7 extinct steakhouse chains you will never eat at again

There was always a place to get meat and potatoes at the mall.

Steak and potatoes. Is there a more American meal? It's no wonder that dozens of restaurant chains have centered around sirloin and spuds. In the 1960s and 1970s, low-price steakhouses peppered the growing suburban landscape. Brands like Sizzler and Western Sizzlin' — it was always about the thrill of the sizzle — raised their glowing signs along the highway. 

One of those brands, which still survives today, was even based off a MeTV series. Dan Blocker of Bonanza, Hoss himself, started the Ponderosa and Bonanza steakhouse chains. It was not a coincidence that the heyday of the steakhouse chain coincided with the peak of the Westerns on television.

Let's take a look at some of those meat eateries from the past. Perhaps you went to some of these with your family.

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1. Hillstop Steakhouse


The New England chain had a couple claims to fame. First was its Vegas-like exteriors, which featured giant neon cacti and plastic cows "grazing" out front on the lawn. In 1981, pranksters at MIT took one of those fake cows and placed it atop the Great Dome on campus.

Image: openroadscom / Flickr

2. Mr. Steak


With its cartoon steer mascot and friendly environment, Mr. Steak aimed to please the entire family. At its peak, the chain operated nearly 300 locations across the country. 

Image: weworkedatmrsteak

3. Rustler


Originally, this Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern chain was owned and operated by the Gino's fast-food company. In the early 1980s, Gino's sold its Rustler Steak Houses to Marriot, who in turn flipped it. Eventually, the remaining locations turned into Sizzlers.

Image: Museum of Classic Chicago Television

4. Steak and Ale


Norman E. Brinker was a restaurant visionary. He dreamt up the notion of a salad bar, and helped turn joints like Benningan's into casual-dining behemoths. He also founded Steak and Ale, a pioneer of the strip-mall steakhouse, in 1966. The chain made it up through the last decade, dying around the same time as Brinker. However, it is rumored to make a comeback in 2017.

Image: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

5. Valle's Steak House


The East Coast steak-and-lobster chain put the pedal to the metal in the 1970s, greatly expanding its locations. Unfortunately, there was a gas and ecomic crisis, which cut into most people's casual dining dollar. Valle's was known for its sprawling dining rooms, which became hard to fill. Still, the brand managed to stick around until the turn of the millennium.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

6. York Steakhouse


Cereal giant General Mills owned this national chain, which was a regular sight at shopping malls. There was one fascinating policy at York: no tipping allowed. If you truly miss it, one single location has managed to hang around in Columbus, Ohio.

Image: fanofretail / Flickr

7. Beefsteak Charlie's


"You're gonna get spoiled!" the wait staff sang in 1970s commercials for this retro-styled restaurant. That's "Beefsteak Charlie" himself in this clip, serenading a happy child who is stuffing his face with the all-you-can-eat shrimp.

Image: commercialclassic / YouTube



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robert 23 months ago
You can put the Hilltop and Valles into the not so bad category but the other five were deplorable.
JDnHuntsvilleAL 33 months ago
Loved Steak and Ale. Great atmosphere, and their "Bourbon Street Steak" was the best.

Now, what about the "fast line steak houses" -- Like Bonanza (yes, it was a restaurant) and/or Ponderosa?
AnnaRentzVandenhazel 33 months ago
PLEASE fix the first entry's title. It's HillTOP, not HillSTOP!
StrayCat 33 months ago
There was a Tad's Steakhouse in NYC. They sold bargain basement steaks, and when i went there the steaks were $2. The steaks were large but after sawing through the steak and removing the gristle and other inedibles there wasn't much edible steak. But they were cheap and Tads had locations in several major cities. I believe the NYC location closed last year after more than a half century in business.
denny 33 months ago
The only one on the list I've heard of is Steak and Ale. I do miss Sizzler though.
Supercat58 41 months ago
Growing up we used to go to Buckaroo steak house, later called Buck-or-Two. Their motto was “Tipping not Permitted.” I think you’d go up and pick it up, but they’d bring you your drinks. Another favorite place was Shakey’s Pizza. It was real thin and crunchy.
Lilly777 44 months ago
I still miss Steak & Ale. I only got to eat there once as a kid before it closed. I just loved the tavern like ambience it had, the food was fantastic too.
Tony 48 months ago
I only know Beefsteak Charlie's from the SNL commercial parody from the 70's (80's?) for Pre-chewed Charlie's.
Delmo 48 months ago
I miss Steak & Ale, and especially Beefsteak Charlie's. Many a family meal was had there!
BrianMoore 48 months ago
I miss Ponderosa and Ryan's Steakhouse so bad :(
denny BrianMoore 33 months ago
Was Ryan's a buffet style restaurant?
Apophis 48 months ago
The only one on this list that I've been to is Steak and Ale. Though I've heard of Beefsteak Charlie's I never ate at one.
Marko 56 months ago
There was a Ponderosa Steak-House on 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn N.Y. in the mid 1960's.It featured a sirloin steak,baked potato,green salad and garlic bread for $ 1.89 (c.1966). I remember this clearly as a 9 year old kid.The steak was huge,with the bone-in and so tender and juicy. It was too big for a kid,so my mother cut it in half and I shared it with my brother. That place was great and we ate there often...those were the days !
Karen Marko 44 months ago
Ponderosa was big with our family in the 1970's in MD, too. We didn't go out to dinner much, but this was one of 2 restaurants we went to for a treat. I remember always getting the "surf and turf", the little plastic signs they put in your steak to show how done it was cooked, loving the cream cheese and chives with the baked potato, and having fun making salads for our dad because he would eat everything (we always topped it with a hot pepper). It's long gone in my area. In the early 2000's, we were driving and found a Ponderosa in PA so stopped in. Sadly, it was rather shabby and had changed enough to loose its magic.
Tampammm 57 months ago
I've been to a Rustler, a Steak and Ale, and Beefsteak Charlie's. Loved them all.
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