FLORIDA PLACES WE LOVED AND LOST
Florida has long been one of the fastest growing states in the country. This growth means new people are constantly moving in from other states and countries. Not only that, but people's preferences change over the years.
Mathers Bridge Restaurant, by Lloyd Behrendt
For these reasons and more, many once popular Florida places have closed. They have been the victims of an up and down economy, changing age demographics, and different tastes.
More recently, some have not survived the economic devastation of the Covid pandemic.
Here are some of those places that are gone but remain fondly in our memories.
BRANCH RANCH DINING ROOM, Plant City. This was a traditional old farmhouse restaurant in Plant City that delighted diners for 50 years until closing in 2006.
Branch Ranch Dining Room
CHALET SUZANNE, Lake Wales. A popular dining and lodging retreat near Lake Wales and Bok Tower Gardens.
CHURCH STREET STATION, Orlando. This popular entertainment and dining attraction in downtown Orlando prospered from the 1970s to 1990s. Rosie O'Grady's, Cheyenne Saloon and many others were so popular Church Street Station at its peak was the fourth largest tourist attraction in Florida.
Church Street Station
CLARK'S FISH CAMP, Mandarin. This unique waterfront restaurant had great seafood and a huge taxidermy collection. Closed in 2022 due to continual flooding.
Clark's Fish Camp Taxidermy Collection
FRANCES LANGFORD'S OUTRIGGER RESORT, Jensen Beach. This popular resort and restaurant were owned and operated by the famous movie star, Frances Langford, and her husband, Ralph Evinrude.
Outrigger Resort Menu
GARY'S DUCK INN, Orlando. For almost 50 years this Orlando restaurant was a favorite for locals and tourists. It became the inspiration for the Red Lobster chain.
Gary's Duck Inn
HOLIDAY HOUSE RESTAURANTS, Central Florida Locations. This popular chain once had 14 Central Florida locations. Now they are gone, but have been succeeded by a family owned one under a different name in DeLand - Cook's.
HOWARD JOHNSON'S, Florida Locations. This popular restaurant and hotel chain was once almost everywhere you'd travel in Florida. Now they are sadly lost to history.
KAPOK TREE, Clearwater and Two Other Florida Locations. This unusual restaurant in Clearwater was one of the most popular dining destinations in Florida. It operated from 1958 to 1991.
LUM'S RESTAURANTS, Florida Locations. This chain started in Miami Beach and grew to 500 stores. Now all that remains is the memory of its beer steamed hot dogs.
MAI KAI POLYNESIAN RESTAURANT, Fort Lauderdale. This was an attraction with floor shows that brought in people from all over the world. It is closed now (2023), but will hopefully reopen soon
MATHERS BRIDGE RESTAURANT, Merritt Island. This was a favorite waterfront restaurant on South Merritt Island that closed in 1992.
PIER 66 TOP OF THE PIER LOUNGE, Fort Lauderdale. A favorite spot for a drink was the rotating lounge on top of this Fort Lauderdale landmark. What a fantastic view it was! Hotel is still open, but lounge is not.
RAINBOW RANCH, Longwood. Located near Big Tree Park in Longwood north of Orlando, this was a popular country western music and dance club that opened in 1960. It closed after twenty years of entertaining locals and tourist.
SIPLE'S GARDEN SEAT INN, Clearwater. A tradition for 70 years that was voted No. 1 restaurant in Florida 10 times by Florida Trend Magazine. Closed in 1990.
Siple's Garden Seat
WEBB'S CITY, St. Petersburg. This St. Petersburg store was like a Walmart before there was a Walmart. It was also a popular tourist attraction from 1925-1979.
Doc Webb and Webb's City
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By Mike Miller, Copyright 2009-2023
Florida Back Roads Travel is not affiliated with or endorsed by Backroads, a California-based tour operator which arranges and conducts travel programs throughout the world.