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22 March 2010

According to this lovely site, there are only 3 Howard Johnson Restaurants left in the country. One of them is just an hour and a half from me up in Bangor. I think I need to make a nostalgic road trip, even if the place doesn't have an orange roof anymore.
HoJos reminds me of my grandparents. My parents would never stop there on road trips (don't know why), but Grandma and Grandpa would. It was always so exciting to go there. Again, don't know why. I never liked fried clams. For some reason, what sticks out in my mind is their placemats. Maybe you could color on them?

Anyway, did you know that Jacques Pepin got his start in the US cooking for Howard Johnson's?
posted by mudpuppie 22 March | 10:32
Was Little Sambo's a bastard mutant of HoJo's? Remember going to one in the States as a kid, thinking "how can something so racist exist?"
posted by Meatbomb 22 March | 10:45
I used to eat at HoJo's in Georgia and Tennessee, as recently as high school (ok, not that that's recent...). I'm sad to know they've become so scarce.
posted by BoringPostcards 22 March | 10:45
Heh... Sambo's (not Little Sambo- that was the name of the character people later THOUGHT the chain was named for) was named after its founders, Sam Battistone and Newell Bohnett, who didn't realize what they'd done for something like twenty years when the chain expanded to the eastern US. The perils of life before Google!
posted by BoringPostcards 22 March | 10:51
Never knew that about Sambo's! I too assumed it was somehow related to the book Little Black Sambo.
posted by JanetLand 22 March | 10:54
My grandmother was a fan of the clam strips too. We ended up going there with her often. I remember enjoying it well enough as a kid; we could have a hot fudge sundae, and they had really good dinner rolls.
posted by Miko 22 March | 11:40
Well, Sambo's was named that way, but they knew about the "Little Black Sambo" story pretty early on and they did incorporate the story into the restaurant theme. I ate there as a kid on road trips and can remember the menu with Sambo and the tiger on it. And though there was probably more sensitivity to the connotations in some regions more than others, it was really part of the 1970s and 80s developing multiculturalism that the story and thus the restaurant's name were re-examined. For instance, I remember my New Jersey first-grade classroom having an edition of Little Black Sambo, and later, I remember taking another version home from our local library.

The whole thing is a really weird episode, because the story itself was set in India (there are no tigers in Africa) and was objected to more for the illustrations and connotations than the content of the story, which is kind of generically folk-tale-ish. The tale became kind of a palimpsest of 20th century racial angst and discussion of it only got more complex the more it was looked at.
posted by Miko 22 March | 11:53
Hey, last summer I ate at the original and last remaining Sambo's in Santa Barbara. The food was really good.
posted by muddgirl 22 March | 12:31
I've eaten at the HoJo's up in Bangor. I also had wanted to make it to one of the other ones, in Lake George, but it's only open in the summer. (It is more authentic-looking than the one in Bangor; they've kept up the orange roof and are really going for the nostalgia thing, for the benefit of the tourists.)

Honestly don't remember anything about the food, though. This would have been in 2003 or so, maybe earlier.
posted by Kadin2048 22 March | 20:01
The pictures on the walls at the Studio City Sambo's depicted a South Asian kid.
posted by brujita 23 March | 00:55
Sometime in the early 80's I almost ate at a HoJo's in Toronto. Just as our food arrived about 40% of the ceiling came crashing down with a big flood of water. No one was hurt but we did not get to eat. Still, it was an experience.
posted by arse_hat 23 March | 01:17
Baby dictators || Sorry guys, but I find the #cashgordon Twitter saga hilarious