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Monday, September 22, 2014

The Coon Chicken Inn: The WORST Restaurant Chain In History

Uh-oh, we now see the shameful side of Seattle's otherwise awesome culinary history.

It's hard to believe a place with a name like The Coon Chicken Inn would ever have existed in polite, politically correct Seattle. But in the pre-Civil Rights era, such things were not uncommon anywhere. Including Portland, OR and Salt Lake City, UT, when The Coon Chicken Inn had other locations.

And this place made Sambo's look modest.

They opened in 1925 and within a few years, drew the wrath of the Seattle NAACP, who threatened to sue for defamation and libel. It's mascot was a grotesque, ugly caricature of a black porter (and perhaps the first ever mascot used by a restaurant chain, paving the way for Ronald McDonald four decades later.) And like Ronald McDonald at McDonalds, the porter mascot was everywhere at this place.

They actually made hand fans for kids (with menus on the back) in derogatory caricatures of African-Americans.

The porter caricature appeared on everything inside and out of the place. Including matchbooks, the dinnerware, silverware and even soap bars. They even made spare tire covers with the caricature on them.

Coast to Coast?....Er, no. They wish. But this chain never grew beyond a few locations in the Western half of the US.
From "AW HELL NO!!" to "W.....T......F???!!!" This was their actual Seattle location, circa 1939...

Image: BlackPast.org
Now look behind the labour union protesters (another problem with The Coon Chicken Inn.), behind that car to the caricature's mouth. Yes, this was the actual entryway. Every location had a similar entryway.

The Seattle and Portland locations closed in 1949, due to changing tastes and a shrinking customer base (one should hope so!) The Salt Lake City location carried on until 1957.

More on this place:
University of Washington


  1. The whole Coon Chicken Inn saga is featured in a sub-plot in Terry Zwigoff's adaptation of Daniel Clowes' graphic novel Ghost World, which I recommend.

    1. I also saw it in The Confederate States of America, a revisionist movie that illustrated what could have happened if the South had won the Civil War - which it damn near did. It was one of the CREEPIEST movies I ever had to endure. You can see it here:



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