Jack in the Box

When it comes to places that are no more, Jack in the Box might seem an odd inclusion for those not living in New York. In other parts of the nation, the fast food chain not only exists, but thrives. Unfortunately, they started disappeared from Long Island at the end of the 1970s and have yet to return despite their success elsewhere.

In 1951, the first Jack in the Box restaurants opened in San Diego, California. Their owner, Robert Peterson, took a trip to Alaska and noticed that a fast food place was using a two-way intercom to take orders.

He obtained the rights to use the same concept, which sped up service considerably, and housed the two-way intercom within the head of a big smiling clown that talked to customers. The gimmick was such a hit that by 1966, there were over 160 locations, mainly in the western U.S.

Ralston-Purina purchased the Jack in the Box chain in 1970 and began opening franchises all over the country in an ambitious expansion attempt. They hired a young boy named Rodney Allen Rippy as their spokeskid, and he appeared in a number of very popular commercials during the decade.

Still, it wasn’t enough to help the chain overcome the fast food behemoth McDonald’s and sales began to slip considerably towards the end of the decade.

The Long Island locations would all start closing by the end of the 70s, although a couple survived into the next decade. In the 80s, Jack in the Box would change their marketing strategy completely, introducing a popular mascot named “Jack” who served as CEO and wore the same familiar clown head.

The ad campaign was an enormous success, but the company had learned their lesson about expanding too quickly, and as a result, New Yorkers still don’t have their Jack in the Box restaurants back.

During their heyday, however, Jack in the Box won over many a fan thanks to three very popular items on their menu. The Breakfast Jack offered a fried egg, along with a slice of cheese and ham, served on a hamburger bun. Cheap and delicious, they were also sold at any time of day, something unheard of at the time for a fast food chain.

Even more popular were the tacos which, although they would barely be recognizable to anyone of Mexican descent, were delicious and cheap, two for a buck in most places. Yeah, they were greasy and yeah the “meat” inside wasn’t exactly identifiable, but once you developed a taste for these little fried tacos, you just might crave them for years to come.

Finally, there was the signature burger, the Jumbo Jack. Not too different from a Big Mac, these were a sizable sandwich, and television ads featured Rodney Allen Rippy doing his best to take a bite.

Jack in the Box still sells all of those signature items at their stores, and continues to enjoy success around the country. Sadly, it’s anyone’s guess if or when Long Islanders will ever again have the chance to stuff their face with greasy tacos at midnight or a Breakfast Jack at daybreak. As it stands, you have to travel to Tennessee, Missouri or North Carolina to get your fix.

Were you a fan of Jack in the Box back in the day? Did you frequent any of the Long Island locations in particular? I hope you’ll share all of your memories of eating at these decidedly different fast-food restaurants in our comments section below.

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44 Responses

  1. J Hope says:

    We liked the restaurant. Newsday has so many young and ignorant reporters, that it recently said we never had any on Long Island. I am sorry the journalism arena that I personally knew well, is so assinine now.

  2. L Roberts says:

    We need one back here in Long Island Newsday is stupid they never tell the truth lol please bring them back to north Babylon New York and Lindenhurst New York seriously best tacos !

  3. JCJohnsong says:

    I thought you’d like this link …
    … one person posting about Jack-In-The-Box on Long Island said they worked in the one at North Babylon said he served Tiny Tim and his crew after he played at the bar next door.

    I remember driving past the one in Port Jefferson whenever we went to visit my older brother who lived there. The empty building was there many years after the restaurant closed (but it is gone these days).

    • JC Vann says:

      That “bar next door” was none other than “Cheers, the rock night club!” Worked there as a bouncer, doorman and bartender in the very early 80s. Met my wife there. Actually came of age at the place. Hired when I was 20, which was legal drinking age at the time.

      Don’t remember Tiny Tim, but we did host Rat Race Choir, Twisted Sister, Zebra, Swift Kick, Vixen, too many others to mention. Ritchie Blackmore stopped in one night with his entourage, to drink Johnny Walker Black and play foosball.

      Best times of my life.

      Ah, my island!

      • Anne says:

        Cheers!!!!! That was my hangout! Especially loved Swift Kick .. Don’t remember Twisted Sister there I saw those guys “around the block” at Hammerheads!
        Those were the days!

        ps.. Cheers first then Jack in the Box for tacos @ around 3am!!!

