Revisiting Western Steer (Kind of)

Earlier this week, I attended a “going away” lunch for a co-worker who is taking another job in a faraway state. We went to a Mexican restaurant that opened near the tail end of Covid. I had never visited this establishment in its current form before, nor had I visited the place while it was occupied by other restaurants. Before being a Mexican restaurant, it was a seafood place called Harbor House. Before that, it was a seafood place as well called the Mayflower. Both have been pretty popular through the years, but I never went in. While eating lunch and looking around the place, I had to strain my brain to remember just how long it actually had been since I was in there. 35 years. I was ten years old the last time I was in that building, back when it was Western Steer.

As a kid, Western Steer was as fancy of a place as my family went as far as restaurants go. It was what I grew to call a $10 steak house as I got a little older. In the mid to late ’90s, we became inundated with “fancier” chain steak houses like Damon’s, O’Charley’s, and a few others as we added new mega shopping centers in the area. So a $10 steak house was a place where you could go grab a chopped steak, potato, salad, and bread for around the aforementioned $10. While a $10 steakhouse wasn’t as impressive as the others, it allowed you to take a date to a place nicer than Taco Bell but helped you avoid going broke at the same time.

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Hardee’s Fried Chicken of the 90s

Hardees Fried Chicken

Like most other American households in the 1980s, when my family wanted fried chicken, we got it from Kentucky Fried Chicken. Not KFC, but Kentucky Fried Chicken. We weren’t all metro back in those days using just the initials to identify the fast food chain. Other than the price, not much has changed from then to now. You can still get an 8-piece bucket of chicken, along with two family sides, and four biscuits. It’s an American staple at this point.

But then in the early ’90s comes Hardees with their fried chicken offerings. The chain had purchased the Roy Rogers chain and started using their recipe to sell fried chicken in a good deal of their locations. Not having a Roy Rogers anywhere close to here, we were totally unfamiliar with their brand of chicken.

Coupon for Hardee’s Fried Chicken Family Meal, Johnson City Press 1995

My family was a little skeptical in the beginning for a couple of reasons. One was the fact that here is this burger chain selling fried chicken all of a sudden. It was as foreign of a concept as Kentucky Fried Chicken starting to sell Big Macs would have been. And two, how is anyone going to compete with the Colonel’s secret blend of herbs and spices? Well, the answer to that part is they couldn’t, but Hardee’s could certainly compete with the Colonel’s extra crispy recipe. The chicken at Hardee’s was of the extra crispy variety, which I loved, but the bigger draw was the biscuits.

The biscuits at Hardee’s have always been at the top of the fast food biscuit world, and because they were now selling fried chicken, you could get their signature biscuits at any time during the day. It was almost like a little slice of heaven had fallen to earth. But the chicken and biscuits combo proved to be a good one, and for a while there, my family switched to Hardees when the craving for fried chicken hit, and we didn’t really go away from it until Hardee’s pulled it from their menus around these parts. But I still think back on it and remember fondly all of the weekends at the lake, busy evenings after school, and Sunday afternoons eating Hardee’s fried chicken and biscuits while watching my NASCAR with my old man.

Nintendo Cereal

In 1988, I was all about Nintendo. It had probably taken over as my favorite toy by that point if you want to consider it a toy. And I was already self-aware of my finer tastes in junk food. So Nintendo cereal coming along was right up my alley. It was made by Ralston, who was the king of producing commercially-licensed cereals in the ’80s and ’90s.

This short-lived cereal featured a split package designed and contained both Super Mario Bros. cereal and Zelda Adventure cereal. The Mario cereal was “fruity” flavored and was made up of super mushrooms, Goombas, Koopa Troopas, and Bowser-shaped pieces. The Zelda side consisted of berry-flavored Links, hearts, keys, boomerangs, and shields.

Given how I love gimmicky junk food, the fact that this mimicked Nerds cereal by featuring two different flavors packaged separately in the same box made it a sure bet that a box of this would end up coming home from the grocery store with us. And since she knew how big of a Nintendo fan I was, my mom didn’t put up a fight when I asked to try it.

I can’t recall the taste or if I was a fan or not, but the fact that it had no marshmallows was not a good start for a kid’s cereal if you want to make it long-term. It hit the market in 1988 and was gone in 1989. While it may not have stuck around long, it made a lasting impression on a lot of people, myself included.

