July 21 is National Junk Food Day. I’ve always equated junk food with fast food franchises which got me thinking about all of the fast food joints Amsterdam has seen come and go in my lifetime. I guess the first fast food franchise to locate in Amsterdam was the White Tower hamburger restaurant that used to be located on the northwest corner of Church and Main Streets. Their hamburgers cost just five cents each but that was back when Rug City working stiffs were still dreaming of earning a buck an hour some day. The first White Tower Restaurant opened in Milwaukee in 1926. The only one still operating is located in Toledo, OH.
Who remembers when the Mike’s Submarine shop opened up on the corner of Market and Main? It was among the first six or seven locations in the chain started by Albany entrepreneur Stanley “Mike” Uzdavinis. My family used to eat subs for dinner back then about twice a month and I’ll always remember that a Mike’s Sub was the very first time I ever had shredded lettuce and oil added to a sandwich.
I believe Carrol’s Hamburger’s was the next fast food franchise to come to our area and also the first one to locate on what is now known as the Route 30 Miracle Mile north of the city. Carrol’s fifteen cent hamburgers and fifteen cent bags of french fries destroyed any hope I had of developing healthy eating habits as a teenager. My first Carrol’s hamburger was the first time I ever ate a hamburger with tiny diced-up grilled onions, mustard and a pickle added to my usual topping preference of ketchup.
I think Red Barn was next. This truly was one of the great fast food franchises in local history. They served burgers, chicken and fish entrees and even featured a fresh salad bar. Their “Barnbuster” was one of the first oversized burgers on the market. Do you remember “Hamburger Hungry”? The Amsterdam location was located at the entrance of the Route 30 plaza where the original Pricechopper Supermarket was located. It closed in the late 1980s. I fell in culinary love with Red Barn’s “Whaler”” fish sandwich. Speaking of fish, we can’t forget Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips, which stood where Liberty Fresh Market was located.
McDonald’s of course became this town’s dominant fast food destination as soon as it opened its doors on Market Street sometime in 1975. This McAmsterdam has always been a very well-run “Golden Arches” franchise, which explains why the lines of cars for their drive-in window are as long as ever.
I believe Kentucky Fried Chicken opened about the same time as McDonalds as it became regrettably more and more fashionable to destroy Market Hill residential properties in the name of progress. Everybody loves to eat fried chicken but nobody likes to make it at home. Why? Because it is a humungous, labor-filled prep and clean-up effort, not to mention what the hell do you do with the used oil afterward. That question became moot when the white bearded colonel joined Ronald McDonald on Amsterdam’s Market Street. Despite a terrible location filled with a lack of parking spaces and neighborly disputes, the Colonel’s secret recipe kept the place open for four decades. And now that it is gone, that building has quickly become a Market St. eyesore.
When the downtown mall opened it added Mister B’s, Orange Julius and a Pizza Hut to our urban landscape. By then, the Carrol’s location on Route 30 had become a Burger King and remember when the new KMart store opened it also had a Little Caesar’s?
And what about Dominoes foray into the Rug City? How could a chain pizza joint that originally topped their pizza with sausage droppings that looked as if they came directly out of a puppy dog possibly compete with the legendary tomato-pie makers of Amsterdam? They delivered! And when Domino’s opened their Market Street branch that ugly little Ford Pinto with their ugly sign on top could be seen cruising slowly up and down every side street in every neighborhood of our community, looking for a customer’s street number.
Though Mike’s is long gone we can now get our subs from Subway and for a while we even had a Quizno’s. We also once had a Hardee’s, which was converted into this area’s second McDonald’s before closing, getting demolished and becoming a new Hoffman’s Car Wash. Now we have a Taco Bell, Wendy’s, three Dunkin Donuts, Moe’s, Menche’s Yogurt, and Panera’s. Recovery Room is a chain as is Ruby Tuesday’s but both have upscale menus compared to the “order off the wall” offerings all of the above meal purveyors featured. A while back it was reported that Sonics was coming here but they never did and now I’m hearing Five Guys Burgers & Fries may be heading to Amsterdam. I promise you this, if that turns out to be the case and Five Guys fresh cut fries end up being just five minutes away from my front door, the belt I have on now will no longer be functional three months after their grand opening… on second thought, better make that two months.