Sunday, April 29, 2018

Treacher Feature

When future Kentucky governor John Y. Brown's investor group purchased Colonel Harland Sanders’ fried chicken business 1964, Brown kept the Colonel on the company payroll as a spokesperson. Sanders would appear in commercials and in person at restaurant openings essentially for the rest of his life. As a result, restaurant chains that descended from KFC directly or sought to blatantly imitate it (Lookin’ at you, Minnie Pearl!) often featured either a celebrity spokesperson or the chain’s founder appearing in marketing materials. Kenny Rogers Roasters, Ollie’s Trolley, and even Wendy’s are all somehow related to the man in the white suit.

Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas seemed to appear in every Wendy’s commercial of my childhood. In fact, he appeared in over 800 ads until his death in 2002. But before opening the first Wendy’s in 1969, Thomas was a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchisee. I suspect his decision to appear in his own commercials was heavily influenced by KFC's use of Colonel Sanders as a spokesman. Around the time Dave Thomas sold his KFC franchises back to the company, and shortly before he opened the first Wendy’s, he had a brief flirtation with seafood and yet another spokesperson.

Arthur Treacher was an English character actor who built a career for himself in the 1930s playing stereotypically British roles in films. His IMDB page shows him being credited as playing a butler at least thirteen times. The only thing I’ve seen him in is Mary Poppins, in which he played the constable. Thanks in part to regular appearances on the Merv Griffin show, Treacher was enjoying a resurgence in popularity in the 1960s. He therefore seemed the natural choice to be the spokesman for a new fish and chip restaurant concept in which Dave Thomas was an investor.

Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips debuted in 1968 and expanded quickly well into the 1970’s, peaking at between 800 and 900 locations. Eventually fish shortages and lawsuits filed by franchisees citing a decline in quality of the brand resulted in multiple ownership changes and bankruptcies. This led most locations closing. It probably didn’t help that Arthur Treacher himself died of natural causes at the age of 81 in 1975. 

In the year 2018, no one under the age of 60 is likely to know who Arthur Treacher is, yet seven Arthur Treacher’s locations are open for business in Ohio and New York. (Some Nathan's locations also offer some Arthur Treacher's branded items.) The brand is now owned by Nathan's Famous, the hot dog eating contest people. A separate company called TruFoods has the franchising rights to the name within a certain territory. TruFoods cobrands its three New York Arthur Treacher’s, all of which are on Long Island, with their Pudgie’s Famous Chicken concept. The Ohio Arthur Treacher’s are controlled by TruFoods, are not cobranded and operate out of dedicated freestanding buildings, some of which retain vintage four-sided lantern shaped signs. It was the allure of these Ohio Arthur Treacher’s, (Plus an Arby’s operating out of an old Howard Johnson’s) that prompted me to spend a weekend in Cuyahoga Falls. 

28 flavors... OF MEAT!

I had never eaten at an Arthur Treacher's before, and have no real nostalgic connection to the brand. Like about half the trips I take, this one was motivated by a desire to experience the final sliver of a once-great fast food empire rather than the sense of nostalgia I feel for chains like Taco Tico or G.D. Ritzy's. Unlike a lot of the places, I visit, Arthur Treacher’s parent company, TruFoods, is still actively involved in supporting them. The dining room of the Cuyahoga Falls restaurant has reasonably modern-seeming marketing signs and posters on the walls and windows. A few even seem to indicate the brand has a presence on Facebook. (As of the time of this writing, the last official post on their Facebook page was in February 2017.) 

This napkin dispenser wants to tell you about an exciting franchising opportunity. 

"Treach" is a verb.

