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The Original Locations of 30 Famous Food Chains

Alex Watt
The oldest operating McDonald's in Downey, California.
The oldest operating McDonald's in Downey, California. / Andrew Blackburn, CC BY-SA 4.0 // Wikimedia Commons
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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 very first Pizza Hut.
The very first Pizza Hut. / Sanjay Acharya, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

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 eight letters. In 1986, the original hut was moved to the campus of Wichita State University—the Carney brothers' alma mater—where it serves as a museum.

3. T.G.I. Friday’s // 1152 1st Avenue, 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.

4. Waffle House // 2719 East College Avenue, Decatur, Georgia

Joe Rogers Sr. and Tom Forkner opened the first Waffle House in 1955. The original location is now the Waffle House Museum, where visitors can check out memorabilia and see a re-creation of the original restaurant.

5. Dunkin’ Donuts // 543 Southern Artery, Quincy, Massachusetts

The first Dunkin' Donuts.
The first Dunkin' Donuts. / Cs302b, Wikimedia Commons // CC by SA 4.0

Before America was running on Dunkin’, it was a simple donut shop on Southern Artery 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. (And it became just Dunkin' in 2018.) While the building has been remodeled over the years, it still maintains the original aesthetic.

6. Starbucks // 2000 Western Avenue, Seattle, Washington

The original Starbucks store began selling coffee beans and equipment from its 2000 Western Avenue 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 Avenue, Denver, Colorado

The first Chipotle.
The first Chipotle. / CW221, Wikimedia Commons // CC by SA 3.0

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 make a profit. In a month’s time, the store was selling over 10 times that amount. You can still get a Chipotle burrito from its original location, which was renovated in 2017.

8. Nathan’s Famous // 1310 Surf Avenue, 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 a $300 loan to begin selling franks made with his wife Ida’s recipe to hungry Brooklynites, Nathan’s Famous has become a worldwide food chain. But for the Surf Avenue stand, little has changed in its physical appearance.

9. Wendy’s // 257 E. Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio

The original Wendy's location on its last day of operation.
The original Wendy's location on its last day of operation. / Nick Taggart, Columbus Library Digital Collections via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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 serving wings with the chain's trademark hospitality.

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 the names sub and hoagie and coming across the word blimp, which, according to The New York Times, "he thought sounded like a sandwich ... He tacked on an 'ie' and had his name." Unfortunately, the original Blimpie location has closed.

12. Taco Bell // 7112 Firestone Boulevard, Downey, California

The very first Taco Bell—a.k.a. "Numero Uno"—opened in Downey, California, in 1962. It closed in 1986, and in 2015, the restaurant chain uprooted the building, which was slated for demolition, and moved it to company HQ in Irvine.

13. Burger King // 7146 Beach Boulevard, Jacksonville, Florida

According to food historian Andrew F. Smith, Matthew Burns and his stepson Keith G. Cramer opened their first Insta-Burger King in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1953. Inspired by McDonald’s in California, they acquired a machine called the Insta-Broiler that was capable of cooking 400 burgers per hour. Soon after, they franchised to James McLamore and David R. Edgerton, who ditched the Insta-Broiler in favor of flame broiling and changed the name to Burger King. Eventually, McLamore and Edgerton would take control of national rights and spread Burger Kings across the country; the original location eventually closed.

14. Sbarro’s // 1701 65th Street, Brooklyn, New York

It may be difficult to imagine a Sbarro’s that isn’t steps away from a Spencer’s Gifts in a mall food court, 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 // 201 North Main Street, Wichita, Kansas

The first White Castle opened in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas; the site is now the location of a bank, and the closest place to that original location to grab a case of sliders a few hours away. White Castle didn't forget where it came from, though: 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.