McDonald’s Patty McMelt of 1995

McDonalds Patty McMelt

I have a deep nostalgic connection to the McDonald’s Taste of the Month promotion from 1995. Maybe it’s because I was driving and able to go get things for myself, or maybe because I worked across the street from a Mcdonald’s. But whatever the reason, I loved a lot of the special items they rolled out that year as part of the promotion, and this Patty McMelt is near the top of my list of promotional menu items.

I’m still trying to track down info on the releases for each month that year, and I’ve not found suitable info on this one yet. But I do know that it came out early in the year, as in January, February, or March. I know this because I remember it being cold and snowy when I was enjoying them. I’m a sucker for a patty melt, and this version was pretty good. I’m not sure what the slice of Canadian bacon had to do with a patty melt, but they threw a piece on this sandwich, and somehow it fits. Their grilled onions could have been a little more grilled for my tastes, but that minor squabble aside, McDonald’s version of a Patty Melt is worth remembering.

Most people have little or no memory of it existing, and the commercial below is about the only reference I’ve ever been able to find about it online. I’ve made the plea before, but I’m going to make it again…if you know anything about any of the taste of the month promotions from 1995, please get in touch with me. Any info at all, no matter how big or how little the detail would be appreciated. The Arch Deluxe made its debut as part of the promotion in my area, and my favorite of the lot, the Super Hero Burger, was part of it, but I still have a lot of gaps in my knowledge.

Suddenly S’Mores

Suddenly S'mores

Nabisco unleashed Suddenly S’Mores on the world in 1990, and I was in on them early on. I had seen the commercial numerous times and was on the lookout for them at the grocery store every time we went. Growing up in our rural area, we were always behind other parts of the country when it came to the timeliness of receiving new junk food on the shelves.

So after a while, we finally got them in our area, and I was elated. I remember when we first opened them. They were such a novelty at the time, that the whole family wanted to try them, so there we were, all four of us gathered around the microwave to watch the magic. That’s because the gimmick of Suddenly S’Mores was that it was an uncooked s’more basically. There were the two “graham crackers”…really just two graham-flavored cookies, chocolate on each one of them, and some kind of dehydrated marshmallow sandwiched in the middle. You had to microwave them and then you’d have fresh, warm, gooey s’mores.

Back then, microwave doors were a little harder to see through than they are now, and my mom was a big proponent of how a microwave would destroy your eyes if you looked into it while it was cooking, so she was trying her best to keep my dad, my brother, and me away from the door. All of this took place in like 15 seconds because that’s about all the time they needed to do their thing.

Clipping courtesy of the Sun Herald June 06, 1990

When the first one was ready, I got the honor of trying it. At the same time, my brother was putting one in to try. That first package we had didn’t make it through the first night. We liked them so much, we ate the whole thing!

Of course, Mom was much more willing to part with the money they cost on the next visit since Dad asked her to get more. Our enthusiasm waned a little and the second pack lasted two nights. Things went on like this a couple of more times before the novelty really wore off for everyone in the family but me. I loved those things and was enjoying them on a regular basis.

Then one afternoon I was too lazy to microwave them and just opened a pack and ate one. I found that they were just as delicious as the microwaved version but in a different way. It’s hard to explain, but I really liked them straight from the package. I started taking them to school in my lunch as my dessert and soon found another redeeming quality about them…they were incredible trade bait at lunchtime. Since they came two in a pack (I think), I was able to enjoy one and trade the other for things like a pack of Shark Bite fruit snacks, half of a fruit roll-up, or any number of other tasty treats.

It’s hard to dig up much information about how long these lasted on the market, but I don’t think they made it past 1990. It was a heartbreaker when I finally accepted the truth that they were gone and wouldn’t be coming back. It’s still one of the junk foods I miss the most all these years later.

Weekend Reading 06/11/23

Every weekend, I like to share a curated list of retro, geek, & nostalgia-themed articles, stories, and posts that I’ve come across in the last week. It gives you a chance to escape the daily grind, and just sit back and pass the time reading about the good old days. So with that in mind, here are some things I wanted to share with you.


