It's been a long 14 years for Rochester fast food fans with a taste for Hardee's.
The restaurant known for its outlandish hamburger creations such as the Mile High Bacon Thickburger closed its doors in the Med City abruptly in 2001. Three Hardee's in Rochester and one in Stewartville closed their doors after franchisee Andris-Crawford Enterprises re-organized during bankruptcy. The four restaurants had 95 employees when they closed up shop.
However, the over-the-top TV commercials still play locally, teasing people with gigantic mash-up burgers they can't have unless they drive to Winona or Austin.
And then the buzz started this summer that Hardee's and its smiley face star logo might be ready to make a comeback in Rochester.
Some calls to CKE Restaurants Inc., which owns St. Louis-based Hardee's and its California sibling Carl's Jr., eventually got a response in the form of a short email.
"We do have plans to open a Hardee's in the Rochester area in the coming future, but at this time we cannot share any specifics on an opening date. We will keep you updated," wrote Melissa Penn of Hardee's.
So they are coming back to town … soonish. There's no word on where in Rochester or if there might more than one coming.
Whenever and wherever Hardee's opens, it will find a much more competitive Med City than when it left 14 years ago.
Many local spots in Rochester are well-known for their burgers such as hometown favorite Newt's, Wildwood Sports Bar and Rooster's Barn and Grill. The number of McDonald's, Burger Kings and Culver's locations have grown.
In 2009, Five Guys Burgers arrived and threw down the burger battle gauntlet. This summer, the trendy Smashburger chain also confirmed it has plans to be in Rochester sometime in 2016.
I guess we'll see just how big of an appetite Rochester has for fast food burgers. — Jeff Kiger