simpler here.

An Owensboro Ritzy's PB&J tasted great at my campsite.

The final broken chain stop of my trip was at the last operating Druther's restaurant in Campbellsville, Kentucky. Druther's was originally called Burger Queen, but the chain changed its name in 1980. Amazingly, if you look closely, you can still see remnants of the old Burger Queen signage on the roof of the building. 

Speaking of drive thru menu patina, Druther's has close to five decades worth of it. 

The drive thru was an addition to the existing building. I'm sure they're glad to have it these days. 

Blah blah blah... toilet paper... something something... Tiger King... yadda yadda... Unprecedented/uncertain times
I dare you to find a better breakfast sandwich this side of Tudor's Biscuit World. 

Queenie Bee, the old Burger Queen mascot still adorns the sign. Hopefully the hole Druther's sign is repairable. 

Thanks for reading and for your notes and comments, especially over the past few months. Hang in there, and we'll get through this sooner or later. In the meantime, wear a mask and wash your hands. Support your local restaurants if you can do so safely. 

If you're reading this from the US, take a minute to make sure you're registered, and make a plan to vote. It should be plainly obvious to any reasonable person who the bad guys are at this point. Vote against them, maybe? That's as partisan a statement as I'm comfortable making, at least on my silly fast food blog. 


Thursday, July 9, 2020

Boy Named Marno

Zantigo disappeared in the 1980s and well, 
Most of them turned into Taco Bell, 
Loyal customers were left missing their old amigo. 
But their buildings still stood with wedges and arches,
Tall and proud like mighty hedges and larches, 
Stretching from the west coast to up north of Toledo. 
It's tough to see them in person, despite the allure, 
So I thought I’d take a virtual tour,
And rhyme about them to inflate my writer’s ego. 
So keep on reading as I stumble along, 
(I borrowed this rhyme scheme from a Johnny Cash song.)
So I could show you pictures of old Zantigos. 

I went to Minnesota in the before time,
Before I ever tried to make Zantigo rhyme.
And I found one in a vintage building in St. Paul. 
I had a mild Chilito with chips and cheese, 
But the food didn’t bring me to my knees.
What I really liked was the distinctive roof and walls. 

When I got back home to my own prefecture, 
I started seeing that same architecture.
Seems they were as prolific as TV’s Richard Grieco. 
Well that rental car agency in Lincoln Park, 
And that weird looking Wendy’s by the Belleville Kmart
Had both been built to operate as Zantigos. 

That got me thinking about the other places, 
Where businesses run in old Zantigo spaces.
I started looking for them when I was out on the road. 
I’d find them sitting empty or pushing payday loans, 
And they got easier to spot with my rods and cones.
I’d say, “There’s a Zantigo!”
Like I was playing Bingo,
I had cracked the code!

Well I learned about Zantigo from my dear old dad,
When he told me about a date he and my mother’d had, 
At a Lexington Zantigo before I was born. 
Mom stuffed extra tacos into her purse,
And if someone ate them, they’d wind up in a hearse. 
Because she forgot they were there for a week or more. 

Well my folks got together and my dad got lucky,
At some point after that date in Kentucky
So without Zantigo, I might not have ever been born. 
So far, I’ve been met with little resistance,
Thanking Zantigo for my own existence
Their food, like my poetry, is full of cheese and corn. 

Eventually, when you can go out and explore, 
Look for buildings with a brick arch door, 
Or a great big stucco wedge of Pecorino 
Whether they’re abandoned or selling Indian food,
Take a picture. Don’t worry, it’s not rude. 
Because you just found yourself an old Zantigo. 

And if you live up in the Gopher State,
Local Zantigo locations number half of eight. 
Plus the knockoff, Zanz, that’s open in Mankato
Stop in for a Chilito and tell them Zap sent ya,
They’ll look at you like you have dementia.
But they’ll be a great host just like OJ was to Kato. 

Well the weeks get longer and the months get wide, 
Since I’ve gone to a restaurant and eaten inside. 
But for now, there’s still far too much peligro,
So I’m drivin’ thru and using DoorDash,
Wearing my sweatpants, instead of my Jordache.
If I lived in Minnesota, I’d order food from... Embers, Happy Chef, and occasionally Zantigo!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

There Once Was a Fast Food Chain From Holt

My friends and my family can't quell me,
From this rhyming habit, unhealthy,
This limerick shtick, 
Is a moldy old trick,
That I stole from Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.

There once was a fast food chain from Holt,
That sprang up quick, like old Usain Bolt.
Hot 'n Now was their name,
And from Michigan they came.
But they went down in a fast food revolt. 

They didn't have tables or servers, 
And sold drive-thru olive-topped burgers.
Most closed up in the nineties,
Leaving buildings behind, these,
The result of too many bad mergers. 

