I Am the Mall Anachronism
August 23, 2010 1:17 PM   Subscribe

I Am the Mall Anachronism: I want to know about businesses/locations that are, unlike Billy Pilgrim, firmly STUCK in time. Places which trundled along, arrived at 1976, or 1989, and then... stayed there.

Pennsauken, NJ has The Pub. Denver has the surreal-licious Casa Bonita. American Place Movies in Flemington, NJ still has walls festooned with orange-and-brown shag carpet. I LOVE these locations, and I want more!

I don't want places that have been lovingly preserved, or places that have been renovated to LOOK dated. I want living relics... drug stores that haven't ripped up their linoleum since the Regan administration, arcades whose rides harbor the chewing gum-wads of kids who are now grandparents, department store cafeterias and banks of vending machines never blessed with a fancy Pepsi "swoosh" logo.

Locations in the PA/NJ/DE/NY area are preferable, but I'd love to hear about ALL chronologically-creaky venues.
posted by julthumbscrew to Grab Bag (55 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't been there in forever, but Angelo's Luncheonette in Wilmington might fit the bill. The sign sure looks like it.
posted by Madamina at 1:20 PM on August 23, 2010

Lala's Little Nugget in Austin is stuck at Christmas, 1973. This is just by the front door.
posted by sanko at 1:22 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Roll N Roaster, Brennan and Carr, both in Brooklyn.
posted by griphus at 1:23 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Midtown III in Philadelphia
posted by The Michael The at 1:27 PM on August 23, 2010

Best answer: The Blarney Cove in the East Village is definitely stuck in something.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:28 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: TheMichaelThe: HOW DID I FORGET ABOUT THAT PLACE?! I used to get their pancakes for lunch on a weekly basis! Beats the pants off of Qdoba, that's for sure. :-)
posted by julthumbscrew at 1:28 PM on August 23, 2010

Leon's Frozen Custard has kept, more or less, the same look it had when it was first remodeled in the early 1950s. It is also claimed by some to be the inspiration for Arnold's Drive In from the TV show Happy Days.

And The Safe House, also in Milwaukee. is a spy-themed bar that has kept some of the side bars pretty much the same for the better part of several decades, with photos to prove it.
posted by quin at 1:31 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Irving's Toy and Card in Brookline MA, which Ethel has run since 1939. More of the toys are probably made in China these days, but you couldn't tell by looking at the fishbowls full of gewgaws and candy.
posted by nonane at 1:31 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

(family/friend link) this is a video my husband took of Parkview Bowl in Rochester, NY, which is stuck in the late 70's or so. Above-lane ball returns, scoring done with paper and pencil.
posted by Lucinda at 1:34 PM on August 23, 2010

I'll say the Blarney Cove is comfortably in 1982.
posted by josher71 at 1:39 PM on August 23, 2010

On the other side of PA: Klavon's Ice Cream Parlor in the Strip District in Pittsburgh. [warning: horrific geocities-style website with auto-play music] Here's their history page, and a few pictures I've taken of the inside here.
posted by alynnk at 1:40 PM on August 23, 2010

Casey's Tavern in Canoga Park (San Fernando Valley), CA is like this. They even still have powdered soap dispensers in the bathroom. And half the patrons are over 80 years old. It's an absolutely fantastic place, if you're ever out that way.
posted by something something at 1:41 PM on August 23, 2010

Once Hollywood's Musso & Frank's hit the 1950s or so, they decided to stay. I'm fairly sure that the recent lunch scene in Mad Men (when Pete and Harry meet up with Ken) was filmed there.
posted by scody at 1:42 PM on August 23, 2010

Dude, this entire thread ends at KING OF JEANS. (1843 East Passyunk Avenue)
posted by The Straightener at 1:44 PM on August 23, 2010

I think Ruts Hut in Cliftin, NJ fits this. Awesome deep fried hot dogs.
posted by Busmick at 1:45 PM on August 23, 2010

