Is everybody going to Gino’s, again?

Gino’s was the place to go.Ginos_Index_1

Back in the 1960’s and early 1970’s Gino’s Hamburgers chain gave the famed Golden Arches a run for the money in the mid-Atlantic region.  The Sirloiner, and Gino Giant mirrored the Quarter Pounder and Big Mac respectively, but Gino’s also had the exclusive distribution rights to Kentucky Fried Chicken in its area. (You can read a brief history of the restaurant chain here). 


I worked at Gino’s for about a year while I was in high school.  At the time, I was told our store on South Broad Street in Trenton was the busiest Gino’s in NJ by sales volume.

Gino’s was where I got my basic food service training (although a few years before this, I worked several shifts at a family run food stand at the New Jersey State Fair where I just waited on customers at the counter…no cooking involved). 

At Gino’s, I started off working the fry station and eventually learned the system for manning the grill where, except for special orders, burger runs were done in multiples of six.  You had to toast your buns, flip your patties, add cheese, dress the bun tops and move the patties from grill to bun for wrapping.  It was a ballet of efficiency and quality control.  I occasionally worked the counter and even learned the procedure for making the Colonel’s Chicken.  It was a good experience.

One tidbit I learned while there was the importance of filtering the deep fryer grease everyday and changing it out before it started to leave undesirable flavors in the product.  At the time, Gino’s never kept the grease for more than three days. Each day, the used shortening from the third vat in the fryer was discarded.  The fat in the second vat was filtered into the now empty third; the shortening in the first vat was filtered into the second.  Each morning we’d melt a 50 pound cube of vegetable shortening and put it into the first vat, fresh.

There was also a protocol on what products could be fried in what vats.  If I remember correctly, fries and apple pies in the first vat; fries and maybe the fish for the fish sandwich in the second.  And fish and, if needed, fries in the third.  Don’t quote me…that was a long time ago!

The point was, to not let the older fat impart off flavors to the more delicate product and not extend the use of the shortening beyond the point when it started to break down and oxidize.  That impressed me. 

To this day I pay close attention to the flavor of any fried foods that I consume to determine if the frying medium has been properly cared for or allowed to deteriorate past the point of usefulness.

Gino’s became extinct when Marriott bought the chain in 1982 and folded it into its Roy Rogers properties.

Or did it?

ginograbsmallA couple of days ago, a former co-worker of mine at Gino’s posted a notice on Facebook about the possibility the brand was being revived.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.

While I did prefer Gino’s over MacDonald’s, and not just because I was a “company man,” back in the day, I’m not sure if the comeback is a good thing.

With my general aversion to chains and franchises, will I be tempted to revisit my youth and eat at Gino’s once again?

If so, will Burger Chef be far behind?


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