  4. JCJohnsong says:

    Here is a photo of a 1970s era girl placing an order at Jack in the Box…


  5. Joanne W says:

    At some point circa 1981, Arby’s bought out many of the remaining New York metro area Jack-in-the-Box locations, which Arby’s then dealt with in one of three ways. If there were no Arby’s nearby a given Jack-in-the-Box, then they made it into an Arby’s. If it was close to an existing Arby’s, and was doing well as a Jack-in-the-Box, then they renamed it “Jack’s” and kept it open. If neither of those situations applied, then they sold it. One example kept open as a “Jack’s” was the Lindenhurst location at Sunrise Hwy and Straight Path. For a few years we continued to enjoy the same menu, including the tacos, there while it was a Jack’s, but eventually that also closed. Now there’s a 7Eleven where it used to be.

    • Tom B. says:

      Joanne – thanks for the history, answers some long-held questions I’ve had. We had a Jack In the Box in northeastern Queens which became a Jack’s in the early 80’s, but I never knew why. There was a Roy Rogers not too far away, but no Arby’s at the time. I also don’t recall seeing tacos on the menu until that conversion, but that could just be faulty memory. I know as a preteen in the 70’s I was all about the burgers so maybe I just didn’t notice the tacos. Anyway, by the mid 80s Jack’s and White Castle became mainstays for the weekend late-night drinking munchies, and I also took advantage of ‘Taco Twosdays’ (BOGO) on Tuesdays after school. Pure garbage for sure, but I loved it. Store eventually became an Autozone auto parts store, but I’ve never forgotten what used to sit in that spot.

  6. T Hughes says:

    Super Taco Tuesday!!!! Jericho Tnpk Commack NY!!! 30 years later and I can STILL taste those tacos!!! I miss the taste of those tacos so badly, I think i’m going to have to take a road trip!!

  7. Jeri trovato says:

    I’m from Canarsie Brooklyn new York. I swear there was a jack in the box on Ralph ave near the Glenwood projects. Please verify and show some kind of proof to make me not feel ignorant

  8. Craig M. says:

    Used to go to the Plainview and Mineola locations.. still get cravings for their tacos

  9. Michael LaRosa says:

    I wish they would open back up on Long Island, Taco Bell sucks, I had jack in the box last time I went to Cali, they are all over the place, how I remember the old days of hitting the bars, then jack in the box

  10. Anonymous says:

    We had one in Florham Park NJ. I was part of a group of kids who went there everyday after school. Loved the Super Tacos.

  11. Pete E. says:

    Very sad. I remember working 3rd shift and getting out at midnight back in the early 80’s in Queens, NY and stopping at the Jack in the Box on Northern Blvd. and picking up 2 dozen tacos at least once a week and bringing them to the bar. My buddies and I drank and ate the tacos and they were the best! 60 years old and I still miss them!

  12. Lori says:

    Lindenhurst Jack in the Box for me… the tacos at 2:00sm were the best!!

  13. andrew says:

    The nearest jack is in Charlotte, NC.

    • Anonymous says:

      My step daughter works for delta airlines when she goes to California she brings me back tacos from jack in the box i use to eat them here on Long Island in the sixties can’t wait for them to come back

  14. Christine says:

    1972 worked at Manufacturers Hanover Trust “Manny Hanna” on Suffolk Avenue in Central Islip midnight shift in the Computer Room. Lived on Jack in the Box for months! It was literally the only place open at 3am!!

  15. Steve A says:

    I guess anyone who was in thier late teens/early 20s when jack in the box was still here feels the same. After drinking all night you either hit up white castle or jack in the box. Those tacos were so greasy but so damn good and yes.. 35 yrs later and im still craving them. I still tell my kids about them once in a while. Growing up in Hicksville we had 3 to choose from. Plainview.. Westbury on ocr..and jericho turnpike mineola which must have been the last one standing cause i still remember making that 15 minute trip at 3am. Bring em back..please

  16. Charles E says:

    As a kid back in the 70s, I used to go to the Jack In The Box in East Setauket at the intersection of 25A and Old Town Road. I don’t live in East Setauket anymore but I’m pretty sure the location is a parking lot now. I still can’t resist the tacos so I try to hit JITB whenever I’m out west in LA or Scottsdale. Brings back a lot of great memories!

  17. Brad says:

    I remember the one on William Floyd in Mastic or Shirley. There was a shooting there the day my family bought an Atari 2600 and Suffolk County police had the place surrounded. Last time I drove by that area it was a pizza hut.

  18. Jason says:

    The article states all jacknin the box stores closed in the 70s, but I remember the one when I was a kid in early to mid 80s in hempstead village, right on the corner of greenwich and henry street. It is a dunkin donuts now. It might have lasted upto the late 80s, not sure. It was the first time I ever ate a taco

  19. Rick A. Loera says:

    Jack In the Box was great. My sister worked at one in 1973/74 in Campbell California.a We used to go there all of the time. I loved the Bonus Jack, Tacos, Milkshakes and Apple Pies. They were excellent. Another favorite of mine back then was the steak sandwich. Best fast food steak sandwich ever. They are still pretty good, buy I don’t go there often anymore.

