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The Sambo's Restaurant chain was founded in 1957. The restaurant's name came from an abbreviation of the owners names: Sam Battistone and Newell Bohnett. However, the chain quickly became associated with the story of Little Black Sambo. The restaurants were decorated with scenes of the Indian boy and Tigers. By 1979, there were about 1,200 locations nationwide. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, lawsuits and political pressure led the company to change its image. However, the rebranding was unsuccessful. By 1982, there was only one location left - the original, in Santa Barbara, CA. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2.

Santa Barbara, CA
This Sambo's is the chain's original location. It was built in 1957. For more, see this website.

former Sambo's
Reno, NV
This former Sambo's now houses the Asian Garden Restaurant.

former Sambo's
Sparks, NV
This former Sambo's now houses Jack's Coffee Shop.

former Sambo's
Fairfield, CA
This Fairfield former Sambo's is now the Fire Pit Restaurant. Previously, it was known as the Pacific Rice Kitchen.

former Sambo's
San Jose, CA
This San Jose former Sambo's now houses Bo Town, a Vietnamese restaurant. The original sign has been adapted. For more, see this website.

former Sambo's
Ukiah, CA
This former Sambo's was most recently Zack's Family Restaurant. As of 2008, it was being remodeled. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2.

Acapulco Mexican Restaurant
Orlando, FL
Aurora Rents
Seattle, WA
The Acapulco Mexican Restaurant has the classic Sambo's accordion roof. Since this photo was taken in 2005, the restaurant is now known as the Presidential Diner and the building has been repainted. For more, see this website.

Aurora Rents moved into the building when the Aurora Family Restaurant closed in 2005. The restaurant was also previously known as the Traveler's Lounge. This Sambo's opened in 1963.

former Sambo's
Sacramento, CA


This former Sambo's was built in the mid-1960s and operated until around 1982. From 2007 until around 2013, the building housed the El Patron Bar & Grill. It was vacant when these photos were taken in 2014. For more, see these websites: 1, 2, 3, and 4.

China Buffet
Grants Pass, WA
Mel's Diner
Yakima, WA
The China Buffet occuipes another former Sambo's. Originally, there were letters spelling out the name SAMBOS on each of the blue pieces on the front of the roof.

Mel's Diner appears to be a former Sambo's or an imitation of the chain's design.

former Sambo's
Yuma, AZ
This former Sambo's was built in 1966 in conjunction with the Royal Inn next door. The building now houses the Burrito King restaurant. The sign was repurposed for Nick's Coffee Mill which must have preceded the Burrito King.

La Mina Mexican Restaurant
Bakersfield, CA
The La Mina Mexican Restaurant is another former Sambo's. The name change was a good fit for the sign's letters. The building was previously painted purple and white with orange and yellow trim. It was painted the colors shown above in 2008. For more, see this website.

former Sambo's
Azusa, CA


This former Sambo's has been here since at least the early 1970s. It was a Seasons restaurant for awhile, then a Godfather's Pizza, and then a Bakers Square. The building then sat for about ten years before becoming the Whole Enchilada. By 2011, the business had become Dalia's Italian Restaurant.

Pro Street Embroidery
Ogden, UT
Modesto Car Toys
Modesto, CA
Pro Street Embroidery is another former Sambo's building. For more, see this website.

Modesto Car Toys was originally built as a Sambo's restaurant. It is located next door to the former Tropics Motor Hotel which was built in 1961. This Sambo's was built at the same time. The building housed a Denny's later on. For more, see these website: 1 and 2.

More former Sambo's Restaurants:
Alameda, CA: 1, 2 [vintage]
Downey, CA: 1, 2 [vintage]
Fairfield, CA
San Jose, CA [vintage]
San Bernardino, CA [vintage]
Boise, ID
Lincoln City, OR: 1, 2 [never part of the chain]

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