The most prominent of the remaining Howard Johnson's restaurants is expected to close sometime this year. The Times Square location at the northwest corner of 46th Street and Broadway in Manhattan was the last standing location in the borough. The restaurant and the land were reportedly sold for more than $100 million.
The restaurant started there in 1955. Gene Hackman worked there as a maitre'd and Lily Tomlin was a waitress. Times Square had as many as three Howard Johnson's locations following World War II.
Pierre Franey and Jacques Pépin were hired as consultant chefs in the late 1950's. Pépin has spoken highly of his time there, including a recent homage in the New York Times. "For me, Howard Johnson's reliable, modestly priced food embodies the straightforwardness of the American spirit. It saddens me that New Yorkers looking for this kind of gentleness and simplicity will soon have to find it elsewhere. It won't be easy."
The current tally is 9 remaining restaurants, though that number quickly goes down to 7. Next month, the HoJo's in Springfield, Vt., will be gone, and of course, the one in New York. The remaining locations are oddly scattered in Maine, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, and Maryland.
The hotel chain remains with the Howard Johnson's name, though under different management.
Regardless of what you might think about HoJo's, it doesn't deserve to go out in such a bizarre and class-less fashion. It really deserved better.