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The Long Gone Burgers of Ground Round, Fuddruckers and Roy Rogers

The evidence of these Toms River institutions lies in my memories of moose heads, stale popcorn and baby teeth

I’m 5 years old, and I’m terrified. Everyone keeps encouraging me to just wiggle the tooth with my tongue until it falls out, but that’s about the last thing I want to happen. My preschooler mind is a flurry of paranoid thoughts: What if I swallow the tooth and it shreds my insides? What if the rest of my teeth fall out before this one grows back and I have to mash my food into a paste and gum it down? What if the tooth never grows back?

I’m soon pulled from my internal struggle when my father offers me the only thing a father can offer a 5-year-old to steer his mind from toothless death: French fries. As we make our way down Route 37, we pass a myriad of fast food chains — McDonalds, Burger King, White Castle. Today, none of these will suffice. Given my fragile mental state, my father brings out the big guns, urging our silver Volkswagen Rabbit up the slight hill on the southwest corner of 37 and Hooper Avenue, into the Roy Rogers parking lot.

Maybe it was the consistency of the freshly cooked ground beef. Maybe it was the butter-fried bun providing an added lubricant. But that day, I lost my first tooth biting into a Roy Rogers cheeseburger. And, as family lore would have it, every subsequent loose tooth was dealt with the same way.

That being said, you could imagine my reaction to the hostile takeover of the Roy Rogers Restaurant chain during the early 1990s. Granted I was only 8 or 9 at the time and didn’t fully understand the details of its absorption into the Hardee’s corporation. All I knew was that the building where I had lost so many teeth was now vacant, soon to be inhabited by the that still occupies the space today.

Now let me curtail any comments questioning why I simply don’t visit one of the Roy Rogers locations on the Turnpike or drive five miles into and get my fill at the last free-standing Roy Rogers Restaurant in the state. To answer the former, those Turnpike ones don’t count because they lack the requisite “fixin’s bar” that make Roy Rogers Roy Rogers.  As for the latter, well I’ve been there about a thousand times. I even snuck out of every Tuesday night SAT prep course at Toms River South my junior year of high school to indulge in fried chicken and biscuits with my friends (Sorry, mom). But the point of this column isn’t about Roy Rogers per se. It’s about the underrated restaurant chains that used to call Toms River home.

How many of you have driven past T.G.I. Friday’s, Chili’s, Applebee’s, and all the other generic restaurant franchises in town wishing The Ground Round was still here? Sure, you can get a burger and a beer at any of those places, but can you get a burger and beer while sitting under a severed moose head, watching subversively racist/sexist 1930s cartoons, and throwing peanut shells on the floor? I didn’t think so. But back in the 1980s, The Ground Round across from the mall on Hooper Avenue was the only choice for this kind of casual family dining and not to mention the go-to place for children’s birthday parties. In fact, I believe my lifelong fear of clowns originated in the back room of that place when “Bingo,” The Ground Round’s resident merry-maker, accidentally popped a poorly wrought balloon animal inches from my face.  

Other notable franchises that once called Toms River home include Bonanza Steakhouse and Fuddruckers. Ironically, they both occupied the same building on Route 37, the building currently housing Tiffany’s. While I only have vague memories of Bonanza, I can remember nearly everything about Fuddruckers — the ostrich and bison patties, spicy Cajun fries, and humorously labeled “mother Fuddruckers” condiments. Fans of Five Guys Burgers and Fries can thank Fuddruckers for blazing the build-your-own burger trail during a time when most fast food joints were devising new ways to prefab their food and expedite the ordering process.

I can imagine someone in some bog town off Route 70 reading this with an upturned eyebrow. How can I, a resident of a town home to nearly every national and regional food franchise, wax nostalgic for a collection of failed or waning restaurant chains? I should just be glad to have more options than Dairy Queen or Dairy Queen for my next date night with the wife. For the most part, I am satisfied. Living in Toms River does afford me a variety of dining choices, from eclectic local places to name-brand outfits. But every so often, as I’m sitting in a booth at Boston’s, I get a craving for a basket of stale popcorn, or I feel the urge to throw peanut shells on the floor. And every morning, as I brush my teeth, I wonder where I’d be without all those Roy Rogers cheeseburgers.

