Remember these roast beef restaurants that were big back in the day?

Here's what happened to Rax, Heap, RoBee's, and the rest.

When people think "roast beef" and "fast food," Arby's is the first name that comes to mind. Well, some folks in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Jersey might think Roy Rogers.

But back in the 1960s and 1970s, there was more competition in the market. That era truly was the heyday of the roast beef sandwich. Even the big boys (and some Big Boys) served up roast beef. We'll get to that at the bottom.

But first, let's focus on the restaurant chains that specialized in sliced beef. Which ones did you remember — or eat at?

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1. The Beef Corral


We'll start with perhaps the most obscure — unless you grew up in the Great Lakes region. The Beef Corral, despite its mod, trapezoid-shaped buildings, went deep into the cowboy theme, down to the "Giant Buckaroo Cheeseburger." Cleveland Browns fans take note — the regional chain was started by former players and brothers Ed and Dick Modzelewski. The Beef Corral got hog-tied by the competition in the early 1980s.

2. Heap Big Beef


The Beef Corral, Heap Big Beef carried a Western theme, albeit with a Native American motif rather than a rancher vibe. (That carried over into the menu with "Warrior Ham" sandwiched and "Shawnee Shakes.") There was a geometric difference, as well. Heap sat inside triangular structures, not trapezoids. But both joints featured a horned bull in their logo. Heap did have bragging rights — when the chain rapidly expanded in 1967, advertisements in Chicago, New York and Atlanta papers boasted that Heap was the "fastest growing" roast beef chain.

3. Kentucky Beef


Colonel Sanders tried to branch out. He had a "secret recipe" for roast beef, too. Rather than just introducing roast beef sandwiches at Kentucky Fried Chicken locations, the company launched an entire spin-off franchise based around roast beef. "Kentucky Beef" did not appeal to American's as much as the buckets of fried chicken and hardly lasted, just in those roast beef glory years of the late-'60s and early-'70s.

4. Rax


We know what you folks in Southern Ohio are saying at this very moment — "Hey, Rax is still around!" Indeed, eight locations remain of this once widespread chain. At one point, Rax was the only true rival to Arby's. More than 500 locations could be found across 38 states. So what happened? It came down to two things — over-diversification and over-sophistication. Rax rightly boasted in its ads that it introduced salad bars and baked potatoes to fast food. Brilliant ideas. But as the 1980s dawns, Rax rolled out menu items like the "Taco Pocket" and "Meatball Pocket" — in commercials declaring, "Pocket to me!" — as well as "Chinese-style food," while trying to "class up" the restaurant interiors with "carpeted floors," "attractive wallpaper," and polished wood. Oh, and Rax even bragged about how it played "popular music" not "elevator music." Really, all people wanted was an affordable roast beef sando.

5. RoBee's House of Beef


Pity the poor RoBee's lawyers in 1968. For starters, the Arby's people sued the Indiana-based chain over its name, claiming it was too similar with its "R. B." moniker. Worse yet, a food poisoning outbreak was traced back to RoBee's restaurants in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. RoBee's House of Beef was on the ropes — until a celebrity saved the day. Roy Rogers licensed his name and RoBee's morphed into Roy Rogers Restaurants.

6. Sam's Roast Beef


Sam's was once under the corporate umbrella of Denny's, primarily serving folks in California. It pulled the opposite move of Colonel Sanders — Sam's decided to get into the fried chicken game circa 1971–72, using the questionable slogan "Bite it, you'll like it!" in its ads. Sam Gordon, the businessman behind the chain Sam's Hof Brau, saw his Sam's Roast Beef Sandwich Parlours fall off in popularity not long after.

7. Bonus: Burger King's Roast Beef Sandwich


BK got creative with its "Specialty Sandwich" line in the late Seventies. The two-handed sandwiched included the Long Fish Sandwich, the Sirloin Steak Sandwich (essentially just a long burger), ham and cheese, veal parm… and a roast beef. The Chicken Sandwich was the only one in that shape that really stuck.

