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The Original Locations of 15 Famous Food Chains

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fensterbme/Wikimedia Commons

Ever wonder where your favorite fast food chain first popped up? Look no further.

1. McDonald’s (1398 North E Street, San Bernardino, California)

Juan Pollo

In 1940, Maurice and Richard McDonald moved their father’s food stand “The Airdrome” from Monrovia to San Bernardino and renamed it “McDonald’s Bar-B-Q.” It functioned as a carhop drive-in until 1948, when the brothers restructured the business to focus on burgers and fries and changed the name to “McDonald’s.” While the North E Street location is no longer a functioning Mickey Ds, the building’s current owner, Juan Pollo Restaurants, utilizes the space as both their corporate headquarters and an unofficial McDonald’s Museum. The oldest operating McDonald’s restaurant is in Downey, California.

2. Pizza Hut (503 South Bluff St, Wichita, Kansas)

Wikimedia Commons

The first Pizza Hut was opened in 1958 by brothers Dan and Frank Carney in their hometown of Wichita, Kansas. The two knew they wanted to have “Pizza” in their new establishment’s name, but didn’t decide on “Hut” until they discovered the building’s sign only had room for nine letters and that the structure itself looked like a hut. In 1986, the original hut was moved to the campus of Wichita State University—the Carney brothers' alma mater—where it is used by the International Business Student Association as a meeting place.

3. T.G.I. Friday’s (1152 1st Ave, New York, New York)

Edible Geography 

Looking for a place to meet people—especially the eligible women he noticed in his Manhattan neighborhood—Alan Stillman took the initiative and founded a bar and restaurant. Before it opened in 1965, “singles bars" were a rarity. Friday’s is even credited as being one of the first bars to use “ladies night” as a promotion. The original T.G.I. Friday’s closed in 1994 and is now Baker Street Pub & Grill.

4. Waffle House (2719 East College Avenue, Decatur, Georgia)

Atlanta Time Machine

Joe Rogers Sr. and Tom Forkner opened the first Waffle House in 1955 and remain involved with the company to this day. The original location is now the Waffle House Museum, where you can make your own waffles in its unchanged interior.

5. Dunkin’ Donuts (543 Southern Artery, Quincy, Massachusetts)

Wikimedia Commons

Before America was running on Dunkin’, it was a simple donut shop on Southern Artery—yes, like the heart—in Quincy, Massachusetts. The location opened in 1948 under the name Open Kettle, then a year later it became Kettle Donuts, then a year after that it finally became Dunkin’ Donuts. While the building has been remodeled over the years, it still maintains the original aesthetic.

6. Starbucks (2000 Western Ave, Seattle, Washington)

Wikimedia Commons

The original Starbucks store began selling coffee beans and equipment from its 2000 Western Ave location in 1971, but by 1976, their building was to be demolished and they had to find a new place. In 1977, they opened the “1st and Pike” cafe, located at the mouth of the historic Pike Place Market, and the rest is highly-caffeinated history.

7. Chipotle Mexican Grill (1644 E Evans Ave, Denver, Colorado)

Wikimedia Commons

When founder Steve Ells opened the first Chipotle Mexican Grill just down the road from the University of Denver, he and his father figured that it would have to sell 107 burritos a day to be profitable. In a month’s time, the store was selling over ten times that amount. You can still get a Chipotle burrito from its original location.

8. Nathan’s Famous (1310 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, New York)

Wikimedia Commons

What began as a Coney Island hot dog stand in 1916 ... remains a Coney Island hot dog stand. Sure, in the years since Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker used his life’s savings of $300 to begin selling franks made with his wife Ida’s recipe to hungry Brooklynites, Nathan’s Famous has become a national chain with over 40,000 outlets. But for the Surf Avenue stand, little has changed in its physical appearance (which probably can't be said about most of those training for Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, an annual competition held at the original location).

9. Wendy’s (257 E Broad St, Columbus, Ohio)

Fensterbme/Wikimedia Commons

Though Wendy’s closed its original restaurant in 2007, the spirit of the company’s first restaurant still lives on—in their flagship store in Dublin, Ohio, which boasts an entire “community room” full of company history and memorabilia. Some historians, such as Yelp user Jeffrey H., still found the original location’s shutdown to be tragic, calling the day it closed its doors “one of America’s darkest.”

10. Hooters (2800 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd, Clearwater, Florida)

Original Hooters

In 1983, six businessmen got together and changed the face (ahem) of chain restaurant history when they opened a “delightfully tacky, yet unrefined” dining establishment by the name of Hooters. Thanks to the “Hooters Six”—as they are referred to in the “Saga” section of the restaurant’s website—never again would someone have to suffer through ordering food and beverages from a person wearing actual pants. While it has been subject to extensive remodeling projects, the original Hooters is still home to their trademark hospitality, wings, and weird uncle smell.

11. Blimpie (110 Washington St, Hoboken, New Jersey)

Hoboken Sandwich

In 1964, three former high school classmates opened up the first Blimpie sandwich shop in Hoboken, New Jersey. One of the founders, Tony Conza, came up with the name after searching the dictionary for an alternative to sub and hoagie and coming across the word blimp, which he felt would sound enough like a sandwich with “ie” at the end of it. The original Blimpie is still functioning, so come on down—and, for the love of all that is piled on top of a hero, don’t mention Jared.

12. Taco Bell (7112 Firestone Blvd, Downey, California)

Downey Daily

The building that was once the very first Taco Bell is now home to an unaffiliated Mexican takeout place, but if you “Yo quiero Taco Bell” and only Taco Bell, don’t worry—there’s one right across the street. There aren’t many places where one can enjoy a Fourth Meal and admire history at the same time.

13. Burger King (7146 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville, Florida)

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Originally called Insta-Burger, the first Burger King was founded by Keith J. Kramer and his wife’s uncle-in-law Matthew Burns in Jacksonville, Florida. With the help of their “Insta-Broilers”— ovens capable of cooking 400 burgers per hour—the two went on to open multiple Insta-Burger restaurants and become a franchise. In 1959, Kramer and Burns sold the company to Insta-Burger franchisees James McLamore and David R. Edgerton, who changed the name to Burger King. A place called Stan’s Sandwich now operates out of the original location.

14. Sbarro’s (1701 65th St, Brooklyn, New York)

It may be difficult to imagine a Sbarro’s that isn’t steps away from a Spencer’s Gifts, but the pizza chain began as a salumeria (or Italian grocery store) in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1956. The original Sbarro’s, where Gennaro and “Mama” Carmela set up shop after emigrating from Naples, is now a Japanese restaurant. You can still put the old adage about there being no such thing as bad pizza to the test at Kings Plaza Shopping Center, where they opened their first mall-based location in 1970.

15. White Castle (NW corner of First and Main St, Wichita, Kansas)

Wichita Photos

Where the first White Castle opened in 1921 now stands a multi-tiered parking garage. Today, the closest place to that original location to grab a case of sliders is all the way in St. Louis. Though seemingly content with depriving the people of Kansas, White Castle didn't forget where it came from: In 2011, the company celebrated its 90th birthday by making a special one-day only return to Wichita to grill up burgers as a fundraiser for the Kansas Food Bank.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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