Fish Fry Fridays, Memories Lure Tourists to Last Howard Johnson's in the Country

A new owner hopes to revive boomer loyalty to the orange-roofed restaurants.

ByABC News
May 25, 2015, 4:32 PM
Customers walk into Howard Johnson's Restaurant in Lake George, N.Y., April 8, 2015.
Customers walk into Howard Johnson's Restaurant in Lake George, N.Y., April 8, 2015.
Mike Groll/AP Photo

— -- What's old is new again in the tourist town of Lake George, N.Y., where a newly reopened Howard Johnson's restaurant is seeing a resurgence in popularity among baby boomers.

Following the closure of a Lake Placid HoJo's outpost this spring and rumors that the Bangor, Maine, franchise's demise looms on the horizon, this orange-roofed restaurant in the Adirondacks is set to be the last remaining Howard Johnson's restaurant in the country.

“I used to work here years ago, and I loved the place and I didn’t want to see it get bulldozed, so we’re going to keep it going,” owner Jonathan LaRock told ABC affiliate News 10.

The Lake George location opened in 1953 and was previously operated by Joseph DeSantis, who still owns the property but closed the restaurant in 2011 after struggling to keep pace with more modern chains.

But the landlord was happy to give his blessing and a lease to former cook and current owner LaRock, who quietly reopened the space in January 2015, following a $200,000 renovation.

In addition to new carpeting and a few modern appointments, LaRock reinstated several Howard Johnson's restaurant favorites, such as the clam strips and a Friday Night Fish Fry. A "senior corner" of the new menu even features bygone dishes such as grilled liver and onions, and lemon-broiled scrod -- less common at today's chains.

"Please bring back the chicken croquettes!" proclaimed a longtime fan on the restaurant's Facebook page.

The chain's beloved 28 flavors of ice cream have also yet to resurface at the establishment, according to the page. But that hasn't stopped busloads of tourists from filling up booths en route from New York to Montreal, hungry for french toast with a side of nostalgia.

It even has the cache of a current celebrity as a former employee: Food Network host Rachael Ray is well known to have worked at the restaurant during high school.

“We’ve had people from Connecticut, Maine and New Jersey drive all the way here just to sit in a HoJo’s,” LaRock told The New York Times in an earlier article. "They had three things -- a breakfast counter, ice cream shop and restaurant -- all under one roof. I think that’s why HoJo’s through the years did so well. ... That’s what I’m hoping to do again.”

Do you have fond memories of eating at a Howard Johnson's restaurant growing up? Share them below.