The Original Locations of 15 Famous Food Chains
By Alex Watt
Ever wonder where your favorite fast food chain first popped up? Look no further.
1. McDonald’s (1398 North E Street, San Bernardino, California)
In 1940, Maurice and Richard McDonald moved their father’s food stand “The Airdrome” from Monrovia to San Bernardino and renamed it “McDonald’s Bar-B-Q.” It functioned as a carhop drive-in until 1948, when the brothers restructured the business to focus on burgers and fries and changed the name to “McDonald’s.” While the North E Street location is no longer a functioning Mickey Ds, the building’s current owner, Juan Pollo Restaurants, utilizes the space as both their corporate headquarters and an unofficial McDonald’s Museum. The oldest operating McDonald’s restaurant is in Downey, California.
2. Pizza Hut (503 South Bluff St, Wichita, Kansas)
The first Pizza Hut was opened in 1958 by brothers Dan and Frank Carney in their hometown of Wichita, Kansas. The two knew they wanted to have “Pizza” in their new establishment’s name, but didn’t decide on “Hut” until they discovered the building’s sign only had room for nine letters and that the structure itself looked like a hut. In 1986, the original hut was moved to the campus of Wichita State University—the Carney brothers' alma mater—where it is used by the International Business Student Association as a meeting place.
3. T.G.I. Friday’s (1152 1st Ave, New York, New York)
Looking for a place to meet people—especially the eligible women he noticed in his Manhattan neighborhood—Alan Stillman took the initiative and founded a bar and restaurant. Before it opened in 1965, “singles bars" were a rarity. Friday’s is even credited as being one of the first bars to use “ladies night” as a promotion. The original T.G.I. Friday’s closed in 1994 and is now Baker Street Pub & Grill.
4. Waffle House (2719 East College Avenue, Decatur, Georgia)
Joe Rogers Sr. and Tom Forkner opened the first Waffle House in 1955 and remain involved with the company to this day. The original location is now the Waffle House Museum, where you can make your own waffles in its unchanged interior.
5. Dunkin’ Donuts (543 Southern Artery, Quincy, Massachusetts)
Before America was running on Dunkin’, it was a simple donut shop on Southern Artery—yes, like the heart—in Quincy, Massachusetts. The location opened in 1948 under the name Open Kettle, then a year later it became Kettle Donuts, then a year after that it finally became Dunkin’ Donuts. While the building has been remodeled over the years, it still maintains the original aesthetic.
6. Starbucks (2000 Western Ave, Seattle, Washington)
The original Starbucks store began selling coffee beans and equipment from its 2000 Western Ave location in 1971, but by 1976, their building was to be demolished and they had to find a new place. In 1977, they opened the “1st and Pike” cafe, located at the mouth of the historic Pike Place Market, and the rest is highly-caffeinated history.
7. Chipotle Mexican Grill (1644 E Evans Ave, Denver, Colorado)
When founder Steve Ells opened the first Chipotle Mexican Grill just down the road from the University of Denver, he and his father figured that it would have to sell 107 burritos a day to be profitable. In a month’s time, the store was selling over ten times that amount. You can still get a Chipotle burrito from its original location.
8. Nathan’s Famous (1310 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, New York)
What began as a Coney Island hot dog stand in 1916 ... remains a Coney Island hot dog stand. Sure, in the years since Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker used his life’s savings of $300 to begin selling franks made with his wife Ida’s recipe to hungry Brooklynites, Nathan’s Famous has become a national chain with over 40,000 outlets. But for the Surf Avenue stand, little has changed in its physical appearance (which probably can't be said about most of those training for Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, an annual competition held at the original location).
9. Wendy’s (257 E Broad St, Columbus, Ohio)
Though Wendy’s closed its original restaurant in 2007, the spirit of the company’s first restaurant still lives on—in their flagship store in Dublin, Ohio, which boasts an entire “community room” full of company history and memorabilia. Some historians, such as Yelp user Jeffrey H., still found the original location’s shutdown to be tragic, calling the day it closed its doors “one of America’s darkest.”
10. Hooters (2800 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd, Clearwater, Florida)
In 1983, six businessmen got together and changed the face (ahem) of chain restaurant history when they opened a “delightfully tacky, yet unrefined” dining establishment by the name of Hooters. Thanks to the “Hooters Six”—as they are referred to in the “Saga” section of the restaurant’s website—never again would someone have to suffer through ordering food and beverages from a person wearing actual pants. While it has been subject to extensive remodeling projects, the original Hooters is still home to their trademark hospitality, wings, and weird uncle smell.
11. Blimpie (110 Washington St, Hoboken, New Jersey)
In 1964, three former high school classmates opened up the first Blimpie sandwich shop in Hoboken, New Jersey. One of the founders, Tony Conza, came up with the name after searching the dictionary for an alternative to sub and hoagie and coming across the word blimp, which he felt would sound enough like a sandwich with “ie” at the end of it. The original Blimpie is still functioning, so come on down—and, for the love of all that is piled on top of a hero, don’t mention Jared.
12. Taco Bell (7112 Firestone Blvd, Downey, California)
The building that was once the very first Taco Bell is now home to an unaffiliated Mexican takeout place, but if you “Yo quiero Taco Bell” and only Taco Bell, don’t worry—there’s one right across the street. There aren’t many places where one can enjoy a Fourth Meal and admire history at the same time.
13. Burger King (7146 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville, Florida)
Originally called Insta-Burger, the first Burger King was founded by Keith J. Kramer and his wife’s uncle-in-law Matthew Burns in Jacksonville, Florida. With the help of their “Insta-Broilers”— ovens capable of cooking 400 burgers per hour—the two went on to open multiple Insta-Burger restaurants and become a franchise. In 1959, Kramer and Burns sold the company to Insta-Burger franchisees James McLamore and David R. Edgerton, who changed the name to Burger King. A place called Stan’s Sandwich now operates out of the original location.
14. Sbarro’s (1701 65th St, Brooklyn, New York)
It may be difficult to imagine a Sbarro’s that isn’t steps away from a Spencer’s Gifts, but the pizza chain began as a salumeria (or Italian grocery store) in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1956. The original Sbarro’s, where Gennaro and “Mama” Carmela set up shop after emigrating from Naples, is now a Japanese restaurant. You can still put the old adage about there being no such thing as bad pizza to the test at Kings Plaza Shopping Center, where they opened their first mall-based location in 1970.
15. White Castle (NW corner of First and Main St, Wichita, Kansas)
Where the first White Castle opened in 1921 now stands a multi-tiered parking garage. Today, the closest place to that original location to grab a case of sliders is all the way in St. Louis. Though seemingly content with depriving the people of Kansas, White Castle didn't forget where it came from: In 2011, the company celebrated its 90th birthday by making a special one-day only return to Wichita to grill up burgers as a fundraiser for the Kansas Food Bank.