7 Defunct Restaurant Chains That Once Had Locations in Owensboro [VIDEOS]
Let me set up the scenario. It's 1980. It's Friday night. I'm joining my parents for our weekly excursion to Morrison's Cafeteria in Towne Square Mall, followed, of course, by and evening of browsing or shopping. (I'd head off to Waldenbooks or Wax Works/Disc Jockey; I don't know where THEY went.)
Of all the establishments--that are no LONGER established--that's the one with which I associate a routine. And I have to hand it to Morrison's, if I'm remembering correctly. It always changed up its menus from week to week. And who doesn't love cafeteria-style, right?
Pretty much tells you they served food, doesn't it? We loved it. But by 1998, it was all over but the shouting, as rival Picadilly Cafeterias--a chain whose name I'd never heard before--bought out Morrison's.
While you can no longer find a Morrison's Cafeteria, the chain's imprint CAN be found at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital. Upon its demise as a sit-down establishment, Morrison's split into three different firms--one of them being Morrison Healthcare, which provides food service for hospitals.
One of my favorite stories about dining with parents unfolded at Chi-Chi's, which was located at the corner of Frederica Street and Southtown Boulevard, where a Real Hacienda now sits.
I had no earthly idea my parents ever drank alcohol until we went to Chi-Chi's one evening. Dad ordered a strawberry margarita and Mom had a glass or sangria. I did not indulge; regardless of their choices, I could not and never did drink in front of my parents.
While the once-popular Mexican food chain WAS well-known for its margaritas, there was so much else to enjoy. I'm a big fan of Mexican food, so Owensboro's Chi-Chi's saw me a LOT. Fun fact...I'd never HEARD of fried ice cream before Chi-Chi's.
In the early 2000s, Chi-Chi's was on its last leg and ceased operations in 2004--a move attributable to a number of factors, including a massive hepatitis outbreak.
KENNY ROGERS' ROASTERS*
For starters, this one comes with an asterisk; while Kenny Rogers' Roasters hasn't had a U.S. location since the late 2000s, it thrives in overseas markets--particularly in Asia. And why WOULDN'T it thrive. For one thing, I am a longtime fan of rotisserie chicken. Love it. I even have an autographed picture somewhere. But Roasters went the extra mile with regards to its sides--those garlic parsley potatoes, that mac & cheese, and those CORN MUFFINS rocked my ever-lovin' world. Seriously, the corn muffins. I mean, come on.
And of all the restaurants mentioned in this story, none had a better cameo in pop culture than Roasters. Who can forget THIS classic episode of American television?
YesteryearRetro.com tells us that it was in 1998 when Kenny Rogers' Roasters filed for bankruptcy but hung around in a limited capacity for another decade after being purchased by Nathan's Famous, Inc. Here's what the site tells us about Roasters' final days as a stand-alone brick-and-mortar in the U.S.
The final Kenny Rogers' Roasters in North America was located in Ontario Mills Mall in Ontario, Canada, but closed on December 31, 2011. The 2008 purchase agreement between Nathan's and Roasters Asia Pacific allowed for Nathan's to continue selling Kenny Rogers Roasters branded items in select locations. Nathan's flagship store on Coney Island, New York, continues to sell Kenny Rogers' Roasters branded chicken items as of April 2020.
Does anyone still have a Queenie Bee ring? I don't, and I wonder if any of them are lurking around antique stores or flea markets somewhere. Anyway, whenever the Burger Queen mascot would make an appearance at the New Hartford Road location, we would always be there. It was right down the street from where we lived growing up. All us kids would hop on our bikes and show up as Queenie Bee would arrive by helicopter.
We hung out there a lot, much to the dismay of the owner or manager who ran us off a time or two.
Do you remember what set the burger chain apart from its competitors? Well, it had a little bit of everything--burgers, fish sandwiches, AND chicken dinners.
In 1981, Burger Queen--which had its beginnings in 1956 in Winter Haven, Florida--became Druther's. The menu was the same, however. Here's why the name changed, according to DruthersSystems.com:
The name change not only provided the company with a more marketable tradename and the public with a more accurate impression of the choice of food items offered, but also provided a federally registered trademark where our previous name did not.
There was also a new mascot--Andy Dandytale.
Also, I slapped an asterisk on Druther's because there is still one left in the United States, and it's in Campbellsville, Kentucky.
I honestly don't remember visits to Burger Chef, but I do remember there were two locations in Owensboro. One was on Frederica Street and I believe the other one was on West Parrish Avenue.
So, what set Burger Chef apart from other burger chains? Well, not much in my opinion, aside from the presence of a hot ham 'n' cheese on the menu, but that's also a menu item at Hardee's, which BOUGHT Burger Chef in 1996.
THE RED BARN
And finally, one of the first fast food restaurants I can remember that featured family-style offerings. The Red Barn has two locations in Owensboro--the prime spot at the corner of Frederica and Parrish Avenue; and one out Highway 144, formerly U.S. Highway 60. By the way, seeing this commercial (featuring a then-unknown Loni Anderson), I'm realizing there were a LOT of fast food chains back in the day that had salad bars. A thing of the past, I suppose.
I remember the Barnbuster (their version of the Big Mac, I'm guessing). I remember the characters. AND I remember when it became The Farm, and that went away as well.
I remember all of them, most of them fondly. Which of those do I miss the most? Probably Kenny Rogers' Roasters.
Corn muffins, corn muffins, corn muffins. See? Don't get me started.