16. Sonic // 215 North Main Street, Stillwater, Oklahoma

After discovering that his burger joint’s name was already trademarked, Top Hat Drive-In owner Troy Smith Sr. and his partner Charlie Pappe renamed the Oklahoma chain "Sonic Drive-In" in 1959 inspired by Top Hat’s slogan “Service With the Speed of Sound.” Though it was not the original Top Hat location (which was in Shawnee), the first Sonic sign arrived at the Stillwater restaurant and that’s where it remains today.

17. KFC // 3890 S. State Street, Salt Lake City, Utah

The bucket sign for the world's very first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.
The bucket sign for the world's very first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. / An Errant Knight, Wikimedia Commons // CC by SA 4.0

Harland Sanders began selling fried chicken from his service station in Corbin, Kentucky, in 1930. It quickly became so popular that he soon opened a restaurant, experimented with herbs, spices, and cooking methods, and was made a Kentucky Colonel (a civilian title, not military). It wasn’t until 1952, however, that Kentucky Fried Chicken became a thing—and a long way from Kentucky. According to Deseret News, Sanders had earlier met Utahn restaurateur Pete Harman at a convention. He paid Harman a visit in 1952, and while there, the pair made a deal to sell the Colonel’s fried chicken at Harman’s restaurant. Supposedly, while painting a sign to advertise the new item, Harman and the sign writer, Don Anderson, decided on Kentucky Fried Chicken, since it was fried chicken and Sanders was from Kentucky. The original location was torn down in 2004 and rebuilt to be larger and display memorabilia; it also has a statue of Sanders and Harman.

18. Panda Express // 3214 Glendale Galleria, Glendale, California

In 1973, Chinese immigrants Andrew Cherng and his father Ming Tsai Cherng opened the Panda Inn restaurant in Pasadena, California. After 10 years of providing the Los Angeles area with upscale sit-down meals, management for the Glendale Galleria asked the Cherngs to consider creating a fast-food version of their restaurant. They agreed, and now no trip to the mall is complete without a delicious free sample of unidentifiable goodness.

19. Subway // North End, Bridgeport, Connecticut

Looking for a way to pay for college, 17-year-old Fred DeLuca borrowed $1000 from Dr. Peter Buck and opened Pete’s Super Submarines in Bridgeport, Connecticut. They opened a second shop the next year, and in 1968, just three years after the restaurant’s inception, they shortened the name to Subway; the first franchises opened in 1974. DeLuca never became the doctor he set out to be, but he did receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Bridgeport in 2002. The original Subway is no longer there, but those looking to “Eat Fresh” have over 40,000 other locations to choose from.

20. Little Caesars // 32594 Cherry Hill Road, Garden City, Michigan

Mike and Marian Ilitch opened the first Little Caesars—then called Little Caesar's Pizza Treat—in a Garden City, Michigan, strip mall in 1959. (Little Caesar was apparently Marian's nickname for Mike.) It was the start of great things: The first franchise opened in 1962, and the "Pizza! Pizza!" slogan made its debut in 1979. Unfortunately, you can't get "Hot-N-Ready" pizzas at the original location anymore: It closed in 2018.

21. Jamba // 17 Chorro Street, Suite C, San Luis Obispo, California

Jamba began as a senior project called Juice Club in 1990 when Kirk Perron got a loan from his mom and opened his first storefront in San Luis Obispo, California. Later, the name was changed to Jamba Juice, and in 1999, the company acquired Zuka Juice, Inc. (The company has been going by just Jamba since 2019.) The first Jamba is still up and running, in case you feel like a smoothie and some history next time you’re in San Luis Obispo.

22. In-N-Out // Interstate 10 and Francisquito Avenue, Baldwin Park, California

The first In-N-Out was opened in 1948 when Harry and Esther Snyder set out to "Give customers the freshest, highest quality foods you can buy and provide them with friendly service in a sparkling clean environment." The original location was demolished so Interstate 10 could be built, so you'll have to get your "animal style" fix at another location.

