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. 



  1. Welcome baaaack. Enjoyed the visuals. Miss the poetry.

  2. Stay safe and keep positive, Zap! Better time ahead, I’m sure.

  3. Good to see your blog back in my RSS feed, though totally understandable why it's been absent. Here's hoping you have a reason to post again before too terribly long!

  4. Thanks for staying engaged! I hope there are more drive thru road trips in your near future...And that the entire country doesn’t completely melt down.

  5. Reverend Zap, Thank your for keeping the faith and spreading the word. Glad you are safe and keep going. We live for the updates.

    1. I'll try my best to keep them coming semi regularly at least. Now go in peace, my child.

  6. So good to get a Zap post! Thanks for the few minutes of levity and reminders of times past. Stay healthy and safe!

  7. Ever thought about visiting and posting about the ancient burger joints like Carter's, Telway, Tophat ect...that dot the S.E. Michigan land scape and beyond? How about Mom and Pop Coney Island?

    1. I suspect Carter's in Dearborn was once part of a loosely affiliated chain, as I've heard stories of Carter's restaurants in Cincinnati in the '60s that had similar branding and menu items. I may pay them a visit with blogging in mind if I ever feel safe eating inside a restaurant again.

      Mom and pops, not so much. I'm all about the remnants of the mostly defunct chains.

  8. Welcome back, been a while since I checked in on you but the Vlogbrothers on YouTube just posted a video about old Rax commercials so that served as a reminder. Glad you're doing well!


    1. Thank you so much for sharing this! I had no idea Mr. Delicious existed until now.

  9. Nice to see even a quick update at the moment.

    We used to pass a Tastee-Freez on Route 360 near Keysville, Virginia en route to my parents' house in South Carolina - my wife would ask me to stop and I wouldn't. Now I'm sorry I didn't, since it was one of only three remaining in the state, and now they're all gone. One closed permanently, and the other two (including the Keysville location) ended their franchise agreements and now operate as Sundaes Restaurant.

    I still didn't stop either way during the last trip, as the quarantine was just beginning. I can't imagine I'll get the chance even to think about it again anytime soon.

    1. I'd be curious to know how close Sundaes is to Tastee Freez. It's possible that they're operating bootleg Tastee Freez locations, and I would be immensely interested in checking them out... eventually.

  10. Taco Tico didn’t have a presence where I grew up in Western Kentucky... Taco John’s was our go-to. I don’t think I’d even heard of Taco Tico until I first moved to New Orleans 20 years ago and have eaten there only a couple of times. After binging the entirety of this blogsite over the last few days, I might have to stop by there and grab a bunch of tacos and sanchos to go while I’m running errands in Metairie later this week.

    1. I've been to the Kenner, LA Taco Tico. It's a good one! When I lived in Montana, I'd eat at Taco John's at least once a week. I miss having them nearby.

  11. Somewhere on Flickr there actually IS a photo of a Sears built out of a former Wal-Mart.

    1. Y'know, I vaguely had that in mind when I wrote this post. I've seen it at some point as well. Retail Flickr is best Flickr.

    2. That would be the Wasilla, Alaska location. It just closed this year if I'm not mistaken.

    3. There were four. One somewhere in the south, one in Wasilla, Alaska, one in Garden City, KS, and one in Lawrence, KS

  12. We grew up with the opposite in Defiance Ohio, a Tastee-Freez that got converted into a Dairy Queen. The building is still there, at 830 North Clinton Street, but the DQ is long gone. It became a Magic Wok restaurant, then a used car dealer, and now it's a vape shop.