Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It)

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michaelcarraher
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2012/04/25 12:33:00 (permalink)

Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It)

This week's episode of Mad Men got me thinking about Howard Johnson's. Grilled "frankforts." Beans in a pot with brown bread.  French fried clams.  Orange freeze with a scoop of lime sherbert.  28 flavors. 
 
According to HoJoLand.com, there are only three locations left.  But HoJoLand.com is saying maybe if Gino's can come back, then HoJo's can (will), too.  Toward the end they were terrible.  Dingy.  Greasy.  Over-priced.  Rip-off joints.  They deserved to go out of business.  As fewer people went there, they made up for it by raising prices.  So even fewer went and they raised prices so more.  But before all that, it started as Roadfood. 
 
I'd like to see a re-born HoJo's bring back the New England shore dishes that were the core of its appeal and add classic Roadfood items from across the country.  Not the same stuff dozens of other mid-priced chains offer. 
 
Even more than Lum's, I find I miss HoJo's.  And on a car trip, those baked beans in a pot could be even more potent than Mel Brooks' beans in Blazing Saddles.
 
#1

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    kaszeta
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/04/25 16:15:51 (permalink)
    I'd settle for a Friendly's that's half as good as those from my early childhood.
    #2
    mjambro
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/04/25 18:06:47 (permalink)
    Never did understand their clam strips, but from what I recall, they did serve an excellent ice cream (including shakes).  Most missed are the hot dogs.  They were simply outstanding. 
    #3
    gostillerz
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/04/25 20:42:35 (permalink)
    I miss seeing them on the PA Turnpike. Need more Roy Rogers' too.
    #4
    lynndunham
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/04/25 23:03:28 (permalink)
    I used to love the HoJo clam strip sandwiches in the toasted buns. Got one once on the PA Turnpike - many miles down the road I bit into one of those U-shaped nails the kind that are pointed on both ends. Never could bring myself to eat another!  I always did love their hot fudge sundaes though.
    #5
    mar52
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/04/25 23:52:48 (permalink)
    There was a Howard Johnsons just outside of my university so I ate there often.
     
    Just give me their clam strips and grilled hot dogs and I'd be very happy.
    #6
    Foodbme
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/04/26 00:57:35 (permalink)
    It would take a major Corporation with VERY deep pockets to bring it back to life in a segment of the restaurant business that's overrun with competitors. An existing chain should just buy the naming rights and trademarks to some of HoJo's signature items and just add it to their menus. Someone like Denny's. They have 1600 restaurants and close to $3 Billion in Sales!
    #7
    DawnT
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/04/26 04:51:25 (permalink)
    Denny's took over the lion's share of the locations in this neck of the woods. Overall, they weren't that bad still during the early 80's. It was a heck of a lot better going there in the wee hours then IHOP,Toddle House, or Denny's back then. Many of the chains including the above during that period of time were just as run down including Weinerwald/Lums and our local chain Ranch House. The Hojo's adjoining a hotel/motel usually were pretty decent. During that time I was in
    grad school and a bunch of us from the department would wait all week for Friday's when most locations here ran the AYCE fish or clam strips special to pig out. Great memories, but there wasn't anything that special on the menu that would merit their resurrection that I remember. Maybe Jacque Pepin would want to do his frozen food his way again if they were to return.
    #8
    MetroplexJim
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/04/26 08:11:08 (permalink)
    Didn't HoJo's originate the practice of preparing entrees in a central kitchen for re-heating in the restaurants?  I don't think we need any more of that, "28 flavors" nonwithstanding. 
     
    Going to HoJo's in the '50's and '60's was a treat for me as a kid, but their time has passed. 
     
    As I recall, HoJo's begat Ground Round which begat Applebee's.  Even their successors' time has passed.
    #9
    michaelcarraher
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/04/26 10:31:45 (permalink)
    I understood it was Stouffer's that started making food in a central kitchen and freezing it.  Then they did way with the restaurants and sent the frozen food direct to supermarkets.
     
