Sunday, July 1, 2007

Royal Castle- Miami's Belly Bomber Palace




If you grew up in Miami in the 50's, 60's or 70's, Royal Castle was the place to go for a Birch Beer and tiny little burgers grilled with tons of onions. At one time there were 100s of these diners throughout Miami and Dade County. Most looked just like this last survivor on NW 79th Street and 27 Avenue. Royal Castles were unique to Miami and resembled the White Castles from up north. How they died out remains a mystery as most people have fond memories of them. I suspect that the other competing chain of Burger King, also from Miami, and the other fast food franchises of today just proved to be too much competition. Also, I think the fact that they were independently owned and operated had something to do with it. The creator of the chain apparently went out of business making it harder to stay in business. Its a shame as most old miamians would tell you they would die to taste that birch beer and belly bombers today. Most don't even know there is still one alive and well. If you get down to Miami you should try it! The 2007 Miami New Times still rates it the best hamburger in Miami!


40 comments:

Crafty Girly said...

My father used to tell me all about this place, having grown up in Allapattah during the 60's and 70's. He took us (me and my brother) there once, and I thought that place was great! I am honestly deathly afraid of the area it's currently at though, which is why I haven't gone back on my own since.

Urban Paradise

Dave said...

Crafty Girly: You are right, best to go in a group in daylight hours! During the day, it isn't too bad. And the belly bombers are tasty!

Al Kaplan said...

There is still a Royal Castle on the corner of N.W. 7th Ave. and 125th St. I used to be that you could find one every mile or so in every direction except on the Beach. Too low class for the city fathers over there! They were open 24 hours a day. One time I remember the TV news showing a locksmith installing a lock on the front door of one on Key Biscayne as a hurricane was approaching and they decided to evacuate. It seems that no lock was on the door because they never closed! They had honey buns too. Yummm! 15 cent burgers, dime coffee, and a cigarette machine!

Dave said...

Al: You are correct. The one you mention on NE 7th Avenue is owned by the same gentleman that owns this location. It was damaged by fire and currently closed last I heard. He is Wayne Arnold, a former employee, who bought the Royal Castle name out of bankruptcy. He also owned a third location that he opened in the old Toddle House Restaurant on the corner of NE 9th Avenue and Ne 125th Street in the heart of North Miami, but it has closed. Royal Castles as you mention were open 24 hours a day and did have great doughnuts and glazed honey buns. The chain was started in the late 30's by William Singer in the Little River section of Northeast Miami. Singer was one of the most prominent Jewish businessmen of the post war era along with Carl Weinkle (Weinkle's liqour stores and Carl's Markets) and Samuel Friedland (Food Fair Supermarkets)

BRIAN HARRIS said...

I MISS THE ROYAL CASTLE THAT WE HAD HERE IN FT PIERCE FLORIDA AT THE OLD SEARS TOWN SHOPPING CENTER THAT WAS BUILT IN THE EARLY TO MID 60'S...I LOVED ORDERING THOSE MINI CHEESEBURGERS AND THAT GREAT ROOT BEER ...NOTHING LIKE THE GOOD OLE DAYS !!!!!!!1

truth11 said...

They weren't unique to Miami,however. i was raised in Cleveland and they were all over the place here. A sack of burgers for 99 cents!

Robert said...

I spent my kid years in Miami after moving from NY and there is still nothing that compares to a Royal Castle hamburger and a birch beer. Many late night and early morning munchies were fed there. I also recall that they made great breakfast and that it was where I had my first grits, being from New York, I didn't know what a grit was. They also had chili if I remember correctly. I do remember that towards the end, they tried to compete with Burger King by offering a 1/4 lb. burger like the whopper and I think that was what killed them. You can't mess with a good thing. Maybe if I ever get back to Miami, I'll check out the ones that remain.

trippfoto said...

Moved out of Miami in '70, but have vivid memories of my mother, sister and I enjoying Royal Castles in downtown Miami during WWII, after which we usually went to the Olympia theater for a matinee and floor show.
I still make sliders and wash down with birch beer (Pennsylvania Dutch).

katydid said...

