Second of three-part series.
Would you like fries with that?
We’re still munching our way through the Golden Age of Fast Food in Akron, roughly 1959 to 1980. Bring on the burgers, fish, chicken and tacos.
And please pull around.
The Home of the Whopper offered a whopper of a deal when it opened in January 1968 at 1606 State Road in Cuyahoga Falls.
A Beacon Journal ad featured a coupon with an “actual size” likeness of the chain’s signature sandwich: “A king-sized portion of pure, premium quality beef, broiled, not greasy fried, with tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, onions, catsup and mayonnaise on a giant toasted bun. A meal-in-itself!”
The get-acquainted offer was 20 cents off on the 45-cent, flame-broiled burger (or a fish sandwich if the customer preferred).
Alden Church was president of CPH Restaurants, which operated the first Burger King franchises in the region. Incidentally, there was a drive-in called Hamburger King on East Waterloo Road in the early 1960s. No relation.
The basic principles of fast food had to be explained.
“At Burger King, there are no waiters, no waiting, no tipping,” Burger King noted. “Give your order and in just about 60 seconds, your hot food is ready to enjoy.”
The original logo featured a robed, crowned monarch holding a beverage and sitting on a hamburger. (“Wherever you go … look for the sign of the happy King-on-a-Bun.”) It soon was replaced by the restaurant’s name sandwiched between buns.
Baby boomers can still sing the jingle from the 1970s TV commercial: “Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us. All we ask is that you let us serve it your way.”
The chain of 250 restaurants promised “an informal, home-like atmosphere,” “super-fast, friendly, 60-second service’” and weather-controlled indoor dining comfort” at the Cuyahoga Falls restaurant.
There are nearly 18,000 locations today.
Have it your way.
Ahoy there! The seafood restaurant dropped anchor in May 1970 at 926 E. Waterloo Road near Arlington Street.
“Arthur Treacher brings to Akron, Ohio, the famous fish and chips,” the eatery advertised. “The choicest salt water white fish filets dipped in a secret batter awaits you.”
Summit Foods Inc., led by President Mike Pastis of Akron, acquired the franchise rights from the National Fast Foods Co. There were about 100 Treacher’s locations in the nation.
“America’s finest,” the restaurant assured.
Founded in Ohio in 1969, the restaurant chain was named for English character actor Arthur Treacher, who often played proper butlers in movies (“Yes, sir. Very good, sir). His picture graced the four-sided, yellow-and-green sign. With stone floors and beamed ceilings, the restaurant’s interior was meant to look like an English pub.
The menu was limited at first. North Atlantic whitefish was served with fried potatoes (bigger than ordinary french fries), malt vinegar and salt. A regular order with two fillets and chips cost 89 cents. For hungrier appetites, Treacher’s offered the Family Boat (six pieces of fish), Party Boat (nine pieces) and Trawler (12 pieces).
The Akron grand-opening celebration May 22-24 featured free rides for kids on a British double-decker bus and a special appearance by Denis J. Malin, quality control director and former London restaurateur. He was the great-great-grandson of an Englishman who opened a fish and chips shop in London in 1865.
More than 10,000 orders were sold during the three-day festivities.
“If you haven’t tried Arthur Treacher’s, you’ve never tasted English fish and chips,” the Akron restaurant noted.
The restaurant soon added chicken, shrimp and coleslaw to the menu. Hush puppies didn’t arrive until the mid-1970s. Clam strips and clam chowder arrived later, too.
The chain peaked with 826 restaurants, but lost popularity in the 1980s following a series of ownership changes.
Believe it or not, there are only seven Arthur Treacher’s left in the country, including the one at 1833 State Road in Cuyahoga Falls. The original location on Waterloo Road is a Fish & Chips restaurant, but it’s no longer Treacher’s.
The colonel got some competition.
The fried chicken restaurant Church’s celebrated its grand opening May 27-29, 1971, at four locations: 1261 Copley Road, 71 N. Main St., 1750 Goodyear Blvd. and 961 Portage Trail in Cuyahoga Falls.
“Delicious, Golden Brown, Tender Chicken!” Church’s advertised. “Always Fresh & Hot!”
Restaurant mascot Churchie, a chef wearing a big apron, gave away free chicken, balloons and soft drinks.
The carryout chain was named for George W. Church Sr., who opened the first restaurant in 1952 near the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. It had nearly 350 locations in 1971.
“And what chicken!” Church’s advertised. “Deep-fried fresh and naturally, right before your eyes. Always golden. Always crispy. The way chicken should be fried.”
