ROAST BEEF, CHICKEN, AND TACOS
For some odd reason in the late 1960s, fast-food restaurants placed a huge emphasis on roast beef sandwiches. I had no complaints as the early attempts were outstanding, specifically my favorite, Saxon's Roast Beef on Hamilton Road. Located just about a block south of Main Street in Whitehall, Saxon's had the best beef sandwiches I have ever tasted. Real roast beef, none of that gelatin deli beef loaf we've accepted over the past few years. And they used to use this metal bell-shaped devise which would pass your beef over this shot of steam hole. I don't know what purpose that served, but I fell for it. The Saxon's restaurant is currently the shell for Key Bank and looks exactly as it did when I was munching roast beef in the parking lot thirty years ago. At the same time, Jax Roast Beef had opened all the way down East Main, just west of James Road. Again, they had awesome, real roast beef sandwiches, but they were practically in Bexley and that was too far to trek from my hood. Jax would eventually be purchased by Burger Chef in the late 1960s, and changed their name briefly to Rix Roast Beef, before eventually becoming Rax in 1977.
The first and only Arby's Roast Beef I can recall was located in the front of the Whitehall Department Store (currently National City Bank offices) parking lot on East Main Street, and probably arrived in the late 1960s. The first Arby's opened in Boardman, Ohio in 1964 and the franchises started to appear nationally around 1967. Oddly enough, at least from this palate's point of view, the Arby's Roast Beef sandwich couldn't compare to Jax or Saxon's, yet to this date, Arby's is the sole survivor. Incidentally, for those obsessed with trivia, the Arby's name was derived from the two founders Forrest and Leroy Raffel--the Raffel Brothers--or RB's.
If you wanted fried chicken on the eastside in the late 1960s, your options were limited to Grandma's Original Recipe located next to McDonald's at Fairway and Hamilton, or the lone Kentucky Fried Chicken on Hamilton Road, halfway between Livingston and East Main. Grandma's was a greasy offering and it was tough to tell the white meat from the dark. The Colonel had buckets of chicken and excellent mashed potatoes and gravy. Unfortunately, our local KFC was rocked by a real-life urban legend involving a rat and a deep fryer, and we sought the refuge of the newly opened Reynoldsburg location. The Kentucky Fried Chicken on Hamilton Road probably suffered greatly from this well-known incident, and is now a used car lot. But let's face it, no one could fry chicken like Mom did at home. Unless she whipped out that crap called "city chicken" which consisted of, well, I really don't know what in the Hell city chicken was.
Taco Bell founder Glen Bell opened his first location in Downey, California in 1962. It took a long time before any franchisee would gamble on take-out Mexican food in Columbus, Ohio. Yet I remember our one and only eastside location on South Hamilton Road, between Main and Broad, just south of Bill Swad Chevrolet and Marineland public pool. Today, the original Taco Bell is home to King Gyros. Featuring the traditional early mission design with the sleeping Mexican under a sombrero, this Taco Bell was slow to impress fellow eastsiders. In fact, I can remember a limited menu of about five items. And since I didn't like the lettuce they put on the tacos, I was forced to eat the dreaded "Bellburger," which was a sloppy Joe with some shredded cheese. It's hard to imagine that a diet consisting largely these days of Mexican food was introduced to the cuisine via The Bellburger. Just north of the Bell was the competitor, a long-forgotten franchise called Taco Rancho. Most everyone called it Taco Raunchy because the ground beef didn't actually resemble beef. It had an odd reddish tone to it and tasted a bit like Food Club dog food. As a quick sidenote, in the mid-1970s a new Mexican restaurant appeared called c. Our eastside locations were the current site of the Taco Bell at Brice and East Main in Reynoldsburg, and on East Broad just west of Yearling (now vacant). Zantigo offered, quite simply, some of the best Mexican food I have ever eaten to this day. Their cheese enchiladas, which no one had ever offered via fast-food fare, were outstanding, and their packs of salsa had tremendous flavor. Unfortunately in 1978, Pepsico (Taco Bell's owner) bought KFC, which also owned Zantigo. Some Zantigo's closed immediately, some were converted to Taco Bells and they let the market decide which locations would survive. For a while on South Hamilton Road, Taco Bell's were on either side of the road. Over the years, they they shut down the lower volume competing locations. To this day, many Taco Bells are in Zantigo buildings. (Graceland to right)