I also grew up in Miami. I lived in Coconut Grove, South Miami, Cutler Ridge and then in Kendall So many memories. I had my 4th birthday party by the water at the Coconut Grove bayfront park where they had shelters with picnic tables and a playground with an extremely high slide. A few years later we used to irritate the older folks when we played shuffleboard there during summer vacation. I had a classmate who lived in a houseboat when I was in the fourth grade at Coconut Grove Elem. School (where my younger sister had the same first grade teacher that my mother had there. That theater in Cutler Ridge Mall was where I saw "The Birds". I remember Miami Dade Community College when it opened, I attended the first classes held in Palmetto High School before the college even had a building. Now it stands 2 blocks from where my parents built a house a number of years after being told by a bank that they couldn't give them a loan to build a house because nobody was ever going to live out there. Who remembers "D" Battery at Palmetto HS during the Cuban Missle Crisis, before they were moved out to Krome avenue. I'm glad someone remembered to include Frankie's Pizza in their comments. Great square pizza! Remember when Kendall Drive was barely two (heavily patched) lanes that ended in a dump at 117th Avenue and when there was a canal running along a very narrow 107th Avenue. So much more...

oldsalty said...

My Dad took me to Royal Castle for my first time way back. I remember it was next to a theater. I think on NE 2nd Ave and 79th Street. Might have been NE 6th. The birch beer was oh so good. Maybe someone can get the drink going again. By the way, after eating at RC we went next door to the movie and saw THE MOUSE THAT ROARED. How far back is that?

Robert said...

Yes, it was NE 2nd Ave, just north of 79th ST. I used to hang out there for late night munchies. The theater was called The Rosetta, I think, mind travels back to the '60s..... Saw many movies there.

Dennis C. said...

I drove by the intersection of NW 7 Ave & 125 St this past Sunday morning and I could not believe my eyes !! The Arnolds has a brand new Royal Castle sign in place and the store has been completely gutted for renovation !! It was about 5 A.M. and the sign was lit and all the lights inside were on !! I could hear it calling to me: "Dennis - I will be open soon - come and visit me !"
In the early 60's I would go to the one on Coral Way & Miami Ave. - Those were the best years of my life. Attended Southside Elementry and Shenandoah Jr. High - bowled at Coliseum Lanes - sold the Miami News Blue Streak edition after school at the intersection of Brickell and Coral Way - skateboarded on homemade skateboards down the Brickell bridge - hung around the firemen at fire station #4 on Miami ave & 10th street - they'd let us play bumper pool and drink Dr Peppers. I could go on & on about those days - it was a different world for all of us back then.
A better day & time - and Royal Castle was part of it all.
So when the one in North Miami opens - and I hope it's soon - I will be there.

little river rat said...

You are right! The Royal Castle was right next to the Rosetta Theater in Little River. 79th Street and NE Second Avenue. I remember saving up my nickels for the tasty little hamburgers with grilled onions with an icy cold mug of birch beer. I can still taste it. Yummm.

Mark said...

The big burger was a Feastburger and it was tasty too! I sure do miss it!

58HUSTLER said...

Grew up in the 60's in Miami Springs, if I remember correctly the one we frequented was near the airport. If memory serves, they ocassionally ran specials on the little burgers for a nickel. Of all the fast food joints I've been to, the Castle was definitely my favorite.

LuiRoberts said...

I grew up at the edge of Coconut Grove and Coral Gables, 50's - end of the 60's. We moved because the crime got to bad in the late 60's! My mother had Gathea's Doll Shop on Dixie Hwy. I loved "Royal Castle" and always went to the one at the corner of Dixie Hwy. + 27th Ave. They were wonderful. The hamburgers, cheeseburgers and the breakfast. I also remember the "Hot Shoppes" on the corner of Bird Rd/Ave. + Dixie Hey. The park in Coconut Grove on the bay. I was there once as a child and a little boy had to be taken away in an ambulance. Wow. The library across the street was wonderful.
And, I went to West Lab. Elementary School, St. Stephen's for 7th + 8th grade (probably close to the worse years of my life). Jonny Ryder who's dad owned Ryder trucking and the Coconut Grove bank building went there and had a crush on me. I was such a "dork". Then Coral Gables High School.

jodopeg said...

Royal Castle is back and with the birch beer plus extras at Wayne Arnold's Royal Castle on the corner of nw 125 street and SR 441,,,right off I-95 at the nw 125 street exit.

Keith said...

