Days Gone Bite: Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips
The chain was named for a well-known English actor, counted the original fish and chips house as its own and had the support of Dave Thomas (of Wendy's fame, not the one from Second City). And there was a time when Arthur Treacher's had a solid reputation and could be found just about everywhere.
Indeed, at its peak there were more than 800 Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips locations in the U.S., including one on Belt Line near the Tollway. Now, there are only...let's see... Well, the company website, which they share with something called Pudgie's Famous Chicken, claims 100 stores still exist--mostly in the east.
A quick count on the same site shows one in Maryland and four in New York. Pennsylvania supports three, Virginia two. For some reason Ohio lists 18--for a total of 28.
Really, Arthur Treacher's had only about 15 years of popularity--probably a little less--from its beginnings in 1969 to those peak years of the late '70s and early '80s. Then the company began to change hands and slid into obscurity.
I'll admit my memories of this chain are rather vague and stem from two expriences a few decades ago. Judging by these, however, it wasn't a bad spot--at least where fish and chips were concerned--in the heyday...apart from the faux-English design. They were capable of turning out crisp filets and stocked malt vinegar for the chips, which was a nice touch. Naturally, they were also capable of slipshod work, but the couple locations I visited way back when were better than the fish and chips shop around the corner from our London flat.
Of course, the shop around the corner seemed to specialize in plaice sopped in grease and extraordinarily mushy chips.
I'm guessing the quality slipped by a considerable margin in the '80s. I'd be afraid to try one of the 28 to 100 still around.
I'd probably skip Pudgie's, too.