Fable of the Golden Arches

Fable of the Golden Arches

Richard and Maurice McDonald were planning to franchise their successful burger system in 1952. To stand above the visual noise created by miles of drive-ins, motels, car washes, bowling alleys, service stations, and coffee-shops—they decided a new structural style was needed. Without a unique design, nationwide recognition for their walk-up stand was an impossibility. With this simple aim at the forefront, professional architects in Southern California were approached. A few interesting concepts were drafted for the brothers’ review—but unfortunately ... met with immediate rejection. Later described by Richard McDonald as “squatty looking boxes,”…continue reading →
Hamburger Architecture

Hamburger Architecture

Hamburgers made their debut on the food scene as irregular lumps of chopped beef, hand shaped according to the improvisational jazz of lunch counter short order. During the early years, long before the cookie-cutter aesthetics of the Big Mac came into vogue, concerns over circular uniformity and ingredients were minimal. When fry by the seat of your pants legends Charlie Nagreen and Frank Menches formed ground round for the griddle, personal artistry ensured that every burger was a unique one. Irregularly molded perimeters of meat—with one piece more or less hanging out at one…continue reading →
Crazy Water in Mineral Wells

Crazy Water in Mineral Wells

Today, the remnants of a once booming mineral water business can still be seen in the town of Mineral Wells, Texas. Originally built as a seven-story luxury resort, the Crazy Hotel is now a retirement home; the Milling Sanitarium a VFW hall, and the towering Baker Hotel—once the playground of screen stars, crooners, and oilmen—sits abandoned, a silent reminder of the times when the healing waters flowed. When James Lynch arrived on this site in 1877, there was little indication that this area would one day become a magnet for visitors. Although the…continue reading →
Devolution of Bob’s Big Boy

Devolution of Bob’s Big Boy

In 1937, Robert Wian created his signature two-story cheeseburger at a five-stool lunch counter in Glendale, California and along with it—gave birth to a new roadside icon. At the time, six-year-old Richard Woodruff was a regular customer there, always on the make for free food. Occasionally, Wian let him sweep the floor in exchange for a burger snack. Charmed by the lad’s droopy overalls, pudgy physique, and limitless appetite for grilled patties of ground beef, he decided that his new multi-level sandwich should be called the “Big Boy.” Later, a local cartoonist sketched…continue reading →
Immoral Sodas to Sundaes

Immoral Sodas to Sundaes

America's first ice cream soda fizzed to life in October of 1874. At the time, Robert Green was working as a soda fountain concessionaire at the Franklin Institute's exhibit in Philadelphia. Serving drinks from a three-foot square dispenser, he ran out of cream for a popular beverage. Plopping a large dollop of ice cream into a flagon of flavored seltzer, he created the ice cream soda. After sneaking a tentative sip, Green was wowed: the resulting blend of soda, syrup, and frozen cream was delightful! Without hesitation, the innocent libation was added to…continue reading →
Valentine’s Portable Diners

Valentine’s Portable Diners

In 1872, Walter Scott inaugurated the East Coast region as the bastion of diners when he served a snack from a rolling “lunch wagon” in Providence, Rhode Island. In the decades that followed, a raft of diner manufacturers appeared, adopting his tenets of portability and efficiency as the basis for construction. Unfortunately, shipping these prefabricated restaurants wasn’t cheap. The cost of commercial trucking added a substantial amount of green to the total investment required to open a roadside greasy spoon. As a consequence, few of the great diner outfits that established a name…continue reading →