I ordered an original fish and chips platter and a Lemon Luv, a fried lemon pie. My food comes out before I can fill my drink cup, which is printed with British Flags and the chain’s logo. Despite the speed with which my order came out, the fish, fries and hush puppies taste hot and fresh. The Lemon Luv, which I suspect has been altered since the chain’s heyday, is my new favorite fast food pie. It’s lemony and creamy and is even better than Whataburger’s lemon pie. Sorry Texans. The packaging has no Arthur Treacher's or Lemon Luv branding, and instead has the logo of J&J Snack Foods' Sweet Stuffers line of fried pies. J&J Snack Foods appears to be a company that supplies pastry items to independent restaurants. If their lemon pie is any indication, they do good work. Likewise, the fries are not the short, thick British chips I expected a British themed place to have. Rather they're pre-cut frozen fries, the kind with the crinkle cut running lengthwise. If you've eaten at a Denny's in the past few years, they're just like the current Denny's fries, probably from the same supplier. Still, there's a malt vinegar bottle on every table to lend a bit of authenticity to the experience. 

This was one of the better fast food seafood meals I've had in recent memory.

Lemon Luv packaging, 

'Ello, Luv. Give us a kiss.

Often the places I visit are frozen in time once the corporate support goes away. Menu boards are sometimes decades-old, and dining areas tend to be similarly out of date. This can be charming or off-putting, depending on how well buildings are maintained. The building housing Arthur Treacher's feels surprisingly modern. I'm guessing it was built in the eighties, but the menu decor inside seems to have been updated within the past 15 years or so. The menu boards seem even newer. The vintage four-sided lantern sign is still out front in the parking lot beckoning people in off the street. It's a good blend of new and old. TruFoods is definitely attempting to keep the concept up to date and appears to be intent on growing their business.

There's fine print on every poster, and even my drink cup with numbers to call if you're interested in owning a franchise. Even the URL of their official website is . I was impressed with the meal I had in Cuyahoga Falls, but I can't help but think that the appeal of a batter-dip-and-fry-everything style fast food seafood joint named for a long-dead character actor is somewhat limited in the modern marketplace. I'll be interested to see what kind of future this broken chain has. I suspect at the very least that the location I visited will be able to stay in business for quite a while longer. Everything about it seems shipshape in Bristol fashion. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

High Roof, Low Overhead

My parents both worked for a college when I was a kid, and as a result, a rotating cast of college students, came in and out of our lives, babysitting or doing odd jobs around the house. One member of this cast came from Michigan and mentioned having worked at a place called Hot 'n Now in high school. He described it as the cheapest fast food place imaginable and told me that when a customer ordered a burger without pickles, he'd have to pick up an already made and wrapped burger, unwrap it, pick the pickles off, and re wrap it. Indeed, Hot 'n Now's strategy was to eliminate unnecessary overhead in order to sell food at the lowest possible price. When a former Burger Chef and Wendy's franchisee named Bill Van Domelen opened the first Hot 'n Now in 1984, the major players in the fast food industry were doing the exact opposite, adding amenities like salad bars and playgrounds to their locations and adding premium items to their menus.

Hot 'n Now was one of many smaller regional chains attempting to bring fast food back to its roots by stripping it to its bare bones, just as the McDonald brothers and Glen Bell had done 35 years prior. By eliminating indoor dining and ordering, Hot 'n Now was able to sell burgers, fries, and drinks for 39 cents each in the mid eighties. The only way to order at most Hot 'n Now locations was through a drive thru. Often, there were no tables or public bathrooms, and only limited parking. The idea was to pick up your food and leave, as the price of your order did not include enough to cover the cost of a place to sit and eat.  Hot 'n Now locations were easy to spot, as most operated out of tall, angular buildings, which definitely served the purpose of getting your attention if you happen to be driving by. The boxy 1980s hamburger cathedrals stood out in the shopping centers and restaurant rows of the Great Lakes region. The buildings that are left standing still do.