  20. Anonymous says:

    The Jack’s in Mineola was open until the late 90’s

  21. Jack's lover says:

    We lived at the Jack’s in Plainview. In high school we went there after school, for dinner, and after a night at the club. Super taco and onion rings, the grease soaking through the paper. Nothing like it since.

  22. Anonymous says:

    The jack in the box in Brentwood was the best!

  23. Dave says:

    They filmed a scene of the movie Basketball Diaries with Leonardo DiCaprio at the Jacks on Northern Blvd in Flushing which is now a Autozone, next to IHOP. I LOVE their tacos! I was always going to the Jacks on Jericho Tpke and Mineola Blvd! Also would stop at the Jacks in Plainview on Old Country Rd on way home from Grandmas house. They should definitely bring them back! They would definitely make a profit.

  24. Ed says:

    This is wrong. There was a Jack In the Box in Mineola and one on sunrise hwy in the late 80s; I lived right behind the one in Mineola in 1987.

    In my younger years my friend had a beach house in stony brook; we used to hit the Jack’s and would wake up with Taco Supreme sauce all over our shirts.

  25. Stephen Careccia says:

    I will never forget the late night early morning tacos. I lived in Brentwood back in the mid 70’s. Jack in the box was located on the corner of Brentwood road and Suffolk Ave. They were the best.

  26. Tom Heimer says:

    I frequently ate there after classes at Queens College (1972-77). Moved to Canada then. Next time I saw a Jack was when we took out H.S. Band on tour to the L.A. area. Did that ever bring back memories!. Until right now, I had no idea they were completely gone from L.I./N.Y.

  27. Eggman says:

    Was a student at SUNY Stony Brook in the late 70s. Back then, the drinking age was 18, so drink we did, and Tuey’s on 25A was a favorite. Dollar beers on some nights! Loud bands every weekend! After 2 AM closing, would go to the Jack in the Box on 25A for the greasiest burgers and fries… because nothing else was open at that hour. Good times!

  28. Mike Sachs says:

    Still have them in Missouri. I go to the one in Cuba, known as “Mural City”.
    Glad to report that the food still tastes the same as it did in the 1970’s.
    The bar next door to the JITB in North Babylon (Deer Park Avenue and Weeks Road) was, called “Dean’s College Inn”, before it changed to “Cheers”.
    Friday And Saturday night cruising was a tradition.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I worked at Jack-In-The-Box from 1979-1980 on Mineola Blvd & Jericho Turnpike.

  30. Glen Slater says:

    I don’t know where the writer of this article got his information when he wrote that all of the Long Island locations closed by the end of the 1970s. That’s not true at all, unless he’s ignoring the South Hempstead location, on Baldwin Road, north of the South Hempstead-Baldwin border. I remember very clearly getting a bag of their wonderfully soggy tacos at the Taco Bell on Baldwin Road in South Hempstead, Long Island, one December night in December of 1984 after driving from straight from Martinsburg, West Virginia (300 miles away). It was after midnight, and it was the only time I ever went in there; before that, I always went through the drive-thru. A drunk guy pulled a knife on me for no apparent reason, and the man behind the counter called the cops. I remember it like it was yesterday.

    • 70sKid says:

      Not ignoring anything, Glen. I go by the information that is available online at the time I write the articles. I rely on my fellow Long Islanders to correct me when I’m wrong, because I know they ALWAYS will. 🙂 Thanks for pointing out the mistake. It’s fixed now.

  31. Ken says:

    Yea I loved it all we went to Hempstead ny a bunch in many cars loaded with kids and what a time we had late nite missed for sure!’

  32. Kelly says:

    There use to be one in Westbury on Urban Ave and old country road right next to the dairy barn. Just memories now

  33. Jay says:

    Jack in the box Old County Road in Westbury. Early 80’s Only place open after Midnight Drive thru only. Worked into third shift on Friday at electronics plant on West John Street. Needed food break. Tacos were great! Oil, grease and all! Burger King now has tacos (in Florida) that come real close to the taste and no oil or grease.

  34. Ev says:

    We always went to the one on Suffolk Ave in Brentwood. The tacos.. we ate so many they asked us to please go home!

  35. John Vogel says:

    A taco, a Deep fried burrito, a breakfast Jack, and a vanilla, was my go to meal after Hockey games at Superior Ice Rink. My go to Jacks was in Centereach.

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