The Lake George Howard Johnson’s, complete with its vintage mid-century furnishings, reopened Jan. 11 as Lake George HoJo’s Family Restaurant, initially serving breakfast and lunch. When the iconic eatery opens for dinner in several weeks, on the expanded menu will be the popular Friday Fish Fry, as well as steaks and other entrees and a salad bar intended to be the largest in Lake George. John LaRock of South Glens Falls (foreground), a Lake George Howard Johnson’s employee in the 1980s and 1990s, is proprietor of the enterprise.
Fried clams and 28 flavors of ice cream will be returning to Lake George as the Howard Johnson’s Restaurant — one of the last remaining in the U.S. of the once-popular brand — will be reopening in mid-September under new management.
The fabled restaurant chain, known 50 years ago as the national Host of the Highways, dwindled from 1,000 or more roadside restaurants in the 1950s and 1960s to merely three eateries decades later as fast food stole their customers. The Lake George Howard Johnson’s, however, prevailed under the ownership of the Carl DeSantis family, until 2012 when it closed.
However, John LaRock of South Glens Falls, an employee of the restaurant during the 1980s and 1990s, is now taking over the enterprise with an eye on offering Howard Johnson’s traditional fare while adding menu items to accommodate changing tastes.
Back by popular demand and unchanged from prior decades will be the eatery’s Friday Night Fish Fry special, featuring those sweet fried clams and savory scallops, accompanied by fried shrimp and haddock.
“No one will be leaving the restaurant hungry,” LaRock said.
The restaurant will also have its crowd-pleasing salad bar with garden-fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as four varieties of soup, LaRock said. The salad bar is to be stocked from 4 p.m. onward.
Added to the traditional menu offerings of American food will be freshly prepared burgers and entrees featuring turkey roasted on site, he said.
The interior of the restaurant will retain the chic 1960s look, with its original retro furnishings, including the vintage booths and counter service — as well as standard table accommodations, he said.
During a visit to the restaurant this week, the traditional Howard Johnson’s interior decor and furnishings were all in place, including their ice cream dishes — appearing as they did under the brand’s iconic orange roof as they did 50 years ago.
“We’re trying to keep the restaurant as original as we can,” LaRock said, noting the eatery will feature new kitchen equipment.
Also to remain the same is Howard Johnson’s soda fountain — featuring 28 flavors of ice cream — along with sodas, milkshakes and banana splits.
In past decades, the Lake George Howard Johnson’s was not only renowned for its Friday Fish Fry, but its breakfast specials — and for hosting group and corporate meetings.
This tradition will continue, LaRock said, noting the five separate dining areas, two of which can be closed off for parties and meetings. With the ability to seat 225 people,
The new restaurant, named Lake George HoJo’s Family Restaurant, is to feature extended hours. Plans call it to open at 6 a.m. and close at 10 p.m.
Rachael Ray worked at Lk. Geo. HoJo’s
The Lake George Howard Johnson’s has secured its berth in modern cultural history, beyond its roadhouse heritage. This restaurant is where the internationally famous chef and television talk-show host Rachael Ray worked as a teenager, launching her tenure in food service preceding her prominence as a celebrity chef.
LaRock said this week he enjoys introducing a new generation of both travelers and residents to “the Flavor of America,” he said, reading a Howard Johnson’s slogan from a vintage menu on the soda counter.
“I always loved this restaurant, and I want to see it prosper again,” he said. “My parents used to eat here, and I’m looking forward to my grandkids enjoying it.”