A little bit of restaurant history disappeared last week, well at least my history. The Wendy’s located at 3592 North High St was demolished to make way for a new design. It should be up and running by early 2017. While Wendy’s is ubiquitous in Central Ohio my hazy early childhood memories can recall when it was a new concept. The location in Clintonville was the 22nd Wendy’s since the company started in 1969. It opened in 1973. By 1976, there were 500 Wendy’s all over North America. Today there are about 6500 worldwide.
One of my earliest food memories is Burger Chef, I can not recall anything about the food there but I do remember the prizes with their kid’s meals. In contrast I can distinctly remember the first burger and first chili I had at Wendy’s. The burgers served were bigger and fresher. And with their square patties, as what was once the the tag line for Wendy’s, they seemed old fashioned compared to their competition. The Wendy’s chili of the 1970’s was so much better than what is served today.
I can recall finding out that there was a double and a triple burger and feeling determined to try these larger offerings. I think my third or forth Wendy’s burger ever was a triple. Not bad for five year old. I finished it of course but it was the only time I have consumed a Wendy’s triple. I can recall the original decor involved high top tables covered with recreations of old ads. The decor was very similar to Farrell’s at Graceland…..which did not last too long lots of wood, some beads creating a 1920’s feel. Some of the old school tables can be found at Thurman’s in German Village.
My next memory was the Wendy’s salad bar (originating in 1979) which seemed amazing to me. I can remember frequent trips there to make salads to bring home. There was a poppy seed dressing we loved to get and things like bacon bits and fresh croutons seemed like a big deal. As a reflection of how times have changed as an 8 year old I could ride my bike there and order food and eat it there by myself. I can’t imagine eight year old’s doing that in Clintonville today. I’m not sure I can imagine myself riding my bike there in the present, although I need to.
On one of my later bike rides there (when I was 13) I lost my retainer. I rode my bike home to tell my mom I could not find it and she told me to ride back and keep looking for it. Three hours later when I had not returned home, she drove down to check on how I was doing. I was digging through bags of trash at the rear dumpster. She walked up and the very first thing she pulled out…..was my retainer.
The next big deal for me at Wendy’s is something that did not last long enough – the SUPER Bar! When it started, for $2.99 it was all you could eat salad, baked potatoes, Mexican Taco bar, pastas and more. It was phased out in the early 1990’s but in my first years of college, it was a splurge meal option that fit my budget.
My last memory was in college as well. I was eating at Wendy’s with my girlfriend and somehow at a four top table, I thought I had pulled the chair out to sit down but there were only three chairs at the table….so when I squatted to sit, my ass landed on the floor. About twenty people stared at me wondering if they were watching someone loose their mind…..that happened about twenty years later.
While the corner will only be empty for a few month before it is replaced with a new state of the art Wendy’s restaurant it will not be the same for me. It is interesting how something as mundane as a fast food restaurant can intertwine in your life in ways you don’t recognize until it is gone.