Best answer: Sorry two t's in Rutts and Clifton not Cliftin... fried hot dogs make me excited!
posted by Busmick at 1:48 PM on August 23, 2010

McSorley's Old Ale House
posted by Joe Beese at 1:55 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, and if it doesn't have to be a business, the Greyhound terminal in the 42nd St Port Authority is a perfectly preserved bright orange 1960s bus station basement. You can't get a cell signal down there, which really adds to the experience.
posted by oinopaponton at 2:10 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, Qmart, aka the Quakertown Farmers Market is a must. They have like whole shops where everything from the rugs to the t-shirts to the coffee tables are done in wolves. They have a sword shop where you can stock up on throwing stars. They have an alligator. They have a food stand called "Everything Fried." I can't believe there aren't nonstop buses running in a circuit between this place and Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I took my last girlfriend there on a first date and we shopped for trucker hats and Jesus lamps, it was all win. Irony free zone, these people are Serious Business.
posted by The Straightener at 2:23 PM on August 23, 2010 [5 favorites]

I would like to nominate South of the Border of of I95 in South Carolina.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 2:24 PM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

How about Aberdeen Angus Steak House in the UK? (I actually learned about them in this AskMe thread.)
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 2:28 PM on August 23, 2010

Yeah, South of the Border, although I think that's more from another planet than Earth's past. Also, Funland at Rehoboth Beach.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:28 PM on August 23, 2010

Response by poster: The Straightener: excellent call! We love the QMart (and their homemade jerky and slot-car racing). The Berlin Mart in SJ also fits the bill, albeit in a scummier way.
posted by julthumbscrew at 2:32 PM on August 23, 2010

It's always Christmas in the Steak House at the Madonna Inn
posted by snowymorninblues at 2:37 PM on August 23, 2010

Walter's Hot Dogs in Mamaroneck, NY hasn't changed much since 1928, by the looks of the photo, still selling regular ol' hot dogs out of a goofy faux Chinese pagoda. As far as I know they have never sold Chinese food, so the pagoda is a bit of a mystery.
posted by Quietgal at 2:44 PM on August 23, 2010

Best answer: Last week, I hit three of these places in one day.

For breakfast, my family stopped at the Village Towne Restaurant (Intersection Route 61 & Route 54, Atlas, PA 17851). All-day breakfast! Gathered pink nylon sheers in trapezoidal windows, white-pine buffet and a pile of raw coal at the edge of the parking lot. The kids loved their rodent-shaped pancakes (think of the profile of a famous animated mouse).

Fifteen minutes later, we pulled into Knoebels amusement park, a place about which I can't say enough good things. No cynicism or post-modern irony here, just an old-fashoined amusement park that adds a new ride every year. The old structures are largely intact, and my son's favorite ride is a former ski lift, salvaged from a Vermont resort, that carried you up and down a mountain. (I had to laugh, seeing an ICP-T-shirt-clad teen riding on the mini-train and clearly enjoying the hell out of it.)

For dinner, we stopped for Mexican at Casa De Tellez Restaurant (1423 Bunting Street, Pottsville, PA 17901-9005, (570) 544-5985) and I, well, shuddered at the outside, which looked like it hasn't been touched since 1976. The inside was too dark to see much, but the old leather banquette was comfy and the enchiladas were tasty.

It made for a deliciously retro day-trip!
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:18 PM on August 23, 2010

Klavon's Ice Cream in Pittsburgh opened in the 1920s, closed and sealed up in the seventies and then re-opened in the late nineties by decedents of the owners.
posted by octothorpe at 3:21 PM on August 23, 2010


Haven't been there for years, but I have memories of amazing subs at Twinny's Place Restaurant, 162 N. Main Street, Galena, Md., 410.648.5784.

I still have a soft spot for Frederick, Md.'s Barbara Fritchie Restaurant and its enormous candy cane.

