Roseanne is a strong contender for my favorite sitcom, and I still watch it religiously. Only with hindsight do I see how good the show was at capturing its time, not just through its characters and situations, but through its settings. Didn’t we all grow up in houses that looked at least a little bit like the Conners’?
This extended to other locations on the show, whether they appeared regularly or only once. I’m especially fond of the slew of restaurants, not only for their visual charms, but because I can remember eating at so many places that were just like them.
Hell, even today, “it’ll remind you of Roseanne” is a surefire way to get me to try a new restaurant. Here are my five favorite eateries from the whole nine seasons, in no particular order!
#1: The Lanford Inn!
Ah, the incomparable Lanford Inn. A restaurant so fancy, Dan and Roseanne could only afford it with a twofer coupon!
Audiences were supposed to take the Lanford Inn as the city’s ritziest dining establishment, but since it looked like a more hopeless version of Red Lobster, that wasn’t easy to do. Its nautical theme was somewhat dampened by the inclusion of the same white-and-blue checkered tablecloths that everyone who’d ever lived up to that point owned seventeen of.
I’m also confused by the prevalence of Polynesian cocktails. Even if you want to give Rosie’s coconut tumbler a pass, we see one of their friends with the classic Polynesian “naked lady but not really” glass.
Of course, the sure sign of any five star affair is a six foot salad bar, and the Lanford Inn’s was one for the ages. With offerings such as “lettuce” and “melon” and what appeared to be “giant half-rotted figs,” I can only imagine how elite patrons felt as they grabbed whole bell peppers from the claws of ornamental plastic lobsters.
The Lanford Inn was trash masquerading as class, and that’s exactly why I love it.
Seen in: D-I-V-O-R-C-E, Season 1. (1988)
Best time to eat there: Dan and Rosey went on two-for-one Tuesday. I can’t argue with their logic.
#2: Bowling Alley Snack Bar!
The episode where the Conners go bowling has long been one of my favorites, because hot damn, they absolutely nailed everything that makes shady bowling alleys so great.
In particular, the snack bar was just terrific. Sharing space with a small arcade, this is where young Becky hunted her first boyfriend. (Chip, the guy working the counter. Love that cook’s cap, Chip. I’m not sure that you’re wearing it correctly, but I do so love it.)
The snack bar offers all of the bowling alley staples: Fries, hot dogs, burgers and popcorn. Despite these options, Roseanne settles on two bags of pretzels and some beef jerky. I think going to a bowling alley snack bar and buying the only two things that weren’t trademarks of it was the absolute worst thing Roseanne ever did.
The arcade is great, too. (Look close and you’ll notice the common sitcom trick of masking real life logos, so what was obviously a legit Mario Bros. arcade cabinet became M—- Bros.)
I like how the snack bar tables are situated approximately eight inches from the arcade games, thereby guaranteeing constant battles between fry-eating families and button-mashing eight-year-olds. If you were smart, you’d just sit backwards at the counter and enjoy the show.
Seen in: Lovers’ Lane, Season 1. (1988)
Best time to eat there: I guess saying “when you go bowling” would be too easy, so I’ll pick Wednesday afternoon. The place will be empty, so your food won’t sit unattended long enough to make you worry about the many flies that potentially landed on it.
#3: Rodbell’s Restaurant!
For a time, the small restaurant inside Rodbell’s department store was one of the show’s hotspots. Roseanne worked there through nearly all of Season 3, alongside Bonnie and Leon — two characters who made strong enough impressions to stay in the show’s universe even after the restaurant closed.
Rodbell’s and its restaurant always struck me as stand-ins for Kmart and its “Eatery.” I’m not sure if the remaining Kmarts still have Eateries, but I loved those stupid places to death as a kid. Where else could you chow down on the world’s worst burger and a cherry ICEE under the faint glow of exactly one overhead light?
Every time a scene was set in Rodbell’s, you could practically smell the dried ketchup and hot dog water. It made you want to hop in your car and zip to the sketchiest diner, every time, without fail. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the show lost a step pretty much at the precise moment that Rodbell’s closed.
Seen in: Various episode throughout Season 3. (1990 – 1991)
Best time to eat there: When you’re out shopping, but have dinner plans at a healthy friend’s house later that day.
#4: The Lobo Lounge!
The Lobo Lounge wasn’t technically a restaurant, but I know I’ve seen people eating in there. The dive bar appeared many times and in nearly every season, serving as the one “not a house” setting where Dan and Roseanne relaxed instead of worked. (Well, except in these photos, taken from the episode where Roseanne did work there. Poor Rosey.)
It had all the hallmarks of a great dive bar. Incongruous decorations covering literally everything! Underage drinking! Pleasant regulars and asshole strangers! A pool table that left players with no room to shoot! A broken jukebox! Weird old guys hitting on every female!
We’ve all been in bars like the Lobo Lounge. Some of us are lucky enough to have a Lobo Lounge to call our own. Me? I’m still looking for mine. A bar within walking distance, where half the people know my name and the other half infuriate me. A place where I could order a martini and get it in a beer stein.
Really, the only thing missing is Phoebe Cates with a Polaroid camera.
Seen in: Various episodes throughout the series. (Starting in 1988.)
Best time to eat there: Since the menu is so limited, I guess you’d want to eat at the Lobo directly after eating someplace else.
#5: The Lanford Lunch Box!
Perhaps most famous of all was the Lanford Lunch Box, owned by Roseanne, Jackie, Nancy, and Roseanne’s mom, and Leon, and probably sixteen other people, because Lord knows that a tiny loose meat sandwich joint rakes in enough profits to split four ways.
Unfortunately, the Lunch Box never resonated with me as much as it did with others, since it was based on trends from parts of the country that I’ve scarcely visited. On the other hand, it’s hard not to adore the idea of a restaurant that sells dry Sloppy Joes, pie, coffee, and literally nothing but those three things.
Seen in: Various episodes throughout Seasons 5-8. (Starting in 1992.)
Best time to eat there: The morning after a bender, when you’re on the ride home, and you know you won’t make it unless you fill your insides with unbelievably regrettable dining choices.
Thank you for reading about five restaurants from Roseanne. If you think about it, I probably owe you some cash.