Thursday, May 08, 2014

French Fry Diary 583: The Mystery of Burger Chef

I've been doing this French Fry Diary in one form or another for over a decade. And even before then I considered myself something of a connoisseur of not only French fries but also fast food. I have always known the ins and outs and even the arcane knowledge of the fast food joints in the area. Imagine my surprise when I found out about a local chain that I not only never heard of, but I had also been inside of, and dined at. This is the mystery of Burger Chef.

AMC's "Mad Men" has brought this specter back to life recently in their final season, as Burger Chef is actually one of their potential clients. The weirdest part for me is that the local Burger Chef was a stone's throw from where I live now. Burger Chef in Marlton NJ was right behind where Kohl's is now. The big store was formerly a Bradlee's, a Jefferson Ward, and at the time of Burger Chef - a Two Guys. Man, the nostalgia is killing me.

Burger Chef started in 1954 in Indiana, and from there expanded throughout the United States until 1982 when General Foods, who owned the chain, sold off all the restaurants to Hardees. They had a very distinctive sign, stylized like McDonald's or In-N-Out Burger, instantly recognizable. They created the first fast food combo meal, and before Roy Rogers did it, they offered a bar where you could dress your own burger. They had their own animated mascot called, what else but the Burger Chef, and his sidekick Jeff. They had a ball at Halloween, and engineered some great promotions with properties like Family Circus, King Kong, and Star Wars, among others.

Apparently blocked out of my memory is the fact that I had actually been to the Marlton location, and perhaps the Hammonton one on the White Horse Pike as well, as a little boy. My big sister and her husband/then-boyfriend used to take me. Even then I was a catastrophically picky eater, and Burger Chef offered a burger called a 'Plain Jane.' It was as you may have expected, a plain hamburger that you could (if you wanted) dress at The Works Bar. I don't remember it at all, but I wish they were still around.

You're waiting to hear about the favorite fried food though, aren't you? Well, it's hard to say, as I don't remember. From fuzzy images online and even fuzzier ones on video, they look to be either shoestrings or regular cuts, and while they look good, who knows? This was several decades ago. Below is a YouTube montage of some of the Burger Chef television commercials, and if you're interested in the Marlton NJ location of Burger Chef, click here for an entire website about it, cool stuff.

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