It was a restaurant chain that once had nearly 700 locations across the Midwest, including here in Minnesota, but now it exists only in our memories here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

When it comes to nostalgia, few things bring up as many fond memories as those once-popular restaurants that now are gone for good. To start walking down memory lane, all you have to do is think about some of those places your parents took you when you were a kid that are now long since gone.

And one of those places here in the North Star State is this restaurant chain-- even though its website says it still has a location open here in Minnesota. It was a chain that started back in 1966, and hit its heyday in the 70s and 80s, when there were hundreds of locations sprinkled across our neck of the woods.

SEE ALSO: The True Story Behind Ruth's Chris Steakhouse Weird Name

So which steakhouse chain are we talking about? That would be the Ponderosa Steakhouse and Bonanza Steakhouses. While they were separate entities initially, this Wikipedia story notes that they merged in the late 80s, when Ponderosa was sold to the Metromedia Restaurant Group.

That group eventually went through several reorganizations, mergers and bankruptcies and was eventually acquired in late 2017 by FAT Brands. Back in its day, the Ponderosa Steakhouse brand was pretty popular, though that trend has since faded as Wikipedia notes:

In 1989, there were almost 700 Ponderosa locations. By 2003, there were fewer than 400 locations. As of June 2024, only 13 Ponderosa locations and 3 Bonanza locations currently remain open in the US.

Curiously, on the Pondersoa-Bonanza Steakhouse website, it still lists a restaurant on West Division Street in St. Cloud as its lone Minnesota location. Google Maps concurs, as the picture below from November 2018 shows.

The Bonanza on West Division Street in St. Cloud, MN in November, 2018 (Google Street View)
The Bonanza on West Division Street in St. Cloud, MN in November 2018 (Google Street View)
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And despite the fact that the corporate Ponderosa and Bonanza Steakhouse STILL lists the St. Cloud location as being open and featuring an 80-item buffet (Mondays and Tuesdays 11 am to 3 pm; Wednesdays through Saturdays 11 am to 7 pm, closed Mondays, it says), if you look at a more recent May 2024 Google Maps picture, you might wonder just *where* it's open-- as the building appears to have been torn down, with only the sign remaining standing.

West Division Street in St. Cloud where the Bonanza Steakhouse used to stand. (Google Street View)
West Division Street in St. Cloud where the Bonanza Steakhouse used to stand. (Google Street View)

Now, just because we no longer apparently have either a Ponderosa Steakhouse or Bonanza Steakhouse still in business here in Minnesota, it would appear that if you want to take a trip back in time, all you have to do is head east, to Wisconsin Dells Parkway South in Lake Delton, Wisconsin, where a Ponderosa Steakhouse *might* still be open.

The Ponderosa Steakhouse in Baraboo, WI (Google Street View)
The Ponderosa Steakhouse in Baraboo, WI (Google Street View)

Now, while that picture is from October 2023 (with the sign that says 'Come in, we're open') we're not completely sure it is, still actually in business and serving food. This Milwaukee Record story details a trip to the restaurant, but it was published nearly two years ago, in October 2022-- which can be an eternity in the restaurant business.

So are there any Ponderosa or Bonanza Steakhouses still operating here in the upper Midwest? Good question! Speaking of brands that were once popular but now only exist in our memories, keep scrolling to check out 50 beloved retail chains that aren't around anymore either.

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LOOK: 50 Beloved Retail Chains That No Longer Exist

Stacker takes a look at 50 major retail chains that no longer exist and the reasons for their demise.  

Gallery Credit: Madison Troyer


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