I worked at Rax as a crew member in high school and college, off and on between 1988 and 1994. Naturally, the chain holds a dear place in my heart and it was sad to see its precipitous decline. Having last eaten at Rax in the early part of last decade before the last Rt 161 store in Columbus closed, I wanted to give the current rendition a try.
We were headed to home in Columbus from down South and made the LONG detour from the Rt. 33 bypass to visit Rax on the east side of Lancaster. The building was a classic store, complete with the trapezoid "Fast Food With Style" sign and solarium. There was a Ford T-Bird backed in with the tag "RAX 1", and I believe it was driven by Rich Donohue, the current trademark owner of Rax.
The decor in general was dated. Counters were peeling up, tile is tired, the restroom was barely passable. Some ceiling tiles were drooping, and the solarium looked like it had suffered a leak, and was devoid of ceiling fans. They did install flat-screen TVs which were playing a less-than-family-friendly Hong Kong flick. The super heavy chairs and tables have mercifully been replaced.
Gone was the salad bar from the center of the dining room. Probably for the best. Back in the day, it would take two crew members to keep it stocked, and it required about 50 different food items. It also generated a lot of dishes and food waste.
Peering into the "front line" area, the shake machine was identical to the ones I remember tearing down over 20 years ago. The iced tea machine, small coolers, heat lamps and potato steam drawer also appeared to be Reagan-era. The cash register had been updated with a Dell unit, and the fryers appeared to be ex-Wendy's equipment.
I ordered a BBC (Beef, Bacon and Cheddar) and chocolate chip shake. On the upside, the BBC was prepared using a sub-style corn dusted roll that had been properly toasted. The beef was stacked well, cooked properly and flavorful. On the downside, the cheddar was not the zingy "spread" style I recall. Nor was it the powered cheese sauce we used to use on the potatoes. It was somewhere inbetween and overall the sandwich was a reasonable facsimile to the original.
The shake, not so much. The original spec for the chocolate chip shake (or "chip shake") was to use about one ounce of chocolate "dip coating", the kind you would use to dip a soft serve ice cream cone in. The amount was critical, and we had a special pump just for what I feel was a signature item. The dip coating had to be kept warm all day. Some crew members would try and make it "better" with multiple pumps of coating, but that would just ruin it. We then topped with whipped cream, chocolate chips, and in the early days, a cherry.
Well...the current chip shake is just way too many chocolate chips mixed into thick vanilla shake mix with no topping. I couldn't finish the equivalent of half a bag of chips, and it was undrinkable via straw. Fail.
My wife had a regular Rax, hard to screw that up. The kids had chicken nuggets and fingers. The fingers were pretty good, the nuggets, although all-white-meat, had an odd flavor. The regular fries were very good. The Uncle Al meal now comes with a choice between cookies (Macadamia added to chocolate chip), it's nice to see they are still including dessert. I was surprised that the kids meal fries were the same size as with the combo meals.
At the condiment stand, the ketchup pump was not working very well. As I recall there is a ball bearing at the bottom of the dip tube, secured with a locking pin. Either that was installed incorrectly, or the pump wasn't generating enough vacuum to work properly. I would ditch the pump and go with packets...less maintenance and bacteria worries. The BBQ had a pump but horsey sauce was available in packets.
Speaking of pumps, for reasons unclear to this day, we ditched them around 1990 at the sandwich station in favor of spatulas. I think this was part of Rax's downfall...with a pump, each sandwich got the exact amount of mayo or other topping. With a spatula or knife, it was random. Consistency is key in fast food.
Pricing, then and now is a bit on the high side, but they still heavily use coupons to drive sales. There were quite a few items we didn't have like wraps and some fried items. So...eh, it was okay I guess. I could see occassionally making the detour from 33 for sentimental reasons, but not the chip shake.
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.