Back in the 1960s, a cross-country road trip might have included a stop at a celebrity fast-food joint along the way. Celebrity restaurants were all the rage back then; places like Mickey Rooney’s Weenie World and Minnie Pearl’s Fried Chicken were popping up all around America.

Mickey also owned a chain called “Mickey Rooney’s Star-B-Q”. Here he is at one of the locations closely inspecting the chicken to see if it still gives eggs.
Image: Public Domain

So, in 1968, when Carolina restaurateur Eugene Broome invented a new way to make honey-flavored fried chicken, he knew he needed a celebrity to help launch his fried chicken franchise. He first approached actor Jackie Gleason and proposed the idea of creating a chain of Jackie Gleason’s Honey Fried Chicken restaurants, using the Hollywood icon’s tagline “How sweet it is!” but Gleason turned him down.

Enter Yogi Bear — the fun loving, porkpie-hat-wearing cartoon bear that lived in Jellystone Park with his little buddy Boo Boo. Broome felt Yogi was the perfect “celebrity” mascot for his honey-fried chicken franchise. Yogi was infamous for stealing the “pic-a-nic” baskets of park visitors, he was smarter than the average bear, and he was popular with kids and adults alike. So, Broome secured the rights to Yogi from cartoon moguls Hanna-Barbera.

Yogi by Hanna-Barbera Productions Fair use.

(Fun Fact: In an ironic twist to this story, Yogi Bear’s voice and mannerisms were based on Ed Norton, Art Carney’s character in the popular TV show The Honeymooners. The show’s main character, Ralph Kramden, was played by none other than Broome’s first choice, Jackie Gleason!)

Broome opened his first Yogi Bear’s Honey Fried Chicken restaurant in Myrtle Beach, SC. As customers pulled into the parking lot, they were greeted by a huge neon sign of Yogi Bear holding a chicken leg and licking his chops, with the tagline, “How sweet it is.” (Broome decided to use Gleason’s tagline, after all.) Fiberglass statues of Yogi, Boo Boo, Ranger Smith (Yogi’s main foe), and Cindy Bear (Yogi’s girlfriend) also welcomed diners of all ages to the restaurant.

Inside the restaurant, customers had a variety of meals to choose from including the two-piece Boo-Boo Basket, the three-piece Cindy Bear Basket, the nine-piece Picnic Basket, or the 21-piece Jellystone Basket, all of which came with sides and desserts.

The restaurant was an immediate hit, and Yogi Bear’s Honey Fried Chicken franchises started opening up all over the Carolinas. It seemed they would take over the rest of the region and, indeed, the country soon after.

Yogi’s restaurants did manage to make it as far as Waterloo and Cedar Falls, Iowam however.
Image: Yogi Bear’s Honey Friend Chicken, Waterloo Courier, July 18 1971.

Alas, it was not meant to be. In 1968, Broome would partner with the hamburger giant Hardee’s. Though the partnership would eventually add 11 more Yogi franchises — some as far away as Waterloo, IA — Hardee’s seemed more interested in Broome’s honey fried chicken recipe than America’s favorite cartoon bear. As a result, the Yogi chain started fading away, one restaurant at a time. By the late 1990s, there was only one restaurant left.

The Hartsville, SC, Yogi Bear’s Honey Fried Chicken is the last one standing, so you better get there while the gettin’s good.
This image and cover image courtesy Strange Carolinas

The good news, however, is that you can still make that last remaining Yogi Bear’s Fried Chicken restaurant part of your family road trip itinerary this summer. If you’re out and about in South Carolina, and feeling a little nostalgic (and hungry as a … well … bear) then head to Hartsville, SC, where you’ll find Yogi Bear’s Honey Fried Chicken restaurant. The menu is pretty much the same as it was when it first opened, so go ahead and order that “pic-a-nic” basket while you’re there. Locals still swear by it, and your family will think that you’re the one who’s smarter than the average bear for stopping in.

Yogi Bear’s Honey Fried Chicken is located at 514 South 5th Street in Hartsville, SC, and open every day from 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

And don’t forget, kids – Please don’t feed the bears! Image: Public Domain via the National Archives and Records Administration.

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For another nostalgic treat, make sure you stop for a world-famous Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll while you’re in the Carolinas this summer. Every one of our Stuckey’s locations  has all of the road trip snacks you’ll need, including our mouthwatering flavored pecans and popcorn.

Or why not order the Stuckey’s version of a “pic-a-nic basket,” full of all the kitschy souvenirs and delicious Stuckey’s candy that we’re famous for? We call it the Stuckey’s “Road Trip Revival” Gift Box, and it’s fun for the whole family. Each box is packed with all the Stuckey’s merchandise you’ll need to have a fun and exciting road trip including:

  • Three 2-oz. Stuckey’s Pecan Log Rolls
  • One 8-oz. Caramel Popcorn
  • One 4-oz. T&S Pecans
  • One Campfire Travel Enamel Mug
  • One Rubber Gator
  • One Coonskin Cap
  • One Stuckey’s Bumper Sticker
  • One Red Drinking Bird.

Order yours today at stuckeys.com and have it delivered before your next road trip!

Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!