8. Bonus: McDonald's Roast Beef


At some point in its history, McD's has fiddled with just about every possible fast food product. The Roast Beef sandwich was born in the brain of a franchisee in Cleveland during the late-'60s, who wanted to compete with Arby's. Like we said, this was the fast-food boom of the era. It sold well at his store… but the recipe was a little too complicated to take nationwide. When McDonald's standardized an easy-to-cook version for all its locations in 1968, the results just were not that yummy. So it didn't last.

SEE MORE: 7 extinct steakhouses you will never eat at again


Hey, you had the roast beef. Now go for the steak. Remember Rustler and Mr. Steak?


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MichaelVegas 17 months ago
I still eat at Arby's at least a few times a month, LOVE the horsey sauce
HalCromwell 34 months ago
The two that I remember (neither of which are listed here) are Roy Rogers and Danvers.
JDnHuntsvilleAL 35 months ago
What about "Red Lion" and/or "Lion's Choice"? I _THINK_ the former got renamed to the latter, but not sure, but I do know the original location for the Red Lion in Creve Coeur, MO is still there as Lion's Choice.
WordsmithWorks 35 months ago
Never heard of any restaurants listed, except for McDonald's, KFC and BK. Cannot imagine them serving roast beef sandwiches, especially any offshoot of KFC.
StrayCat 35 months ago
Growing up in the north Jersey area including Staten Island i never heard of any of these restaurants. In fact, the only name familiar in this story was Roy Rogers restaurants which were excellent.
CouchPotato987 35 months ago
Guess I’m too young and never lived in the areas where these restaurants were located. Never heard of Rax, RoBee’s, or Heap Big Beef. I think I vaguely recall Burger King having a roast beef sandwich.
nightshade 35 months ago
i love arbys but when i went to the family home in Indiana rax was great ...ate their last in 96 ........
JHP nightshade 35 months ago
if you like spicy try their buffalo chicken sandwich - I have them for Breakfast:)
Blondie7 35 months ago
Sir Beef in Evansville, In. Still miss it had the best picadilly sauce.
RobertMayer 35 months ago
The Chicago area had Cal's Roast Beef. They were good too. They had a big steer on a trailer that they would move from one location to another. Arby's bought them out.
JimmyD 35 months ago
I'm New Jersey born and raised and except for McD, BK, and Arby's I haven't heard of any of these. I don't remember even eating fast food until mid to late seventies. I don't eat much of it now.
dth1971 35 months ago
I think Italian Beef may be the new roast beef.
WilmaSwartz 35 months ago
You missed a famous roast beef restaurant which really had the best roast beef sandwiches and hamburgers made from scratch and that chain was Roy Rogers' Roast Beef

WayneKeith WilmaSwartz 35 months ago
#5 mentions Roy Rogers
35 months ago
Never heard of any of ‘em
denny 35 months ago
Just saw a episode of The Munsters called Heap Big Herman, it was Indian related show.
bukhrn 35 months ago
Other than the few obvious one (Arby's, McDonald's, and Burger King), I have never heard of any of the others, so I guess I score 0
327053 35 months ago
Kentucky Beef???😮 Wow! Would have loved to been alive to see that! Also the other places look interesting. Born in 1977 missed out.🙁
MichaelSkaggs 35 months ago
Rax is the only one I remember. I believe they had one in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
ncadams27 35 months ago
Rax is the only one I ever heard of. I recall them as being very good. I still have a Roy Rogers a few miles from my house. Much better than Arby’s.
denny ncadams27 35 months ago
Is Roy Roger's mainly a roast beef restaurant similar to Arby's?
WayneKeith denny 35 months ago
It was for a while. There were a few around NE Ohio but they're all grouped around the DC/Baltimore area up along the East coast now. They seem to have evolved into more of a sit down "Applebee's" kind of place though
DerekJ 35 months ago
Rax had the *best* shakes. I really miss that place. It was one of my favorites when I was a kid.
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