22 June 2020

Coon Chicken Inn Restaurant, 2960 S Highland Drive

Vintage postcard of Coon Chicken Inn, ca 1940.

Another cringe-worthy part of SLC’s past: Coon Chicken Inn Restaurant which was renowned for its use of racial slurs in its name and menu items.

Located at 2960 S. Highland Drive, the restaurant was established in 1925 by Adelaide and Maxon L. Graham.

The restaurant employed Black people as wait staff and cooks, but they were not necessarily welcome as customers.

It was originally a small restaurant but in July 1927 some paper napkins caught fire and spread through the grease-soaked kitchen, destroying most of building.

Following the fire, Maxon, mostly as a publicity stunt, announced that he would rebuild and reopen the restaurant in 10 days. The restaurant was enlarged and it became a huge building with a dance floor and an orchestra.

At this time Maxon also added the famous (and infamously racist) caricature “Coon head” as a gimmick to attract travelers in the new age of roadside restaurants, novelty architecture, and automobile convenience.

This 12-foot-tall caricature of a Black man wearing a porters cap with the words “Coon Chicken Inn” spelled out on teeth framed by huge red lips. Customers would enter the restaurant through the middle of the mouth.

At the time, this caricature proved very popular it became the symbol of the restaurant and was used in all advertisements.

In 1929 the Grahams further expanded their business and opened another Coon Chicken Inn in Seattle Washington and the following year they opened another in Portland, Oregon.

The restaurants continued to be successful through the 1940s. However, after World War II racial sentiments began to change and protests against the restaurants and the associated caricature increased.

The Grahams closed the Coon Chicken Inn restaurants in Seattle and Portland in 1949 and leased the buildings to others. The SLC restaurant remained open until 1957.

A Chuck-O-Ramma restaurant took over the building once the SLC Coon Chicken Inn restaurant closed. Today, the building has been demolished.

Images: 1) Postcard
2) SLC restaurant ca. 1930 from @utahhistory_collections
3-4) menu from @utahhistory_collections

The SLC location of Coon Chicken Inn,
2960 S Highland Drive. ca 1930. From UDSH.

Image of a plate from Coon Chicken Inn. From UDSH.

Image of menu from Coon Chicken Inn. From UDSH.

Image of menu from Coon Chicken Inn. From UDSH.

Image of menu from Coon Chicken Inn. From UDSH.

Meeting at Coon Chicken Inn, showing interior. From UDSH.

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