    All the chains in the segment HoJo's represented seem to have fallen on hard times.  Not really a coffee shop or diner but certainly not white table cloth.  Denny's.  Big Boy.  Sambo's.  Bob Evans.  All fewer and farther between.  The faux cuisine places are still around (Olive Garden fake Italian, Red Lobster processed seafood, Cracker Barrel fake roadfood).  So are the drunk and munch cheap date joints (TGIF, Applebees, Ruby Tuesday).  Something for everyone "family restaurants" have declined.  Places with a distinct image are still around.
    post edited by michaelcarraher - 2012/04/26 10:33:38
    #10
    kland01s
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/04/26 11:54:56 (permalink)
    My partner always remembers going to HoJo in Peoria Illinois on a Friday night with her parents and having fried clam strips. This was about 1960 or so. Every once in a blue moon she gets a craving for fried something and that's what always comes to her mind.
    #11
    DawnT
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/04/26 14:45:26 (permalink)
    Flash frozen, portion packed meals developed by none other then Jacque Pepin as one of the executive chefs/culinary engineers IIRC. Last I remember Applebee's is owned by IHOP. One of the competitive advantages of some of these restaurants mentioned was 24/7 service at a time when most all restaurants besides the "breakfast kitchens" like Waffle House and Toddle House closed by 10pm. There wasn't too many places you could get a plate meal after hours except for those that had prepared, frozen entrees or switched to a night menu using them. Most of those places are now long gone except for IHOP and Denny's and fast food drive throughs pretty much have picked up that market. Sambo's seemed to have an identity problem that led to their demise by folks that needed a serious history and geography lesson.
     
    MetroplexJim
    Didn't HoJo's originate the practice of preparing entrees in a central kitchen for re-heating in the restaurants?...... As I recall, HoJo's begat Ground Round which begat Applebee's.  Even their successors' time has passed.


    #12
    ces1948
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/04/26 15:55:11 (permalink)
    I have become convinced that I romanticize foods from my youth. I can't speak for anyone else but I'm of the opinion that a lot of folks tend to do that as they (me) get older.
    Although I certainly have no way to prove it I would speculate that if HoJo
    were to reopen using the same menu and same cooking techniques of the original many of us would say it wasn't as good.
    #13
    David_NYC
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/05/01 07:54:41 (permalink)
    AFAIK, the food and beverage rights to Howard Johnson's are still held by the La Mancha Group, LLC run out of David Kushner's office at Paradigm Capital Group in New York City. David has been trying to revive the brand since about 2006. There are no more retail frozen foods being produced because the last licensee went bankrupt due to unrelated business setbacks. No one is still contract manufacturing the ice cream. The supply chain for the remaining three restaurants is probably kaput by now as the Fairfield Farms (Brockton, MA) commissary is defunct, and even the clam strip breading manufacturer dropped the line for lack of sales. During its heydey, Howard Johnson's was vertically integrated, reportedly even manufacturing its own hot dogs. I tried looking for the site of the Queens Village commissary a few years ago and couldn't even find it. Passersby didn't even remember where it was. Cracker Barrel is probably the closest we have today to the HoJo restaurants just off the highways, but even Michael concedes it is fake roadfood.
     
    Should HoJo's come back? I think so and would patronize them. Could it come back? No. Time has passed that concept by.
    #14
    FriedClamFanatic
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/05/05 18:57:31 (permalink)
    My take/rememberances of HoJO's
    Great Breakfst
    Lousy Clams...Clam Strips are not for me!
    Ugly Waitresses.and often surly
    One of the few places at the time with lots of IC choices
    Grilled Hotdogs...YUMMY
    Could find them ANYWHERE
    #15
    syrupmi
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/05/06 21:48:52 (permalink)
         I found out that a motel I'm reserved a room at in Bangor Me is a half mile from one of the three remaining Howard Johnson's.  I'm planing a trip, (I'm also planing of eat local seafood, it's a two week trip.)
    #16
    michaelcarraher
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/05/07 16:46:53 (permalink)
    According to HoJoLand.com, here are the current (and remaining) HoJo's:
     