The chicken was marinated for 20 hours, dipped in flour and fried. The restaurant also served fried potatoes, coleslaw, jalapeno peppers and dinner rolls and eventually added corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese and fried okra to the menu.
Church’s had a distinctive oval sign that was orange, green, black and white.
The chain made a concerted effort to open restaurants in inner-city neighborhoods and developed a reputation for hiring African Americans and Hispanics.
“That’s where the business began and that’s where they were successful,” district manager Arnold Whitmore later explained. “We try to hire people from the neighborhood because they support a business that supports them.”
Today, the chain has more than 1,000 locations, including 1211 S. Main St. and 1391 Vernon Odom Blvd. in Akron and 410 Ninth St. NE in Canton.
The motto used to be “There’s No Chicken Like Church’s.”
Now it’s “Down Home, Now and Always.”
Where’s the beef?
Dave Thomas opened the first Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers in Columbus in November 1969. Four years later, Akron got one, too.
Owned by brothers Sam and Dom Federico, the franchise debuted in November 1973 at 1287 S. Arlington St. near Akron Square. A second restaurant opened a few weeks later at 1126 E. Tallmadge Ave. in North Akron followed by a third location in June 1974 at 1833 State St. in Cuyahoga Falls.
The red-and-gold sign featured a redheaded, pigtailed girl wearing a blue-striped, high-collar dress with a cameo on her neck. The restaurant was named for Thomas’ daughter Melinda, who according to the chain, was nicknamed Wendy because her young siblings couldn’t pronounce her name correctly.
“Quality Is Our Recipe,” the Wendy’s sign promised.
Wendy’s hamburgers were square and stuck out from round buns. Singles were 55 cents, doubles 95 cents and triples $1.35.
“Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers are 100% pure beef,” the Akron restaurant advertised. “They’re never pre-cooked or pre-wrapped. They’re individually prepared just for you 256 different ways.”
Also on the menu: French fries, 30 cents; chili, 55 cents; and the restaurant’s signature chocolate shake, the Frosty, 35 cents. (“So thick you have to eat it with a spoon.”)
Workers wore blue-striped outfits like the girl on the sign. The tabletops were covered with a pattern of old newspaper ads, giving diners some reading material.
But customers didn’t have to go inside. Wendy’s introduced the pickup window to fast food: “Just pull up to the menu board, order over the speaker and, seconds later, drive to the pickup window for your order.”
Before the decade was over, Wendy’s popularized a “crisp, cold and delicious” salad bar (“All you can eat for only $1.49).
The chain hit new heights in the 1980s when it introduced an ad campaign featuring actress Clara Peller. “Where’s the beef?” became a national catchphrase.
Today, Wendy’s is based in Dublin, Ohio, and has nearly 7,000 locations.
Not counting Swanson TV dinners, it wasn’t easy for Akron residents to find Mexican-style food in the early 1970s.
Some sampled spicy fare at Stoner’s Hacienda in Cuyahoga Falls, Benito’s in Tallmadge or on special theme nights at Barnhill’s Ice Cream Parlor in Fairlawn. Others drove all the way to Alliance to Don Pancho’s.
Summit County’s first Taco Bell opened at 1939 State Road in Cuyahoga Falls in 1975. The chain had about 600 restaurants at the time. Glen Bell founded the first Taco Bell in California in 1962
The bright yellow sign featured a figure in a blanket and sombrero taking a siesta on top of a bell. There was also a real bell in a cupola atop the adobe-style building.
“Great New Taste in Town,” Taco Bell advertised.
It introduced its basic menu with helpful phonetic spellings:
“Taco (tah-co): A golden, crisp tortilla, filled with quality ground beef, garden fresh lettuce and shredded cheese, plus Taco Bell’s famous, zesty sauce.”
“Burrito (buhr-ee-toh): Soft flour tortilla, filled with prime, selected pinto beans and shredded cheese. Flavored with red or green chili sauce and onions.”
“Frijoles (fre-ho-les): Prime selected pinto beans, specially prepared and whipped to a smooth texture. Accented with mild chili sauce and shredded cheese.”
“Tostada (toh-stah-dah): Prime selected pinto beans, fresh garden lettuce and shredded cheese, heaped high on a golden corn tortilla, plus Taco Bell’s famous, zesty sauce.”
Everything was less than 50 cents except for the Enchirito, which cost 74 cents.
“We’re Changing America’s Eating Habits,” Taco Bell advertised.
That’s for sure. Today, there are more than 7,000 locations.
Next week: Long John Silver’s, Hardee’s, Rax and more.
Mark J. Price can be reached at [email protected].