The chain expanded and contracted over the years as so many new franchised businesses do. They also changed owners over the years, briefly being owned by the PepsiCo. Hot 'n Now was the first in a series of burger joints that the Pepsi folks acquired and ran into the ground. Under Pepsi ownership many locations closed, and the chain was quickly sold and passed around between several different corporate parents throughout the 90s and early 00s, gradually shedding franchised and corporate locations with each ownership change. I moved to Michigan in 2008, when Hot 'n Now still had a handful of locations open relatively nearby. I'd drive the 45 minutes or so to the one in New Baltimore or the one in Roseville when I felt like going for a drive. After four years in Michigan, I moved to Montana. Four more years later, I moved back, and I was not terribly surprised to learn there was only one Hot 'n Now left.

The last location that still bears the Hot 'n Now name is located in Sturgis, Michigan, a 2.5 hour drive from my Metro Detroit home. I still like to go there when I feel like taking a (slightly longer) drive. Last weekend, I did just that. The Sturgis Hot 'n Now has most of the menu items people who grew up with Hot 'n Now are likely to remember. The cheesy tater tots and the green olive burger are still available. The food looks and tastes the same as it did at the Hot 'n Now locations I visited a decade ago. About the only core menu item that is drastically different is the chocolate shake, which used to have a hint of cherry. Today it tastes like just plain chocolate. I suspect that whatever syrup they originally used is no longer available. The menu has also expanded to better suit modern tastes. Signs for new items including fish and chips, a pizza burger, and onion rings all adorn the '90s vintage menu board and drive thru window. I occasionally see menu expansions like this at restaurants that were once part of big chains. Without a corporate entity dictating consistency between multiple locations, menus tend to evolve a bit. I don't really see a problem with it, as long as original menu items aren't significantly altered or discontinued.

A shining burger beacon 

The building is the typical high roof, single drive thru, and I suspect it stands out more today than it did in its heyday. It seems to be in decent shape. All the signage looks to be original, and service is quick. There are no longer logos on the wrappers and cups, but every they hand you food in has a Hot 'n Now logo sticker slapped on it. I imagine custom printed items for a single location just don't make financial sense, but the sticker on the bag is a nice nod to the brand's past. True to the name, the food comes out hot and impressively quickly. I sat and ate my olive burger in my van, trying to take a moment to appreciate where I was.

In all likelihood, the Hot 'n Now brand will die when this location closes, but hopefully that won't happen for a long time. The Sturgis location seems to do a steady business despite being next to a Taco Bell and across the street from a Culver's. The management at this place know how to keep the operation running well and how to attract customers. This is often the case with orphaned chain restaurants. Only the best locations, run by the best franchisees survive with little to no corporate support. Places like this often thrive for decades after most or all other locations have closed, serving as working museum exhibits providing a glimpse into the recent past. Often, regulars won't even realize that their beloved local lunch spot was once part of a chain. These are the places I seek out, sometimes to relive my childhood, sometimes to have a glimpse into something I missed due to accidents of chronology or geography. Even if you're nowhere near Sturgis, Michigan, chances are there's a piece of a broken chain near you worth seeking out.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Red vs. Blue

I was lucky enough to find this coin on eBay

My recent Festiva trip included a stop at a few interesting places in addition to every operating G.D. Ritzy's, including Farmstead, a former Nickerson Farms location. Nickerson Farms was one of many early travel oases that popped up along the newly constructed American Interstate Highway system in the sixties. The company was founded by I.J. Nickerson¹, a former Stuckey’s franchisee who struck out on his own after he was not allowed to open a full service restaurant in a Stuckey’s. Nickerson Farms restaurants had its own distinctive architecture including a prominent, brightly-colored roof, allowing the buildings themselves to be highly visible from nearby highways, not unlike similar businesses of the era, including Stuckey's as well as Howard Johnson's and Horne's. Locations included steeply pitched red roofs and faux-Tudor accents. The business model was similar to Stuckey’s, including a gift shop and gas pumps (under a red pyramid-shaped canopy) as well as a full service restaurant. Instead of Stuckey’s pecans, Nickerson Farms was known for its honey, often produced on site at each location by live bees in a large plexiglass hive. Stuckey’s still exists and seems to be on its way back to its former greatness, but near as I can tell, the Nickerson Farms name disappeared sometime in the mid eighties. Many of the buildings, however, are still around, converted to serve new purposes. I know of one location that became a church. Another became a porn shop.