Justin P. Roach February 28, 2011 at 03:36 PM
Sorry, guys. Burger Chef predates my memory so I didn't include it in my column. On another note, I didn't include the Joshua Huddy Brewery because it's not a chain, but that place admirably kept the GR tradition for a while. Anybody remember when we had a Garcia's at Seacourt? My next column is going to be about the long gone movie theaters in TR and Brick. If anyone has any thoughts on those please email me - Justin
Mmmmmmmm February 28, 2011 at 04:03 PM
Burger Chef, 15 cent hamburgers when I was a kid. and Tiffanys/Fuddruckers was originally Bonanza, anyone remember that, cafeteria style, open grill, flame broiled steak, potato and texas toast, and you sat at heavily lacquered picnic tables.
Daniel Nee (Editor) February 28, 2011 at 04:10 PM
Ahh, long-gone movie theaters. One's an IHOP and one is a Harbor Freight Tools. I remember when Seacourt opened and was the first "nice" movie theater everyone wanted to go to. Then it was the theater at Brick Plaza. Now, it's the new one on Rt. 37. If we want to talk about old, cool restaurants in the area, there was a Stewart's Root Beer on Mantoloking Road that went way beyond burgers -- it had an indoor miniature golf course with fountains and wooden bridges, rides for kids and a full arcade. Great place back in the day! As for Ground Round, just could never get used to Joshua Huddy...
Diane Clayton February 28, 2011 at 04:29 PM
...and I am ancient enough to remember when the "IHOP" movie theater was half movies, half Beefsteak Charlie's.
Don W. February 28, 2011 at 04:39 PM
How about Ponderosa in the OC Mall? Nom!
. February 28, 2011 at 06:38 PM
I remember Bonanza. The Ground Round moose remained at Joshua Huddy's which is now also gone.
DaveL February 28, 2011 at 09:57 PM
Burger Chef had two Toms River locations... the Pine Belt Cadillac dealer on Route 37, and the current Surf Taco in Silverton. They were far superior to Burger King or Mc D's. Roy has the Boston Market at 37 & 166 and their other location on the corner of Route 37 and Bash Road (1 block West of Fischer) which is a rehab center now. Roy is also a superior product. Ironically, Hardees bought Burger Chef and Roys and ruined them both. They wanted to force-convert all to Hardees, but abandoned the North East market. So almost all old Roy Rogers became Wendys, Mc D's, or Boston Market. Burger Chef became Roys in Pine Beach. Ponderosa in the OC Mall was amazing, shame that company pulled out of the North East also. Who can forget the Sizzler in Brick?
DaveL February 28, 2011 at 09:59 PM
Justin, see if you can get an opening date for the Dover Twin that is at Dover Mall getting demolished. Also, PLEASE try to get pictures and information about Cinema Alley behind Bob Kislins in that dumpy strip mall.
kirk March 01, 2011 at 02:39 AM
There used to be a Wetsons on Rt. 70 where the old Bradlees shopping center was demolished. We used to go there for burgers and fries. There were no McDonalds around back then in the 60's. I remenber the Burger Chef at the corner of RT 70 and Brick Blvd. Special occasion dinners were at Mr. Steak in Brick. Now that location is an Arby's.
Lulu March 01, 2011 at 04:13 AM
I recently had to drive Pennsylvania Turnpike and stopped at one of the rest areas for a quick bite to eat...remembering how great they were when we were kids in the 70's, my spouse and I both ordered Roy Rogers Roast Beef sandwiches. They were so salty I barely finished it. Next time I'll stick to the Double R Bar Burger (and yes, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike there is a fixin's bar) And I really miss the Ground Round too. They used to have the best nachos around.
Billabong March 01, 2011 at 12:17 PM
There's also Roy's on the NJ Turnpike but I don't recommend it. The quality of the roast beef at the Pine Beach location far exceeds any rest stop Roy Rogers.
Barry Fleckmann March 02, 2011 at 07:22 PM
I remember (fondly!) the Stewarts hamburger stand that stood next to The Miracle Pub, on Route 37 West. Today, it's just a jughandle.
BN March 12, 2011 at 11:47 PM
The interactive Rocky Horror Picture Show at Cinema Alley...It was awesome! Also in that same plaza there was a Carvel Ice Cream (Cookie Puss, Fudgie The Whale, "Every Wednesday is sundae"). ...I'm dating myself, aren't I?
BN March 12, 2011 at 11:52 PM
I remember eating at Gino's on Rt. 166 as a kid. It was later a KFC, then it became the Ha-Na Japanese restaurant...across the street from the Dover Theater.
BN March 13, 2011 at 12:03 AM
...or Orange Julius, Hot Sam, The Cookie Place, Woolworth's Harvest House, Schiano's Pizza, Italian Delight, The Mouse Trap, Tiffany's Bakery, Bun N Burger, The JCPenney Restaurant, Bamberger's (Macy's) Restaurant (forget the actual name), Le Crepe, Fannie Farmer, Jo-Ann's Nut House, and I'm sure I'm missing a whole lot more.
