Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Retro Restaurant Repository

(Bradenton Herald Archive Photo, Nov. 2, 1962)

Saddle up for the first installment of the Retro Restaurant Repository.

I'll be using this space for the next while to revisit some of the funny, cheesy, memorable and unmemorable restaurants that made the news in the Bradenton Herald over the years.

All of these photos are coming from the Herald's archives, and I'm taking request to find and post photos. If you have a photo to share, feel free to email me (my address is in the right column).

I'm kicking it off with Wagon Ho.

Here's what I wrote in today's column about what I know about the Ho:

According to a Nov. 2, 1969 Herald brief, Wagon Ho opened its fifth restaurant on the Florida Gulf in Bradenton . The restaurant’s service was speedy “due to an electronic over-broiler, developed and patented by Wagon Ho for rapid cooking,” according to the caption. The description reminds me a bit of the defunct chain Burger Chef, which was a childhood favorite. The local Wagon Ho was owned by Walter Hines and stood at 4723 S. Tamiami Trail near Cortez Plaza. Today, it’s a lot for Bob Boast Volkswagen.
One note about the address: In today's Tamiami Trail world, this address shows up as across the DeSoto Square Mall, but that end of Cortez Road/44th Avenue West/SR 684/SR 55 (you get the picture?) wasn't designated as US 41 then. Given the description from the 1962 caption citing the address as near Cortez Plaza, when using 14th Street West, which is also US 41, puts it right beside Cortez Plaza. I don't know if the South Trail is a typo from back then or if in 1962, it was considered South Tamiami Trail. Little help?

I'm partially intrigued by the pioneer fellow commanding this conestoga. And in another aspect, the wagon itself. When I was a kid, I always wanted the imagination of the restaurant's exterior to be pulled inside and be functional. I don't know what this looked like inside, but I'm guessing there wasn't this large curved ceiling meant to be a covered wagon, but closer to an opera hall. Instead, it was probably a flat drop ceiling. Sigh.

Enlighten me about what this restaurant looked like inside, the food, and its demise.