Ice cream? Jimmie Cone (301-253-2003; 26420 Ridge Rd Damascus, MD 20872, image here). Mmmmmm. Ice cream.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:36 PM on August 23, 2010

North Woods Inn. I don't know when it originally opened, but it looks the same now as it did when I was a child in the early 70s.
posted by cereselle at 3:53 PM on August 23, 2010

Lexington Candy Shop in the Upper East Side of NYC last renovated in 1948, and you can still watch them mix the syrup and seltzer in front of you when you order a Coke. Unfortunately, their prices didn't stay stuck in the 40s.
posted by sigmagalator at 3:53 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Forest Hills, Queens: Eddie's Sweet Shop. Pictures. Also. Tiny place, but fantastic ice cream.
posted by zarq at 4:02 PM on August 23, 2010

It sure is a loooong way from where you are, but I just couldn't let this thread go without mentioning the Oceanic Cafe. Hasn't changed much since the 1950s.

Oh, and the Olympia Milk Bar. Seriously, it's still 1950 there too. We used to go there once a month for a milkshake. It's an experience alright! Or the Rio Bar in Summer Hill (the guy in the photo). I used to get a Banana Paddle Pop every afternoon after school for 5c (this was 1972). I do remember being mightly pissed off when the price doubled to 10c!
posted by humpy at 4:08 PM on August 23, 2010

I am considering moving to Milwaukee, mostly so that I can drink at At Random on a regular basis. Not sure about the year, late 60's- early 70's?
posted by Polyhymnia at 4:25 PM on August 23, 2010

Oh my God, how did I forget to mention Roadside America, a model of the nation in miniature?

"Every aspect of normal life half a century ago is arrayed in town squares, parks and railway stations -- though you won't find any pawn shops or tattoo parlors. This is a hallucination of a sanitized America -- Gieringer's happy vision. In fact, since Gieringer died in 1961, nothing has been added and the march of history comes to parade rest, circa 1960."

Here's an excellent post about what you'll find there.

(Scroll down for exterior pictures. It's in Shartlesville, Pa., an easy drive from Philly and right on a major highway (I-78/22) in Berks County.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:32 PM on August 23, 2010

Ritters in Pittsburgh.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:40 PM on August 23, 2010

Best answer: This question is easy, since I live in a town that was frozen in time circa 1968.

In or near downtown Birmingham, Alabama there are at least a dozen examples of this kind of retail establishment. Two of them near and dear to my heart are Pete's Famous Hot Dogs and Bon Ton Hatters.

The whole place is 7 feet wide, and maybe 30 feet deep. There are no tables, no stools, nothing but a counter. Not only does Pete's look just like it did when it opened in 1939, but the guy who runs the place, Constantine "Gus" Koutroulakis, has been there serving up delicious hot dogs since 1949. Every day. Seven days a week. For real. He does not take vacations. He does not take a day off. He is bent almost in half from spending his life leaning over that griddle. His devotion to the art of the hot dog is frightening in its focused totality.

Gus makes hot dogs one at a time. He takes your order as you walk in. You join the queue, squished shoulder-to-shoulder during the lunch rush. He doles out dogs as he makes them, usually asking, "you gonna want another one?" as he hands it to you. (Usually, the answer is yes.) Women get their hot dogs first, because Gus is a gentleman, and he expects you to be one, too. People who ask him if he makes hamburgers get served last, if at all. Even as a joke. Just, don't. He has a helper who handles the money and fetches drinks.

And the "Special Dog" is great. It's a grilled pork hot dog on a bun with a meaty oregeno-rich not-really-chili sauce, kraut, onions, and mustard. It is traditionally accompanied by a Grapico, a tooth-rottingly sweet grape soda that for some reason combines with the hot dog sauce in a Flavor Bonanza.

Many, many people have tried to convince Gus to franchise. To buy the empty building next door and expand. To retire. People who worked with Gus in the 70s went on to open a successful chain of hot dog stands all over the state. Their hot dogs suck, their sauce is a whisper of an imitation of an echo of the glory of Pete's Famous, and they don't sell Grapico.

Gus has no interest in any of that.