I knew Mr. Singer. He was a very good friend of a person I worked for. He retired and had a son that took over. He open a auto-mat on the corner across from the crispy cream. It was a big money looser and forced Royal castle into bankruptcy. I went to the one at NW 7Th Ave. and 183 rd. Street.
Al was the morning cook. What a place it was. Always busy.

Keith said...

I knew Mr. Singer. He was a very good friend of a person I worked for. He retired and had a son that took over. He open a auto-mat on the corner across from the crispy cream. It was a big money looser and forced Royal castle into bankruptcy. I went to the one at NW 7Th Ave. and 183 rd. Street.
Al was the morning cook. What a place it was. Always busy.

jodopeg said...

There was a Royal Castle next to the Palmetto Expressway on NW 27 ave back in the early 70s,,,my Dad worked at the Sunoco up the street at 179th and 27 ave.

I would ride my bike there and have two Castle Burgers and a Birch beer for about 30 cents.

And I was on the Skipper Chuck Show, in the kid section once, when the controversy over Royal Castle not serving Blacks caused the Skipper to threaten to drop Royal Castle as a sponsor if they did not allow Black people to eat there.

So Royal Castle changed their policy and now only exist in the worse, crime ridden Black neighborhoods,,,,how times have changed.

Charles said...

I remember a Royal Castle on Andrews Avenue and 2nd Street in Fort Lauderdale when I was a kid in the mid to late 50's that only employed white male employees (unfortunately, blacks were not allowed in and still looked down on at that time...and the woman employees were looked at the same way). Great burgers and drinks. As the downtown changed, so did Royal Castle. They started employing women and no one was excluded from coming in (thank God). The menu started changing as well. Royal Castle disappeared as the changes in downtown progressed (and so did A&W).

Naomi said...

I graduated from Miami Sr. High School in 1961. I remember frequent trips to Royal Castle and I still think about their burgers and birch beer. I now live in Indiana and White Castles don't come close. My junior and senior high school summers were spent as a counselor at the Jewish Community Center day camp and, one year, Mr. Singer's grandaughter was in my group. Ah...nostalgia..

Roberta said...

What memories this brought back! I grew up in Miami, graduated from Miami High in 1970. Royal Castle was a fixture for me and my brother-reading this thread I can almost taste the 'birch beer in the frosty mug' to wash down those little, tiny, hamburgers. A previous commenter also mentioned Skipper Chuck, we were on his show several times. As a kid, I remember hearing that Skipper Chuck was also the Saturday scary movie host, M. T. Graves ;)

Bob said...

The first Royal Castle I went to was the one across from the downtown court building on NW 1st St near Miami Ave when I was 7. After that my Dad and I tried not to miss a chance. Mostly, we would go to the one at 12th ave and Flagler(across from the open air Firestone) or the one at NW 36th St and 17th Ave (across from Jackson High School)
There is no root beer that can come close to the taste of a Royal Castle Birch beer. I wish I could taste one now with 1/2 dozen burgers.
Also, MT Graves was played by Charlie Baxter of the Funclub and not Skipper Chuck (Chuck Zinc)

premenopausily yours said...

I grew up in miami springs in the 60's didn't RC have a drink called the orange julius for a while?....Hippie Girl

jodopeg said...

orange julius...? I don't think so. The orange julius is like a sherbert smoothie.
I don't recall RC ever serving it. Although I think some body did then.
Birch Beer, was the RC famous drink, like Root Beer but stronger.

john said...

I'm almost 67 years old and I also would die for the Royal Castles to return ! I remember buying them by the bag full and eating them until I ate every one, I think they cost about .15ct. and we would spend $20.00 and feast. AH ! those were the days. sorry the kids today missed that great treat !

Mr. Ed said...

I went to Royal Castle in Hollywood and Miramar and Pembroke pines in the 60's and the 70's

jodopeg said...

@ Mr. Ed,,Me too, if I didn't have to watch my cholosteral I would visit Arnold's Royal Castle on 441 and NW 125th street more often, as I get horny for those little burgers....but I pack my 380 auto when I do go there,because that neighborhood is infested with low-Lifes of the worse kind.

Paul Alberts said...