This one sits abandoned in Grand Rapids.
No new tenant moved in, so it happens.
Unkempt and alone,
Yet next to Auto Zone
One can hope that it's not dead, just nappin'. 
Across town, another is empty.
Devoid of a new occupant's symp'thy.
A later building design,
This Hot 'n Now could be mine.
If a real estate agent could tempt me. 

Not every Hot 'n Now is deserted.
This one, by renovation perverted.
But there's no need to sigh,
Because they serve up pad Thai.
With the building's old branding subverted.  
This one in Saginaw is a vape shop.
For nicotine addicts, a great stop.
Their usual crowd's,
Always ripping fat clouds,
Smelling like Froot Loops, gummies, or grape pop. 

This old Hot 'n Now just sells java,
Presumably served cold or like lava.
Another business in town,
Also makes money off brown.
'Cause that septic truck's not full of guava. 

It's been a while since this one saw action,
Serving ice cream like Robbins and Baskin
Its roof once was red,
But now, it's yellow instead.
And it's named for a film with Bill Paxton.

This Hot 'n Now, of the newer variety,
Gives preservationists little anxiety.
They didn't change much,
Just new signs and such.
So the building maintains notoriety. 
This one in Toledo grew awnings.
At its name, "Netty's," I'm not fawning.
Not Lucy's, nor Linuses,
It will clear out your sinuses.
And the monochrome orange leaves me yawning

This old Hot 'n Now wears a costume.
With a custom facade, it is entombed.
Sir, this is now an Arby's,
Where you stay in your car, please.
There's no dining room just a drive-thru.

That Arby's is my cue for conclusions.
And some vague current event allusions.
This post was brought to you
By Google Street View
Because I'm still stuck in seclusion. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Rax/Rix/Jax Pics

Things haven gotten weird, and I haven’t posted for a while.
I am stuck at home, and I can't travel. 
So I thought I’d write about fast food with style
In hopes that my sanity doesn’t completely unravel. 

Rax Roast Beef is a chain that’s been on my mind,
For the past couple years, since my Rax meat-cute. 
Their decline left hundreds of buildings behind, 
I thought I’d show you some from Google Street View. 

But before I do, I should probably produce, 
From my vast, fast food photo archives, 
Some pictures of Rax locations that are still in use, 
That lurk in dark corners of my hard drive. 

Harlan, Kentucky, birthplace of Raxgiving
Has a classic Rax with slot windows and a solarium.
As the last Rax in the state, it's quite good at outliving,
And functions like a 1980s vivarium.

Joliet, Illinois has the world's oldest Rax.
Despite the roof, it never sold pizza nor breadsticks.
This architecture was typical of Jax,
Jax changed to Rax after it was Rix 
Of these building types there is quite a glut.
If you keep an eye out for their features,
You'll see more Rax buildings than Seymour saw butts, 
When he hid out under the bleachers. 

This Rax in Anderson was the last in Indiana,
But it closed in 2011
It now does Hibachi just like, Benny and Hannah
Hey, at least it's not a Bob Evans. 

This National Coney is an old Rax, you can tell,
On the east side of Metro Detroit.
All things considered, I'd say its aged pretty well,
Which is more than I'd say for Jon Voight. 

Uncle Alligator left this empty Rax long ago,
Back when people still carried a beeper.
How much longer it will stand, nobody knows.
(Please ignore my old Ford Festiver.)

Grand Rapids, Michigan has its own Jax/Rix era relic,
Though it served its last BBC in antiquity.
It's roof resembles the mustache of Tom Selleck,
Now on with the next part of the soliloquy.

Taco Johns removed the solarium here,
At this old Rax in Billings, Montana.
But the slotted windows make its first occupant clear,
Despite the big yellow veranda. 

Frisch's Big Boy took over the Perrysburg Rax,
That's just down the street from Ground Round.
They still serve a buffet and salad bar snacks,
Like they did when Rax was in town. 

Skyline annexed this Rax in Columbus,
To serve a taste of old Cincinnati.
The new color scheme probably caused quite a ruckus.
Blue like Gonzo, yellow like Selma and Patty. 

Canadians brought about this Rax's defeat,
But their victory showed little promise...
...when a new Rax opened right down the street,
In a structure built by Dave Thomas.

So keep your eyes open when you can go out safely, 
There might be an old Rax 'round the corner. 
But for now, please stay inside, even if you're not gravely,
And await restoration of order. 

Thanks for reading this post that I wrote while sheltered in place. 
I hope that things soon start back toward normal. 
I'll try to write more, soon despite no trips outside of my space.
Though the rhyme schemes may become more informal. 

Special thanks to Columbus Restaurant History and Forgotten Michigan for providing information on the addresses of former Rax locations.