Posed like a reinvention of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, this Royal Castle patron doesn’t bother taking off his hat — or extinguishing his cigarette — as he pores over what may have been the chump change menu, a testament to bygone days when one could clog their arteries and lungs simultaneously.
At least 25 Royal Castle restaurants found their way to Greater Cleveland from the south between 1940 and 1970, perhaps because founder William Singer was an Ohioan.
Clevelanders would carve their own nostalgia from the paper-thin, onion-laden hamburger joints. Sports fans frequented the Public Square location on game days, while Parma youth made theirs a late-night rite of passage.
In 1973, however, The Plain Dealer infamously named the Royal Castle on Euclid’s East 185th Street among its “Dirty Dozen” for health code violations.
By the 1970s, the chain’s reign was in decline. The kingdom shrank to its 1938 origins in Miami, Florida, where a sole survivor still operates today. While southerners grieved, Cleveland’s City Grill kept the greasy fare alive for at least a decade on Detroit Avenue, today’s location of Cleveland Public Theatre.
The most elusive in-house recipe? The saccharine 7-cent birch beer. Though the original flavor remains lost to time’s
insatiable palette, rumor has it a ginger ale and root beer concoction will deliver a passable substitute.