I’ve visited two former Nickerson’s location in the past year, Fowlerville Farms in Fowlerville, Michigan, which I covered here, and more recently Farmstead in Marengo, Ohio. While neither provides a complete picture of what shopping and dining at Nickerson Farms would have been like, combined they come pretty close to my estimation of an authentic Nickerson experience.

Repurposed Nickerson Farms signage in Michigan

And in Ohio

Culinarily speaking, Fowlerville Farms is the nearest to Nickerson Farms.  Their current menu is very close to the old Nickerson Farms menu, featuring fried chicken, pot roast, and other comfort foods. Like Nickerson Farms, Fowlerville Farms is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and well into the night, opening at 5 AM and closing at 11 PM every day. The beehive is long-gone, but every entree comes with a small loaf of fresh baked bread and house-made honey butter, as they would have in the Nickerson days. While it's no longer produced on site, local honey is still available for sale in the gift shop. As far as I can tell, Fowlerville Farms has been in business continuously since it opened as a Nickerson Farms in 1969. When they lost the Nickerson name, they painted the roof blue and put up new signs and kept on going as if nothing, or at least very little, had changed.

Where Fowlerville Farms fails to capture the Nickerson Farms experience, is its building. Fowlerville Farms is housed in an atypical building with a smaller than usual footprint of a Nickerson Farms location, perhaps due to its rural location or real estate restrictions. While it's nice to see the Tudor treatments are still present outside, the interior has been thoroughly remodeled, and as I mentioned before, the signature red roof is now blue. There are still gas pumps, but they’re under a modern canopy.

Farmstead, on the other hand, retains its original red roof, gas canopy (Albeit without pumps; Farmstead doesn’t sell gas) and is a more standard, large footprint building. The interior also seems fairly close to the pictures I’ve seen of Nickerson Farms interiors, with many dark-stained turned wood spindles acting as room dividers, and booths upholstered in quilted Naugahyde. Pictures of agricultural scenes adorn the walls certainly feel original, but I can’t verify that’s the case. The only significant updates at Farmstead are renovated bathrooms (which are much larger and more practical than the single-user facilities in Fowlerville) and vinyl siding replacing the Tudor treatment on the few exterior surfaces of the building that are not part of the roof. It’s as close to an original Nickerson Farms building in operable condition as you could hope to find.

The Tudor panels aren't enough for me to ignore the Marathon gas canopy and blue roof.

The dream of the sixties is alive in Marengo, Ohio.

Sneaky picture of the dining room

Even if the tractor picture isn't original Nickerson decor, it feels like it belongs. 

Farmstead’s downfall is their menu and operating hours. They’re open only from 8 AM to 2 PM, unusual for a restaurant visible from a busy interstate. The menu is also basic, and breakfast and lunch are served during separate hours. I came in at 9 AM and was handed a single-page breakfast menu. I suspect the lunch menu isn’t much bigger. With that degree of simplicity and limited hours, I would have expected to be able to order pancakes at noon or a Reuben sandwich at 8:30, but such is not the case under this red roof.

Fowlerville Farms has the ideal menu and business model. Farmstead has the ideal building. If I had unlimited wealth, I’d buy both places, and transplant the entire Fowlerville Farms operation, including the kitchen, menu, and staff in the Farmstead building. I’d put in vintage gas pumps, just for show and get the beehive operational again. I’d hire a team of lawyers to defend me in lawsuits filed by patrons stung by bees. I’d sell only the cheesiest souvenirs, and hand out free bumper stickers, Wall Drug style. Who wants to invest?

I'd totally accept old Nickerson Farms good luck coins too, because I'm a low-level hoarder.

