EARLY BURGER WARS
Long before there were golden arches on nearly every corner, the burger and fries routine was dominated by two extinct species known as BBF (short for "Burger Boy Food-O- Rama"), and Burger Chef. In fact, the only McDonald's I can even remember from the late 1960s was located at the end of Fairway Blvd. at Hamilton Road. It was one of the old style outside walk-up window designs, and still occupies the same location today (although no traces of the original restaurant remain). When Eastland Mall opened, a McDonald's was opened on Winchester Pike in Berwick (since closed), and eventually in my high school days, McDonald's surfaced at the corner of Livingston and Brice (also closed). Unlike the kids of today, our family rarely visited McDonald's even though they had the best fries (back when they cooked them in animal fat!).
Our burgers of choice were available only at the BBF, located under "the whirling satellite" on Hamilton Road, across the street from the Great Eastern Shopping Center (the spot is now occupied by a Ponderosa Steak House and a Waterbeds 'N Stuff). BBF sold my favorite burgers, simple cheeseburgers with ketchup and mustard. No secret sauce, just plain old burgers. The fries were good, they had decent shakes, and although I never tried it, I think they even sold fried chicken. Flippo the Clown was their shill for a few years, too. I can almost taste the BBF even as I'm writing this! Another large Eastside location was on East Livingston, just before the I-70 Freeway. I remember they had a much larger parking lot, and the "hoods" and motoheads would gather on Friday and Saturday nights to show off their 'Cudas and GTOs But as with all things wonderful, BBF had troubles maintaining market share and sold off to Bordon in the early 1970s. A brief run under the name "Bordon Burger" failed miserably, and there were virtually no similarities in the products at all.
The first Burger Chef opened in Indianapolis in 1954. Between 1966 and 1969, they experienced outstanding growth under the new ownership of General Foods and had opened their 1000th restaurant. It was during this growth that Burger Chef arrived on Columbus' eastside. I remember two locations--one on East Livingston at Beechwood, just east of Courtright Rd., and the other on East Main Street in the front of the Zayre's Department Store special parking lot (currently an AutoZone). What made Burger Chef special, to my taste at least, was the "flame broiled" burgers and real milk shakes. I fail to realize that many who read this may not even remember that "shakes" were once cold, and manufactured from dairy products, unlike today's warm vegetable shortening globs that have the texture of a nasty sinus infection. Burger Chef shakes, especially the chocolate and strawberry, resembled current Steak and Shake products. And Burger Chef was cutting edge on marketing, advertising, and product expansion. Who can forget the "Big Shef" (similar to McDonald's "Big Mac")? And everyone over the age of 40 knows who "Burger Chef and Jeff" were. Burger Chef was actually one of the first fast-food restaurants to introduce the salad bar as far back as 1969. General Foods also owned the Jax Roast Beef Restaurants, which we'll discuss shortly. Unfortunately, as a result of their meteoric growth in a short period of time, General Foods would eventually abandon their interest in further Burger Chef expansion, and by 1982 had sold out to Hardee's. It was at that time that Burger Chef and Jeff disappeared from Columbus forever. Throughout the country, all Burger Chefs followed suit and either joined the Hardee's family, or closed.
Burger King, which began in South Florida in the mid-1950s, did not experience nationwide expansion until the late 1960s and early 1970s. In fact, the only Burger King I can even recall on our side of town was built at its current location just west of Hamilton Road on East Main Street in Whitehall. Our only Wendy's, which I tried for the first time ever at their Ohio State Fair tent outside the Agriculture & Horticulture Building, was also in its current location on East Livingston Avenue, just west of Yearling. I always remember visiting this location specifically for my father, who was finally being offered the ultimate burger for the mansized appetite...the Wendy's Triple. And for Mom, she had to have her White Castles which, in the 1960s, involved a trek all the way into Bexley. I vaguely remember the Capital University White Castle, which was no larger than a meat freezer, and how it seemed as though it took hours to get there from home just to satisfy my Mother's craving for sliders.`
Finally, although my memory is somewhat hazy on this due to their closing when I was probably about five or six, Eastsiders had both a Hasty Tasty* and a Sandy's. One of them was located at the corner of Hamilton and East Main in Whitehall, and I also recall one of them being shut down by the Board of Health for leaving traces of the peel on their french fries! Both of these restaurants were well known in the Dayton-Springfield area before staking a claim in Columbus, and their demise was probably assisted by customer loyalty to BBF.
* in 1970 Jules Sokol purchased the Hasty Tasty Drive-in on Parsons Avenue. His wife, Nita, renamed the chain Tee Jaye's. "Tee" comes from her love of golf and "Jaye" is her son Randy's middle name.