    336 Odlin Road
     Bangor, ME 04401
     
    Canada St., Route 9
    Lake George, NY 12845

     
    98 Saranac Avenue
    Lake Placid, NY 12946

    post edited by michaelcarraher - 2012/05/07 16:48:31
    #17
    mayor al
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/05/11 14:29:57 (permalink)
    As an old-timer who has fond memories of working (and eating) my way thru undergrad college years (back in the '60's) at a HoJo's on Rt 95 north of Boston, I recall some of the menu items fondly...and some not so fondly !!
    The Wed. Nite Fish Fry for $.99 was great.  Flounder rapidly became my favorite dinner fish  in those years. A single dip in the canned milk, then tossed in the seasoned flour breding stuff, and into the fryer ! AYCE for 99 cents was a real bargain! Lots of locals would come out to the freeway to load up on that Fish, fries, and slaw. Beverages usually cost more than the dinner by the time they finished !
    HoJo's used large Sea Scallops, not the little Bay Version. They were outstanding !. I also had a love/hate relationship with the onion rings...Loved because they looked and tasted great right out of the fryer....all fresh onions sliced in our kitchen and battered and fried to order...  Hate  because they had to be double breaded and that was a very messy job for me !! The batter really stuck to my hands after that task !!
    Some of the plus's on the food during those days...  The top-cut hot dog rolls that took to grilling on each side easily.  Great for the Frankfurt, but even better for the Hot Lobster Roll ! Yeah I come from the Hot Lobster Roll school, served with melted butter on a toasted roll....not the Mayo filled Lobster-salad roll served on a cold "raw" roll.
     
    The Char-broiled Steak was the top of the line in those days.  an 8 oz Rib Steak (bone-in) dinner sold for $2.65 in 1967. The steaks came to the store frozen, pre-grilled to rare with x-pattern char marks already installed. A nice little steak (by todays standards) but that item took a licking when Valle's and the Hilltop Steak Houses opened about 15 miles south of us in Saugas, Mass.
    Beans and Franks ($.99) were a popular item, as were the club-sandwiches ($1.65).  On those cold winter nights many truckers would stop in for a Hot Turkey or Hot Beef (open-face) Sandwich with a double order of Mashed Potatoes and hot Gravy.  ($1.30)
    My personal favorite comissary entree were the Beef Short Ribs ! I have never been able to duplicate those short-ribs. They were so favorful !!
     
    I didn't work the fountain, but did make some of my own treats when time allowed. ButterCrunch was top of my flavor list , with Burgandy Cherry, English Toffee, and Mocha Walnut also high on the list.  At Christmas, Peppermint Stick joined the others under a squirt of Hot Fudge to help keep me "slim and trim !
    I never learned why they dropped the "ER" from the label Hamburg, Cheeseburg, and Frankfurt... another legend lost in the fog of history !!
     
    #18
    Glenn1234
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/05/11 15:27:01 (permalink)
    mayor alI never learned why they dropped the "ER" from the label Hamburg, Cheeseburg, and Frankfurt... another legend lost in the fog of history !! 

     
     
    When I lived in New England, I recall a few old-timers dropping the "ER".  I would guess that it is a nod to the origins of those names:  Hamburg, Germany and Frankfurt, Germany. 
     
     
    Glenn
     


    #19
    rumaki
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/05/11 17:29:08 (permalink)
    I grew up in Indiana, and my only experience with HoJo's was on the Pennsylvania turnpike when my family was on vacation. My recollection is that HoJo's was the first place I ever had coconut ice cream, and it was the first place my brother had coffee ice cream.  I vaguely remember a very soggy strawberry shortcake, too, and a chop suey special  (or maybe it was "chow mein") once that was pretty appalling. Why my parents even let me order that is a mystery.  I think I mostly had "frankforts" when we stopped for lunch there -- another "first" for me was the New England-style buns, which I loved (and still do in Connecticut hot lobster rolls).
     
    I didn't like clam strips then and don't like them now.
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    mayor al
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/05/13 19:05:05 (permalink)
    To respond to the question as it was presented in the thread title, The answer is No, HoJo's could not make it in todays fusion-crazy menu-expanding complex resturant service arena (IMHO.)
     
       The original concept of uniformity in food service, menu, quality, and price was the core of the H.J. business operation. As the public took to the highways for travel in the Post WWII years, the threat of food issues -- poisoning, sanitation, pricing and individual quality, and taste differences, caused real concern for those who were taking to the road. HoJo's solved that with the uniform operating system where ever they were. People KNEW what to expect and what it would cost, a real change of pace for the concerned traveler.
     
       Today we Roadfooders, and many others, search for that "jewel" of a food-source that represents the "Old Days" of individual tastes and food offerings that could bring great pleasure to the traveler...BUT, HOW many times have we selected a "Loser" in the search for Nirvana. For many folks who do not have the time or desire to explore the world of Roadfood, a place like HoJo's, or more recently McDonalds, Cracker Barrel, Subway etc etc  provide solid food, of no great merit, but they are a known entity to the traveler, and that in itself is their value. I cannot count the number of times that I have jumped off a freeway  to use the drive-thru at a FF stand, and return to the road within minutes of leaving it...because the trip was focused on "getting there"...NOT on what happened on the road.  HOJO's lubricated those skid-marks...but only with a very generic menu. Today's market is pickier, fussier, and much too complex to allow a HoJo bland food stand to exiest.
    #21
    45013
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/05/17 03:27:44 (permalink)
    syrupmi
     
    I found out that a motel I'm reserved a room at in Bangor Me is a half mile from one of the three remaining Howard Johnson's.  I'm planing a trip, (I'm also planing of eat local seafood, it's a two week trip.)
     

     
    michaelcarraher

    According to HoJoLand.com, here are the current (and remaining) HoJo's:

    336 Odlin Road
     Bangor, ME 04401


     
    Hey, I ate at that one last year!
     