If you're interested in Nickerson Farms, there's an entire blog devoted to it here. It's run by a former employee and includes a list of the location of every Nickerson Farms. There may just be a location still standing near you.

1. No one on the internet seems to know what the "I.J." in I.J. Nickerson stands for. I am therefore forced to assume I.J. is short for Infinite Jest.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Luxury Grills and Economy Cars Part 3

Something's Cooking....

All too often in my travels for this blog, I visit establishments that are approaching defunct status or resting on the laurels of previous greatness. Neither is the case with G.D. Ritzy's. The six locations I visited on my trip are still producing a high-quality product in a pleasant environment that is the right kind of dated. All six (G.D.) Ritzy's are not only surviving, but thriving. The three stops I made on the final full day of my trip represent the past, present, and future of the G.D. Ritzy's brand, which I'm very pleased to report has a bright future ahead of it.

In my childhood, Ritzy's had four locations in Lexington, Kentucky. When they all closed in the early '90s, the buildings were quickly repurposed. One became a Rally's, the first Rally's I had seen with an indoor seating area. They even kept the railings with the "R" logo glass in the interior. The building was eventually demolished and a Chick-Fil-A was constructed in its place. Another Lexington Ritzy's was either demolished or heavily renovated and is now home to a dry cleaner. One more, I don't think is still standing, but I haven't been able to find definitive information on its original location, but I'm fairly sure it was located somewhere on Richmond Road. If any past or present Lexingtonians reading this can help me narrow down its location, please let me know. Near as I can tell, there is only one Ritzy's building in Lexington still standing in more or less its original form. Located at the 3110 Pimlico Parkway, the building served as an Arby's for many years, the only fast food in the area. The Arby's recently closed, when a new McDonald's opened up next door. As of the writing of this article, the property is listed as being up for lease. Having stayed with family in Lexington the night previous, I stopped by for some pictures and light snooping on my way out of town. I wish I could have gone inside it for some interior pictures, but the original layout seemed pretty well intact, even the elevated dining area was still there. By this point, it had been over 36 hours since I had last eaten at Ritzy's, and I was ready for one last Ritzy's meal, so the Festiva and I moved on.

Aside from the big lighted sign on the wall, the exterior of the building is fairly unmodified. 
Note the bike rack. If I had a Ritzy's within biking distance when I was a kid, I would have been soooooo happy. 
The original drive thru sign frames are even still in place. 

Meal #1
Location: G.D. Ritzy's, 1335 Hal Greer Boulevard, Huntington, West Virginia
Order: Double Ritz with cheese, fries, cole slaw, Diet Mountain Dew

My next stop was the final operational Ritzy's that I had yet to visit on this trip, located just over the West Virginia state line in Huntington. I had messaged the Facebook pages of all the Ritzy's I was planning to visit, and Sid, the owner of the Huntington location told me to ask for him when I arrived at his place. I did just that, and after I received my order, he was nice enough to sit with me as I ate and tell me stories and tidbits about his experience as a Ritzy's franchisee. He's been there since nearly the very beginning, opening in 1983. He told me all his children had worked there at some point, and that his was the oldest operating Ritzy's location. The Huntington Ritzy's is the only location that still sports an early-style lighted sign with the G.D. Ritzy mascot on it, and Sid said that he elected to keep it when later style Ritzy's signage became available, preferring the style of the mascot sign. I think I do too. Sid seemed as excited to meet me as I was to meet him. He even promised to order and send me a free Ritzy's T-shirt in my size. He also took me on a tour of the back of the restaurant, showing me storage and food prep areas as well as a tiny manager's office. I had always been impressed with the design of G.D. Ritzy's buildings' and their efficient use of space, (I'm fond of Ford Festivas for similar reasons.) but seeing the back half of the building only served to increase my appreciation. A building smaller than a standard Waffle House was designed to function not only as a restaurant with a full kitchen, drive thru, seating, order counter, and a pair of public bathrooms, but also functioned as a small ice cream production facility, making 16 flavors of ice cream in-house. Despite all this, no portion of the building ever feels cramped. It feels bigger on the inside than the outside. It's the T.A.R.D.I.S. of burger joints. The architecture of a G.D. Ritzy's is an architectural marvel of both form and function, making every square inch of real estate count, while wearing classic Art-Deco lines.