23. Tim Hortons // 65 Ottawa Street N., Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

A plaque at the site of the first Tim Horton's store.
A plaque at the site of the first Tim Horton's store. / Nhl4hamilton (Rick Cordeiro), Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The first Tim Hortons was founded under the name Tim Horton Donuts in 1964. Horton, a professional hockey player, was playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs at the time. After some internal drama that led to Horton’s original business partner leaving, Ron Joyce—a former Hamilton police officer—became co-owner. (Joyce became full owner after Horton's death in 1974 when he bought the hockey player's shares from his widow for $1 million CAD.) Tim Horton Donuts was eventually shortened to "Tim Horton's," which was eventually further truncated to "Tim Hortons" to maintain uniformity in the name of all their locations while also complying with the language laws of Quebec. The original location still operates as a Tim Hortons, but Ottawa Street N is now honorarily named "Tim Hortons Way."

24. Five Guys // 3235 Columbia Pike, Arlington, Virginia

In 1986, Jerry and Janie Murrell, along with four other guys (Jerry’s sons—three from his first marriage, and one with Janie, though a fifth son was born later), founded Five Guys. The couple had advised the boys to “start a business or go to college.” The first restaurant was located in the Westmont Shopping Center, which was also home to Brenner’s Bakery, where the Murrells originally got their rolls. Five Guys no longer calls the Arlington, Virginia, shopping center home, but they maintain a strong presence in Northern Virginia, where the first five Five Guys were opened.

25. Dairy Queen // 501 N. Chicago Street, Joliet, Illinois

In 1938, father and son duo John Fremont “Grandpa” and Alex McCullough tested out a revolutionary formula for soft-serve ice cream at their friend and customer Sherb Noble's ice cream store. The trio knew they were onto something when the ice cream store sold over 1600 servings of the treat in under two hours. Two years later, Noble opened the very first Dairy Queen in Joliet.

26. Jack In The Box // 6270 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego, California

Robert O. Peterson opened the first Jack in the Box in 1951; with its two-way intercom and pickup window, Jack in the Box made fast food even faster. Where the first Jack in the Box once stood is now Platt College San Diego.

27. Benihana // 61 W. 56th Street, New York, New York

In 1964, 25-year-old Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki took the money he made driving an ice cream truck in Harlem and opened the first Benihana. New Yorkers were initially wary of dining at the restaurant, but after it received positive reviews, people were much more open to the idea of sitting near a hot surface with strangers while their chef threw their food around. As the concept grew more popular, that location (then known as Benihana West) moved to 47 W. 56th Street in 1973; it remains there today.

28. Carrabba’s Italian Grill // 3115 Kirby Drive, Houston, Texas

Johnny Carrabba and his uncle Damian Mandola opened the first Carrabba’s Italian Grill in 1986. Their restaurant was such a success that another location opened in Houston soon after. By 1993, Carrabba and Mandola partnered with Outback Steakhouse, Inc., which soon took the chain nationwide. The first (and second) Carrabba’s are still owned and operated by the Carrabba family.

29. Chick-fil-A // 2841 Greenbriar Parkway SW, Atlanta, Georgia

The first Chick-fil-A opened in Atlanta’s Greenbriar Mall in 1967, six years after S. Truett Cathy, the chain’s Chairman and CEO, started experimenting on boneless chicken breasts while working at Dwarf House, his Hapeville, Georgia, restaurant. At first, Cathy referred to his burger alternative as a “chicken steak” sandwich, but was advised that couldn’t be trademarked, so he swapped out “steak” for “fillet” and then misspelled it for trademark reasons. Both the original Chick-fil-A and Dwarf House restaurants are still open for business—unless, of course, it’s a Sunday.

30. Fuddruckers // 8602 Botts Lane, San Antonio, Texas

Philip J. Romano—the father of Romano’s Macaroni Grill—founded Fuddruckers in 1979 because he believed that “the world needed a better hamburger.” The restaurant began as Freddie Fuddruckers, and it opened in a former bank. The location is still serving patrons today.

A version of this story ran in 2015; it has been updated for 2022.

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