Here are a few more places for the list: The Moderne Book shop in S Miami, Top O' the Columbus (hotel), when Dadeland was open air (1960's),Westbrooke Country Club ca. 1960-65 located at the corner of S.W. 87th Ave. & 8th St. I would LOVE to see photos of Westbrooke but I have never been able to find anything online.

Donna Spears said...

I went to Allapatah all the time it was on 36th street and 17th avenue across the street from Miami Jackson High School there was also a place north of there that my friend Cheryl Alexander and i went to in the am for a pepsi and donut for 10 cents awesome.

bob king said...

When I went to Miami Jackson in 1969 I would sometimes have a couple of cheeseburgers and fries on a plate with a birch beer for breakfast before class man those were the days

jodopeg said...

Yup, Royal Castle had a special feel to the place back before Miami-Dade was over run by immigrants. That's when Miami truly the Magic City and Royal Castle fit right in.

Big Daddy Rich said...

My first job was working for Royal Castle in Hollywood Florida. I was making a huge $1.05 per hour and I still have fantastic memories of Royal Castle working 23/7 thru several hurricanes over the years. Stayed with them up to my college years. The birch beer was 5 cents served in a frosted mug.

Big Daddy Rich said...

My first job was working for Royal Castle in Hollywood Florida. I was making a huge $1.05 per hour and I still have fantastic memories of Royal Castle working 23/7 thru several hurricanes over the years. Stayed with them up to my college years. The birch beer was 5 cents served in a frosted mug.

MommaMarcie said...

We had one in Marathon, FL and my oldest brother worked there. Miss the root beer

Charco said...

Born in Miami in 52, left in 86. "My" Royal Castle was on the corner of Lejeune and NW 7th St, if memory serves me correctly. The cheeseburgers, the birch beer in the frosted mug -- if only I could taste it one more time. Let's not forget about the chili! Great stuff after a night of partying. So sad. As one poster already said, it was when Miami was truly the Magic City. Just ask the Great Malenko! It was HIS lucky town!!!! Not to mention George's Super Sub Shop, Nathan's, Thee Image, Paley's Big Wheel, the 747 Lounge...OK, I'll stop now. Shame it went to hell.

Jack Dallas, Jay Dee said...

I worked at the "RC Steakhouse" as we called Royal Castle on dates. I started in 1960 at the shop on NE6th avenue and 125 street. The company was started by William Singer at shop #2 in Little River, shop #1 was started later in downtown Miami. In the 60's Larry Singer, William's son, took over. They hired nothing but old men and young boys who worked cheap. Minimum wage in the 60's was $1.15 hr. but you could call someone a "trainee" and pay them $1.05. The first woman to work at RC was Ruth Pearlman whose husband, Shorty Pearlman had worked for the owner many years before. Ruth broke the gender gap and soon there were female managers. They had fresh squeezed orange juice for 25 cents, burgers were 15 cents, the same as the fries. A breakfast of two eggs, toast and grits was 35 cents, coffee a dime and birch beer was a nickel. Cops got coffee for free and you occasionally slipped them a free doughnut. The rolls and baked goods were delivered daily from their own bakery. The pickles were Heinz as was the ketchup and the onions were reconstituted from dried onions delivered in a can. Chili was made on the night shift from hamburger meat, beans, chili powder from a packet and water. You could have any flavor of shake you wanted as long as you only wanted chocolate. They also had danish, honeybuns and pie. I worked shops on Normandy Isle, Collins Avenue, Biscayne Blvd and downtown. The shop on Collins at the 71 street beach was a teenagers dream. Showgirls in those new fangled bikinis and high heels would cross over from the beach and a bar called, The Bar. They would lean over at the walk up take out window and the young guys would trip over themselves to fill the order. Ahh, the mammaries, I mean memories. Burger King and McDonalds came in and that was the death knell for RC. For a while they tried to make a 1/4 pounder with lettuce and tomato but the places weren't built for the big burgers. The little "sliders" were perfect, with a fresh bun, pickle, grilled onions,ketchup, mustard and don't forget that little piece of greasy meat. People regularly ate 6 at a time.

Unknown said...

I would love to help be part of bringing this back to a order.If anyknows who I could speak with about getting this done please contact me 423 330 9029 Carol

Unknown said...

I would love to help be part of bringing this back to a order.If anyknows who I could speak with about getting this done please contact me 423 330 9029 Carol