    I had a French dip sandwich; I had eaten fried clams too recently, unfortunately.
    post edited by 45013 - 2012/05/17 03:29:03
    #22
    michaelcarraher
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/05/17 07:55:11 (permalink)
    mayor al

      The original concept of uniformity in food service, menu, quality, and price was the core of the H.J. business operation. As the public took to the highways for travel in the Post WWII years, the threat of food issues -- poisoning, sanitation, pricing and individual quality, and taste differences, caused real concern for those who were taking to the road. HoJo's solved that with the uniform operating system where ever they were. People KNEW what to expect and what it would cost, a real change of pace for the concerned traveler.

      Today we Roadfooders, and many others, search for that "jewel" of a food-source that represents the "Old Days" of individual tastes and food offerings that could bring great pleasure to the traveler...BUT, HOW many times have we selected a "Loser" in the search for Nirvana. For many folks who do not have the time or desire to explore the world of Roadfood, a place like HoJo's, or more recently McDonalds, Cracker Barrel, Subway etc etc  provide solid food, of no great merit, but they are a known entity to the traveler, and that in itself is their value. I cannot count the number of times that I have jumped off a freeway  to use the drive-thru at a FF stand, and return to the road within minutes of leaving it...because the trip was focused on "getting there"...NOT on what happened on the road.  HOJO's lubricated those skid-marks...but only with a very generic menu. Today's market is pickier, fussier, and much too complex to allow a HoJo bland food stand to exiest.

     
    HoJo's started as a roadfood type New England shore joint.  But, yes, it's growth came because it offered uniformity, consistency and predictability.  People still want that (the Roadfood minority excepted).  Most people will give up the chance of a great meal to avoid the possibility of a bad meal.  HoJo's problem today is the world eating on the run has moved from the coffee shop (economical sit-down restaurants with table service but no table cloths) to fast food.  Even Friendly's, which tried to occupy the same niche as HoJo's and even has copied elements of HoJo's menu, isn't doing that well.  And while Friendly's and other sit-down chains like Cracker Barrell do have locations near Interstate exits, they don't really position themselves as places to eat while traveling. 
     
    Originally, the turnpike restaurants HoJo's operated offered both a coffee shop type dining and a white table cloth dining room.  Now HoJo's is gone from those rest stops and in there place are a number of fast food franchises.  Fine, leisurely dining on turnpikes is no longer an immediate option for turnpike-captive travelers.
     
    #23
    mjambro
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/05/17 15:53:17 (permalink)
    michaelcarraher

    mayor al
      Even Friendly's, which tried to occupy the same niche as HoJo's and even has copied elements of HoJo's menu, isn't doing that well.  

     
    I never made the connection, but now I can see the similarities (menu & serving style).   Although I've found Friendly's to serve an excellent hot dog (may even rival the HoJo hot dog) and their burgers are quit decent, I find their fries to be quite terrible (which they seem to force upon most every menu item) and their ice cream to be of very poor quality.    It could be an inaccurate memory, but from what I recall HoJo served an excellent quality ice cream (shakes, etc). 
    #24
    mayor al
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/05/19 22:32:28 (permalink)
    Yes, HoJo's and Friendly's both have excellent ice cream products and (at the time I was a customer -and employee-) Their sandwiches had much in common.  The  3-D, Hojo's version of the Big Mac, and Friendly's Big Beef Cheeseburg Special were both excellent Burgers.   Like many of our fading memories, I enjoy dwelling on the good-tasting memories more than the demise of the companies.
    #25
    ann peeples
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    Re:Could HoJo's Come Back? (Should It) 2012/05/20 09:01:14 (permalink)
    HoJo's was the first place I had fried clams, at the tender age of 6. I have since had better, but the memories are still intact of how wonderful they were back in 1965.
    #26
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