Philly 3-Step Cherry Cheesecake Recipe from 1984

Everyone probably has some kind of Christmas get-together to attend at some point this season, and I’d be willing to bet that there will be food at those get-togethers. If you want to be the hit of the party and keep it old-school at the same time, then show up with one of these Philly 3-Step Cherry Cheesecakes and you’ll you’re sure to be the star. My mom used to make these cheesecakes all throughout the year, but she would use blueberry topping for them because that was my dad’s favorite. But when she’d make one at Christmas, she’d make the actual CHerry version to be festive.

Jello Pudding Fudge Recipe from 1968

The Christmas season is also fudge season for a lot of people. One of the many things I learned in my years working at a grocery store is that a lot of people make fudge for Christmas, and just as many people are always searching for that perfect fudge recipe. I don’t know if a perfect recipe exists, but I do know that an easy and tasty recipe exists and it’s this one from Jello. How much easier could it get than using a box of Jello for fudge?

So if you’re one of those people who like to give fudge at Christmas, or if you’re just one of us who loves to eat the stuff, try out this old recipe this year.

Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie Recipe from 1987

That date of 1987 is a little misleading, as this recipe actually dates back to the 1950s. But the ad itself is from 1987 so there you go.

With it being Thanksgiving, I just had to feature a Thanksgiving-centric recipe as part of this Retro Recipe series. It’s an easy recipe to pull off, so if you’ve been invited somewhere for the big dinner and want to take something, or you’re having folks over, you can really impress them with this pumpkin pie. And if you’re just eating alone, be careful, as this pie is so damn good you may find yourself eating the whole thing.

This recipe is the one I used when I made my first pumpkin pie. As you’ll read tomorrow, my parents went out for Thanksgiving all the time, and I never really had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner until I got married. The first year I was married, I told my wife that we were going to cook a full Thanksgiving dinner, and this was the pie I made. So look it over and give it a shot, it really is easy, and probably the best pumpkin pie you’ll find.

Gold’n Nut Crunch Recipe from 1988

With us starting to get into the heart of the holiday season, you can expect several snack mix recipes from the past to be highlighted here. Back at Halloween, we covered the Hot’n Devilish Chex Snack Mix, and just last week I presented the recipe for Hot Buttered Cheerios. So like I said, get ready for more snack mix-type recipes from now through Christmas. There will be other recipes though, so don’t worry that it’s all going to be savory snacks.

Now, on to this Gold’n Nut Crunch recipe. It seems weird that a savory snack mix would include a sweet component like Golden Grahams cereal, but here we are. I must confess that I’ve never tried this recipe myself, but I know some old souls across the internet who swear that it’s delicious. I plan to give it a try myself in the near future, and since I’m going to make it, I thought I would share it with you as well. If you’ve tried it before, let me know in the comments what you think. Or if you’ve never tried it but are now planning on it like me, let me know how it goes for you.

Velveeta Salsa Dip Recipe from 1993

Going back in time and revisiting these Retro Recipes has been a real treat for me. I used to get excited when I’d be browsing through one of mom’s magazines and come across a tasty-looking treat using items we generally had on hand. Having the items on hand made my argument that much easier when I would start begging mom to make those tasty-looking treats.

Such was the case with this recipe for Velveeta Salsa dip. I had never had it before, but my eyes instantly stopped on the recipe while flipping through a Kraft insert in one of her books. This one took a little more begging though because although we had Velveeta on hand, my old man wasn’t a cheese eater. And salsa/Picante sauce wasn’t an item we bought either. But mom was a fan of taco dinners and the like, so she was open to trying it. She agreed to make it, but we had to wait until my dad was traveling. But I remember that night, and how I didn’t think anything else could ever top this dip.

That was almost thirty years ago, and I still make this dip today. Hell, I just made it this past weekend to enjoy while watching football. It’s quite easy to make, and the base recipe is great on its own, but I suggest you try one of the variations listed. I personally like to add in cooked hamburger and onions. It’s delightful. If the weather is already cooling off where you are, this may be just the thing you need to warm yourself up.

Hot Buttered Cheerios Recipe from 1985

After all of the sweets that were probably consumed throughout the Halloween season, you may be like me an in the mood for something a little savory. Well, here comes Cheerios to save the day! I tried this Hot Buttered Cheerios recipe last winter and found it to be very, very good. It’s a nice substitute for popcorn, and in my personal opinion pair very well with a Hersey bar.

These are quick and easy, and you should give them a try this fall. Enjoy.