Do you remember getting a plate of fried clams and an ice cream cone at Howard Johnson’s? Unless you were born before 1970, you’re probably scratching your head and thinking, “isn’t that a hotel?” Howard Johnson’s isn’t just a hotel chain: in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, it was one of the largest casual restaurant chains in America. Now, half a century later, there are only two Howard Johnson’s locations left: one in Lake George in New York, which just re-opened its doors this January, and another in Bangor, Maine. Rumors suggest that the Maine location may be closing soon.
Howard Johnson’s was known for classic American fare like root beer floats, fried clams, and ice cream sundaes, all served under its easily recognizable orange roof. The first location opened in 1925 in Boston, and by 1970, the chain had peaked at 1,000 locations across the continental United States. But after failing to grow alongside big-name brands like McDonald’s and Häagen-Dazs, the restaurant chain slowly faded. The remaining restaurants, according to The Associated Press, were grandfathered in in a contract with Wyndham Hotels.
"We have one of the last orange roofs left," John LaRock, who fries up breakfasts at the Lake George Howard Johnson’s, told The Detroit News. "We have a lot of people ask for the root beer floats… People love the fried haddock and clams, like it used to be."