Trivia question: What ice cream flavor did most 20th century Chattanoogans prefer?
If sales at one of the city's iconic destinations for dairy delights are any indication, the answer is vanilla.
About 65% of customers at the old Dairy Gold restaurant chain chose vanilla ice cream over chocolate, the other traditional soft-serve option, the owners reported.
This late-1980s photo of the Dairy Gold on Dayton Boulevard recalls a time when the local chain of drive-in restaurants, which specialized in ice cream treats and "Plentyburgers," boasted several locations in the Chattanooga area. In the summer months, ice cream accounted for over half the sales at the Dairy Gold restaurants here, the owners reported.
The pictured location, at the intersection of Dayton Boulevard and Signal Mountain Road, was No. 5 in the small chain, which also included stores on Brainerd Road, Broad Street, Hixson Pike and Ringgold Road. By the 1990s, the Dayton Boulevard location was the only Dairy Gold remaining, and it continued to operate into the mid-2000s. The building is now home to the SGO Designer Glass store.
Originally, the restaurants included canopies offering shade and shelter where motorists would park and have their orders taken by wait staff. By the 1990s, the Red Bank location was being billed as "the area's oldest curb-service establishment," although it also had a small indoor dining room.
This photo was taken by Sam Hall, curator of Chattanooga History.com, who grew up in the area.
Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, ChattanoogaHistory.com is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available.If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives or original non-digital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.
"I wish I had taken advantage of this iconic eatery more often," Hall said in an email. "Located in the area nostalgically known as Valdeau, it was also conveniently adjacent to a Red Food Store, making it a perfect meal or snack destination after grocery shopping."
The Dairy Gold chain was founded in 1949 and managed for decades by husband and wife John N. and Katherine Klein. Katherine Klein's father, Frank Kollmansperger, was the founder of another iconic Chattanooga food brand, Kay's Ice Cream, according to news reports.
John Klein once said of the popularity of Dairy Gold curb service: "People just like to sit in their cars and watch traffic. It's a natural diversion."
The original Dairy Gold on Brainerd Road was near the Brainerd Theaters. In the late 1940s, it offered ice cream cones for as little as 5 cents each. A 1949 newspaper advertisement also touted free parking for movie patrons as a bonus.
Besides ice cream dishes, the Dairy Gold menu included frozen yogurt, chicken sandwiches and chili and fries, among other items. The chain's signature Plentyburgers were made from 100% ground beef shaped into patties at the point of order. In the 1980s, a combination of a Plentyburger, fries and a drink sold for $1.49.
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