Skip to content

5 Old-School Chain Restaurant Meals We Can't Get Over, According to Chefs

These beloved chains may have closed forever, but they live on in the palates of chefs to this day.

Yes, even chefs get hit with the nostalgia feels every now and then—especially when it comes to reminiscing about their favorite foods as children. Before picking up their knives and whipping up delicious meals in restaurants on their own, these chefs remember the particular meals that inspired them to love food in the first place. Even if those iconic foods and their respective chains are no longer around.

Here are the closed old-school restaurant chain meals chefs are still raving about today. After, for more food nostalgia, see how many of these 14 Old-Fashioned Burger Chains you remember.

 6 Best Fast-Food French Fries, According to Chefs

Old-Fashioned Cheeseburger at Burger Queen

Burger Queen

"I'm going back a bit here, but Burger Queen was my favorite," says Chef Isabella Flint of Fanatically Food.

The first Burger Queen opened in Florida in 1956. The chain evolved into Druther's in 1981, with a bee mascot named Queenie Bee, and served breakfast, salads, fries, chicken dinners, burgers, and more. In 1990, Druther's International Inc. became a Territory Operator for Dairy Queen and eventually converted many Druther's restaurants into DQ locations.

"We used to go to Florida for the holiday season," says Flint. "I'll never forget the burgers at Burger Queen. They'd probably be classed as too plain now with all the fancy burgers in our restaurants, but the good old-fashioned Cheeseburger always hit the spot, and really took me back to my childhood and the thought of the burger just brings back happy memories for me."

 An Exciting New Burger King Sandwich Is Debuting This Month

The Burger at Dee's Drive-In

KathyByrd2014 / Tripadvisor

"Back in the day, there was a burger joint called Dee's in Utah," says Chef Dennis Littley. "I'm a classically trained chef but sometimes classic food (like classic burgers) can appear totally bland to historic all-time favorites. Dee's in Utah used to serve the most scrumptious hamburgers."

In 1932, Dee Frederick Anderson opened up his first restaurant and drive-in, serving burgers, hot dogs, apple turnovers, french fries, and soft drinks. At one point, the chain had 53 restaurants and drive-in locations. By the 70s, all Dee's Drive Inn locations were sold off to Hardee's.

"I have traveled all over the world and still think Dee's was the best I've ever had," says Littley. "Not fabulous on the eye but the burger patty was certainly fabulous. I even still try and replicate the recipe at home!"

The Burgers at Naugles

andyherrity / Tripadvisor

"I've been through a few eating disorders in my life, so it was always hard to find the right balance," says Chef Elena Dyulgerova, owner of Vege Vega. "Naugles always offered me the perfect balance."

Naugles served primarily Mexican-inspired fast food and was begun by a former Del Taco partner in 1970. In its heyday, the chain had about 225 chains, but then began to slowly merge with Del Taco and was no more by 1995.

Dyulgerova loved the burgers at this primarily Cal-Mex spot. "In my childhood, I loved their simple hamburgers and cheeseburgers," she says. "For veggie options, the fries and cheese burritos were amazing!"

Hot Dogs at Doggie Diner

Doggie diner

"This may be one for the oldies (if that's what you can call us!) but Doggie Diner in California was a favorite of mine," says Chef Jenna Moran, owner of Whimsy and Spice. "My father wasn't a burger lover (I know, right?) so my main childhood memories were of him ordering the hot dogs from Doggie Diner, which were also sublime."

At its peak popularity, Doggie Diner had 30 locations, most sporting the seven-foot-tall, rotating dachshunds in chef's hats and bowties. By the mid-'80s, all the Doggie Diners in Cali had closed.

"I also saw recently that the brand is trying to make a comeback which is awesome," says Moran. "It may not be the most glamorous, but wow the food was sensational. I even loved the old versions of the Coca-Cola logo on the restaurant's signage. Really brings me back to my childhood!"

 16 Old-Fashioned Food Terms You'll Only Hear In The Midwest

Howard Johnson's

Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

"I loved burgers growing up and Howard Johnson's was always my go-to, but when I developed a passion for cutting down my meat intake I was struggling to think of where to go and still relive my childhood, whilst a pescatarian, at the time," says Brett White, owner of Addicted To Veggies.

Howard Johnson's, instantly recognizable by its orange roof, was once the largest roadside restaurant chain in the U.S. with over 1,000 locations. If you grew up in the 60s or 70s, it's a safe bet you ate there. The chain was known for quality food, in particular the fried clams, burgers, chicken, hot dogs, and, of course, ice cream.

"One of my friends persuaded me to go back to Howard Johnson's years later, she tucked into the cheeseburger and I had the fried clams," says White. "Didn't think a burger joint would do this type of thing but they were always amazing. So my best memory at a burger restaurant was actually the clams!"

Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a freelance health and nutrition journalist. Read more about Kiersten