Almost Heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountians, Huntington G.D. Ritzy's
The last of the mascot signs

Just look at that stylish chap! Don't you want to buy a chili dog and some ice cream from him?

In the past I've mentioned that G.D. Ritzy's founder Graydon Webb is working on opening a new Ritzy's in Columbus, Ohio. Fortunately, there was already a Facebook page already set up for the new Ritzy's set to open in the Clintonville neighborhood in north-central Columbus. While preparing for my trip, I inquired on the Facebook page if the new location would be open by the time I'd be passing through, the reply I got was probably not, but that reply came with an invite to stop by for a sneak preview. Columbus was therefore the final stop on my Ritzy's tour. I had no idea who I was talking to via Facebook, but they instructed me to come by the new location for a quick tour. I showed up at the agreed-upon time, where I was greeted by Graydon Webb's son, Corey. I discover he's the person I've been talking to, that he's read my previous blog entry about my Ritzy's trip, and that he'll be the one running the new restaurant.  Demolition on the former A&W Root Beer stand that's set to be the world's newest G.D. Ritzy's has recently been completed, and an almost entirely new building will occupy the site. Corey shows me around the site and points out where certain features of the new restaurant will be. We discuss the differences in operations and menu items at the various locations I've visited He also hands me a couple wooden nickels good for a free ice cream cone once they're open. After a few minutes, the door of a construction trailer at the edge of the parking lot opens, and Graydon Webb himself steps out to join us. He introduces himself. I'm starstruck and suddenly very aware that I'm dressed in my typical road trip attire of a ratty T-shirt and ripped jeans, not to mention the fact that I'm sporting a silly handlebar mustache that I carved out of a three-month beard just for laughs before starting my trip. I stammer out a greeting. He asks about my experience with his restaurants and my favorite ice cream flavor. I loosen up. Both of the Webbs are beyond gracious and accommodating as we chat for a few minutes more. We pose for a selfie, and I thank them for their time and leave with the promise to come back regularly once they're open. I can't think of a better way to conclude my trip than meeting the man who started it all, and I can scarcely stand the anticipation of the prospect of having a G.D. Ritzy's run by the founding family less than half a day's drive away.

Sorry Corey. I'm totally keeping these for my collection. I'm afraid you'll have to accept actual money in exchange for ice cream. 

If you find yourself anywhere near one of the three, soon to be four, cities where G.D. Ritzy's has a presence, do yourself a favor and stop in for a meal and/or some ice cream. I firmly believe that a better fast-casual restaurant concept does not exist, and who doesn't love a good comeback story? I have high hopes that the Webbs and their franchisees will have a bright future in the restaurant business. I know that I'll continue to be a loyal customer as long as I'm within some semblance of a reasonable distance. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Luxury Grills and Economy Cars Part 2

My younger brother was born just as the Ritzy's near us were closing up shop for good. As a result, he had no recollection of ever eating there. I doubt he ever had. Thankfully, he had business in Evansville that involved the acquisition of a new-to-him '91 Ford Festiva, and we were able to meet for lunch at the one Evansville G.D. Ritzy's I had not yet visited. Today's lunch at G.D. Ritzy's with my brother, his partner, and a couple of Festivas was one of my favorite meals in recent history. Afterward, my brother headed home in his new Festiva, and I headed to Owensboro, Kentucky to eat at two more Ritzy's. My lunch guests both thoroughly enjoyed their first G.D. Ritzy's experience. The Festivas, I hope, didn't leak too much oil in the parking lot. All three Evansville stores are beautifully run and thriving. They've really taken the concept and run with it.