He just wants to know if you want another special dog, because you look hungry.

About two blocks away from Pete's Famous is Bon Ton Hatters. Demetrios "Jimmy" Callis opened the place with his father in 1907. His son, "Little Jim", runs it now. It's been in the same location since 1949. He cleans hats. He repairs shoes. You can get a shoeshine. There's a hat on a shelf that supposedly belongs to BB King, who dropped in to have it cleaned in 1978 and never came back. There are Saturday Evening Post cartoons from 1956 yellowing on the walls. There's an amber patina of solid cigar smoke on the pressed-tin ceiling. Cigar smoking probably shortened Jimmy's life -- he only made it to 98. Without the cigars, he'd have hit 100, we're sure.

Damn. Now I want a hot dog.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:45 PM on August 23, 2010 [19 favorites]

Schnackenberg's Luncheonette in Hoboken
posted by spacefire at 4:53 PM on August 23, 2010

Altadena, CA:
The Fox's Restaurant
Pasadena, CA:
Pie n Burger
Arcadia, CA:
North Hollywood, CA:
Little Toni's

And of course... Bob's Big Boy, Burbank. While they are making a conscious effort at preservation now, I assure you that was not always the case.
posted by ApathyGirl at 7:22 PM on August 23, 2010

What can I say but : Vahl's - unfortunately no longer run by Amelia (she passed in '04, but ran it from 1941). The place is legendary. And it really is how it was
Vahl's On Yelp Photos

Vahl's Alviso (almost ghost-town) California
posted by Metheglen at 7:32 PM on August 23, 2010

Best answer: This is the most wonderful question ever. Thank you!

1. Sine's Five and Dime in Quakertown, PA. This is about.. oh no more than 40 miles outside Philadelphia maybe. I was there last year and posted a few poor pictures to my Flickr (my pictures didn't turn out too well -- click on the link that I posted in my set for other pictures from my companion's set.. There are actually pictures of the interior that turned out well). There's a YT link above that had a piece on Sine's from a local NJ PBS. It definitely hasn't been renovated. I can't remember the details of its history any longer, but it was an old five and dime on the main street in Quakertown. There are two rooms. The main room is set up much like five and dimes once were. All the goods laid out.. just like the scene from Breakfast At Tiffany's. Well, except for the prices! There is a candy counter. You can buy some old time candy, but there are some filled containers of loose candy that aren't for sale. I suspect that that candy has been there since the 1940s and isn't edible any longer. The next room doesn't really have any goods for sale. There's a back room that has all their Christmas wares available year round, and then there are some old packaging and the like in that annex. The real draw, though, is the lunch counter. It's a real operating lunch counter just like I remember at Woolworth's and McCrory's when I was a kid! And not in a 'retro style'! Sine's has been serving some of the same locals since they were kids. And, it wasn't exactly easy to get a seat at the counter! Sine's has definitely seen some hard times (and I hope it's still open) but it really was like stepping back into a better time. The store reminded me of the few five and dimes that I was fortunate enough to shop in when I was a kid (just around the time that most of the major five and dimes closed). Definitely watch that video I linked to above if you're interested! It's definitely worth a visit to Quakertown just for Sine's (if it's still open).

2. Byorek's Knotty Pine Restaurant in Hazleton, PA (near Wilkes-Barre.. Scranton-ish). This restaurant opened up in 1937, and I don't think it's changed much since then. My parents grew up in Hazleton and used to go to this restaurant when they were dating as teenagers/young adults. They'd go there with all their friends. In the 1970s, they got married, moved to Philadelphia, and started a family. But, since my grandparents were still in the area, we would visit very often, and there wasn't a time that we'd go to Hazleton that we wouldn't stop in Byorek's for a sandwich and a fresh-made vanilla or cherry Coke (made by hand with REAL syrup) (the vanilla flavor was always the more exciting one when I was a kid because Cherry Coke did exist already -- even though that swill in a bottle/can couldn't compare to having a REAL cherry Coke from Byorek's -- but vanilla didn't, and let me tell you, Coke's eventual recipe has nothing on Byorek's!). The link above goes to my Hazleton set in Flickr, and you can navigate by looking through the entire set, or you can click through the Byorek's tag. I was just there last year, and the inside, outside, the food.. everything.. was exactly as it had been for the 25 years that I've been going there. And my Mom said that it hadn't changed at all since she used to go there frequently in the 1940s-60s.