Frank March 13, 2011 at 06:51 PM
I helped open the Bonanza on Rt 37 near Clifton during the summer of 1966. I was a busboy and did some cooking. It got a late start but we still had lines going out the door and around the sides of the building both ways. The Sirloin Steak dinner, baked potato, salad, Texas Toast was $1.59. People from North Jersey complained because the price for the same meal up there was $1.39. There was 'officially' no tipping but I made more in tips than I did in salary at $1.10 an hour.
Barry Fleckmann September 07, 2011 at 03:11 PM
Doug Bennett, I moved to Toms River (from Monmouth County) in 1971. I remember, fondly, The Community Theatre. I recall seeing Robert Redford in "The Great Waldo Pepper," there, as well as a couple of late Alfred Hitchcock movies. It's really a pity that the Town Fathers couldn't find a way to keep a movie theatre, downtown. Today, they just roll the sidewalks up at five o'clock pm.
1stcav September 07, 2011 at 07:00 PM
Boston Chicken now, Bob Big Boy hamburgers were good...Arby's Roast beef was terrible , had to go to Roy Rodgers...Ground Round here & up north were great..Jolly trollie in Westfield (owned by Charlie Browns ) was the best place on a Fri. night , we missed very few in 69,70 & 71..Then we moved to TR...were the sidewalks were taken in at 8:30 PM in the summer, and 5:00 in the winter.Macy's was in Cheery Hill where we had to go for our TV , food shopping in Brick. If you ran out of beer on a Sunday due to company after 5:00PM you were out of luck till Monday !!!
David Daur February 05, 2012 at 12:04 PM
I miss Fuddruckers. They had the best birgers and it's probably because they made their own rolls on the premise. I used to get the Bison Burger. It was the only place I know that served quality buffalo meat, if you haven't tried it, you need to.
the phantom February 05, 2012 at 02:17 PM
McCory's (sp) on fischer blvd in the foodtown shopping center had the old fashion lunchette inside the store. You could even pop balloons to see the price of the banana split you just ordered. There was also Arthur Treacher's on Rt 37.
Foo April 15, 2012 at 03:18 AM
don't forget the 2 drive in movies in Toms River. Both on route 37. Yes Gino's and Burger Chef were the best! Wasn't there an Arthur Treachers in Silverton also?
. April 15, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Yes, Arthur Treacher's was by where the motor vehicle is on Hooper Ave.
. April 15, 2012 at 03:35 AM
On the side of McCrory's, before the mall extended all the way down where it is now, was also a barber shop, with a barber named Phil. My best friend's mother worked at Mc Cory's behind the counter when it first opened up.
Teresa Policastro Rapach August 31, 2012 at 08:47 PM
OMG! There was a Dutch Hut in my neighborhood in Hopelawn (Woodbridge Township) on 184/Pfeiffer Blvd/West Pond Road, some of the many names the road is called. It was there only until the late 60's or early 70's when there was a fire and it burned down. It's a car wash now. Memoriies.
jeff October 21, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Chicken Unlimited located kettle creek rd where Charlie browns is now, 1970-early 80's
John D. December 02, 2012 at 06:11 AM
Does anyone remember the name off the bar lounge that used to be on Rte 37 and Mule Rd? Ice cold genee cream on tap!
ernie February 01, 2013 at 12:16 PM
Roy rogers is on rt 9 tomsriver past the bus terminal street the full restaurant and the Ground Round is on Main street in Bradley Beach full Restaurant
Melissa February 17, 2013 at 10:12 PM
Oh man, this brought me back. I went to RR as a kid in northern nj and specifically remember a toy promo that came in the bottom of soda cup; like this little detachable cup piece with the prize inside. I must have loved it for whatever reason because I remember it so vividly! Also i can still taste their chicken and biscuits, ew
Michael Fischer March 06, 2013 at 01:11 PM
AHHHH... the memories of Burger Chef in Pine Beach!! Where else could you get deep fried Best's hot dog in an aluminum foil pouch!?!? Super Chef, Big Chef, Mushroom Burger, Chicken Club... and the areas first actual salad bar. Nothing came close to the quality of flavor then and nothing now. Still have the floppy vinyl records for Halloween somewhere ! Miss those FunMeals. Fudruckers, ack, toooeeeeyyyy!!!!! 7 bucks for a burger, criminal !
don ehlers May 23, 2013 at 02:45 AM
anybody remember a bonanza at the corner of cedar bridge and brick blvd or wasit a ponderosa

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