Meal #1
Location: G.D. Ritzy's 601 North Green River Road, Evansville, Indiana
Order: Chili cheese coney, fries, Diet Mountain Dew, single scoop of Swiss chocolate almond ice cream in a sugar cone.

This particular G.D. Ritzy's has an extra large dining room, with a curved window at its curved corner. The building has definitely always been a Ritzy's though. Its interior, like the other two Evansville locations is an impeccably maintained time capsule. We're here at high noon on Saturday, and It's busy. People are lined up to the door. Still, the service is quick, the staff is friendly, and the food is fresh and delicious. When I go up to the counter to order ice cream, the cashier compliments the two Festivas we had driven over.

Evansville's largest G.D. Ritzy's, with more curved glass than an AMC Pacer

I need to organize a full-blown Festiva meet at the at one of the Evansville G.D. Ritzy's one of these days. 
Best fast food restaurant decor ever. 

Meal #2
Location: Ritzy's 4925 Frederica Street, Owensboro, Kentucky
Order: Single Cheeseburger, fries, lemonade, single scoop of Kentucky pecan pie fudge ice cream.

The Owensboro Ritzy's, are just called Ritzy's, as many of the later locations were. The building and signage have a different color scheme and different interior, but the basic building design is the same as the two Evansville locations I visited on the previous day. A couple sources I've spoken to have said the Owensboro Ritzy's were among the last to open prior to widespread closures in the early '90s. The building feels like an attempt to improve the original design. The dining area is not elevated. The floor tiles are square and are arranged in a black and white checkerboard pattern. There are no teardrop speakers on the walls. Menu boards have been updated, and there's a self-service drink station, unlike the Evansville restaurants. None of this is inherently bad, but the childhood nostalgia vibes aren't as strong here. I don't bother taking many pictures, though seeing a second-generation Ritzy's is interesting. The food is identical to that of the Evansville locations, and prepared just as well. This location has baked potatoes on the menu. Unlike in Evansville, the staff is wearing Ritzy's-branded apparel, but no old-timey soda jerk paper hats.

This building has the later-style signage, red awnings instead of green, and a sweet red racing stripe.
The building had the stainless railings with the monogrammed glass panes on the outside as well as on the inside.

Meal #3
Location: Ritzy's 4527 KY-54, Owensboro, KY
Order: Luxury PB&J, sweet tea, single scoop vanilla ice cream

I'm feeling the two lunches I've had in the past two hours, and a PB&J and some ice cream is all I have room for. This location has none of the signature Ritzy's architectural touches, other than the three sided sign out front. I suspect it was originally something else. It has the same owner as the other Ritzy's across town, and the menu and decor are identical. The PB&J here tastes even better than the one I had in Evansville. I've eaten a lot of Ritzy's ice cream in the past couple of days, and it's all been great. This vanilla may be my favorite though. I'm not sure what that says about my personality, but Ritzy's definitely makes a good, clean-tasting vanilla.

Meal #4
Location:  G.D. Ritzy's 601 North Green River Road, Evansville, Indiana
Order: Double Ritz with cheese, steamed mixed vegetables, Diet Mountain Dew, double scoop Banana Supreme ice cream.

I went back to the Green River Road Ritzy's for a late dinner, mainly because I knew I'd be hungry at midnight if I didn't eat something at 8 PM. Plus I wanted to try the Banana Supreme ice cream. It has ribbons of dulce de leche and bits of sponge cake in it. It reminds me of eating a banana Twinkie in a good way. It's even better than the vanilla. Ritzy's shoestring fries are my favorite fries, but I'd had them twice today, so I went with steamed vegetables, an option G.D. Ritzy's has offered since the eighties, as my side. It was a good decision. I wish more fast food joints had a steamed vegetable side dish option.

G.D. Ritzy's After Dark
The steamed vegetables justified the big pile of ice cream I ate immediately after.