Actually, for a looong time, I think everything in Hazleton, PA was pretty well preserved from my parent's life there (1940s-1970). A lot of the restaurants, shops, and other original places that they would go to were still exactly the same when I was a kid. I think things are changing for the worse there now, though.
posted by Mael Oui at 9:48 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tastee Subs in Edison, NJ was built in 1963 and doesn't seem to have changed since. Maybe they'll update now that Obama has visited.
posted by lsemel at 10:18 PM on August 23, 2010

I feel like half of Philadelphia would qualify. The Snow White diner in old city was the first thing that came to mind, but they closed a few months ago. There's the Friendly Lounge, where I think they have been meticulously dusting the same pin-up pictures since the 70s. Oh and the butcher shop in the Italian Market with the Rizzo mural also just got sold and cleared out - the woman who owned the building had left her father's butcher shop almost exactly the way it was when he died in maybe the 1950s.
posted by sepviva at 10:29 PM on August 23, 2010

They even still have powdered soap dispensers in the bathroom.

I forgot all about those powdered soap dispensers! I used to hate those! Now, I wish I could turn back time and bring everything back that I took for granted. Remember those communal towels that used to be in some public bathrooms? I don't know what search terms to use on Google.. They were fabric towels that usually were more like dish towels. And it was connected (or, kind of hooked into) a sort of 'dispenser'.. It was sort of a 'never-ending' towel, and you had to pull it to find a relatively clean spot to dry your hands. Ring a bell? Anyone?? I always thought that was disgusting, but, just think, we're sicker now than we were when there were less overly cautious gadgets in the bathroom!

And, another vote for Knoebel's! Hazleton (as mentioned in my earlier comment) had a wonderful park that was sort of similar (it was a little better than Knoebel's in my opinion) called Angela Park, but that's been closed for a long time now.

Oh, since I see you're familiar with QMart, you might already know of Sine's. Although, my family went to QMart all the time when I was a kid, and I didn't learn of Sine's existence until a year or so ago (and they're SO close to each other). I don't know how we missed it! I remember there was a time when I was maybe five and I was at QMart, and I saw a cute boy who I swear was about my age (elementary school age), and he was smoking and I was so creeped out I didn't want to go there anymore. QMart even used to have its own special SMELL that no other similar place had. Plus, I always got bags of candy.. Circus Peanuts! Peas and Carrots! All-Sorts! Ahhh!

The thing to do is find the documentaries that are often on PBS (at least in the Philadelphia/NJ area). There are a lot of regional documentaries that they show about roadside attractions in southeast PA or about regional foods. Any of those sorts of shows are a treasure trove for information about restaurants, drive-ins, and other businesses that have been in business (often completely unchanged and still in its original family) for 50+ years. Anyway, Rick Sebak's the guy who made a lot of the documentaries I'm thinking about (according to his Wikipedia page, he's known for his 'nostalgia documentaries').. He did a bunch of documentaries about Philadelphia with names like 'Things That Aren't There Anymore,' but he also did one called 'Things That Are Still Here,' so I imagine there are enough old businesses in PA that are still kicking.
posted by Mael Oui at 10:37 PM on August 23, 2010

Best answer: Actually, for a looong time, I think everything in Hazleton, PA was pretty well preserved from my parent's life there (1940s-1970).

This is so crazy because I was totally going to post "basically all of Hazelton" but didn't want to over do it with the suggestions. That's great that you brought it up, it's seriously trippy being there on a Saturday night, you half expect an Edsel to trundle down Main Street or something, it's an entire small city completely frozen in amber. Definitely a must visit if you love this stuff, there's other outdoorsy activities in the area to make it worth the trip since it's kind of a haul from Philly.
posted by The Straightener at 6:10 AM on August 24, 2010

See also.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:58 AM on August 24, 2010

Imperial Lanes finally got shut down pretty recently here in Memphis, but golly was it a time warp. A dingy '70s-ish bowling alley with pinata machines, bad nachos, paper-and-pencil-projected-only scorecards, and a static arcade complete with busted basketball hoop game and vintage arcade machines. Oh, and the musty layered aura of multiple decades' worth of cig. smoke. It was pretty much the bowling equivalent of being able to go to an early untouched/preserved Chuck E. Cheese or rollerrink. You know the feeling you get when you watch Fast Times at Ridgemont High, especially the food court mall parts? Yeah, like that.
posted by ifjuly at 7:02 AM on August 24, 2010

Best answer: And Wiles-Smith Drug, a living-fossil soda fountain and mom-and-pop pharmacy Alton Brown visited while doing Feasting on Asphalt. Their trademark lunch counter foods are chicken salad on little crackers and the Cherry Joe, a milkshake made with a big steel machine that supposedly includes a bit of vodka to give it that cough syrup medicinal '50s taste. The owner is super nice and so is the soda counter worker. Little kids like to run up and down the small aisles with their boxes of medicine and toiletries that seem at least 30 years old and untouched.
posted by ifjuly at 7:26 AM on August 24, 2010

The Shady Glen in Manchester, CT. Still in the location from the 1950s (albeit with some building additions in the 60s and 70s) and it doesn't look like the interior decoration's been changed much at all. You get water in a tiny paper dixie cup and condiments in little tripartite condiment dishes.
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:56 AM on August 24, 2010

I wanted to suggest "Nick's eef & Bee Hose" (a.k.a. Nick's Beef & Beer House) but I see that it closed down. *sigh*

posted by wenestvedt at 12:38 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

For being stuck int he past, there's always most of Rhode Island. For example, you can get family-style chicken at Wright's Farm. Be sure to wear puffy sleeves and biiiig 1980s hair when dining in one of their function rooms:
posted by wenestvedt at 12:41 PM on August 24, 2010

I'd be remiss to not add Papa's Pizza and Roast Beef in Willimantic, CT and Little Pete's in the Philadelphian at 24th and Fairmount in Philly.
posted by The Michael The at 1:23 PM on August 24, 2010

Another California eatery stuck in time: Clifton's Cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles.
posted by carsonb at 4:27 PM on August 24, 2010

The White Hut in West Springfield, Massachusetts and down the road is Nick's Nest in Holyoke! Both are stuck in time!
posted by Hanuman1960 at 6:25 AM on August 25, 2010

Response by poster: A follow-up: THANKS to everyone who suggested Hazleton... we remembered the suggestions while tooling around Central PA on a road trip and decided to swing by. We got there just as they were having a big street festival (cheap plates of stewed cabbage! from multiple vendors!) and were utterly DELIGHTED by how retro and out-of-place the entire 'burg was. We will likely make another trip back. :-)
posted by julthumbscrew at 12:07 PM on September 17, 2010

Two from Central/Southern California:

Now I want to go and see if Danny's is still the same inside as it was before the external renovations. It was (and may still be) a little barber shop, with fading pictures of sports stars and celebrities from decades past, all signed to Danny. Four or five old barber seats on one side, old leather couches against the other wall. The TV and the cash register have probably upgraded over the years, but not within the last decade (when I was last there). Danny was working there when I was a kid, though the other folks weren't as much of long-timers as he was.

Sunset Drive-in is one of a dwindling number of drive-ins in California. It's still a double-feature show, with an aging copy of the intermission "lobby" animation between films, with the same "lobby" building in the middle of the parking lot. The car-side speakers are gone, though, now relying only on a local FM broadcast for sound.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:19 PM on January 6, 2011

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