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Wimpy Bars

This time, we'll get it with friesA child of that weird part of the 1950s when Britain was obsessed with all things American but, in trying to slavishly replicate US culture, ended up with something more tyically British than ever by accident. Hence Cliff Richard, hence the Austin Princess, and hence the Wimpy bar. Strangely named after a fat, dishonest mate of Popeye, the Wimpy bar began life as a little nugget of American fast food vending within that most British of instituons, the Lyons Corner House. They got the whole ‘burger in a bap’ concept, but fatally added such unmistakably Imperial elements as waitress service, cutlery, their own patented beefy brunch bender and Brown Derby dessert, and jaundiced cartoon beefeater mascot Mr Wimpy, as impersonated by many a cash-strapped teenager reluctantly trudging up the High Street in a big sweaty costume. Rumours that the whole enterprise was concocted by MacDonalds all along to make their own salty invasion seem like a blessed relief remain the stuff of sesame-seeded rumour.

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Applemask

    August 9, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Still around, still selling double-decker sandwiches with a burger on the bottom and a fried egg on the top, which I find genuinely frightening for no obvious reason. Also “Come On Over” was mid-eighties, or at least it started then, replacing the altogether too quaint for its own good “Greatest Burgers Under the Bun”.

  2. Mags

    August 9, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    It surprised me when I discovered that the Lyons Corner House, that staple of all things Waugh and Christie were the people behind the Wimpy Bar. It has so many memories of being the most exciting thing in the world (it was the only burger bar in our town in the 80’s) but now, what do you say about it now?

  3. Arthur Nibble

    August 10, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Three Wimpys have opened this year, in Barnstaple, Doncaster and Twickenham – and there was me thinking they were a dying breed!

  4. David Smith

    August 10, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    Jaundiced cartoon beefeater Mr Wimpy may have been, but did Ronald McDonald ever inspire a ZX Spectrum computer game? 😉

  5. Applemask

    August 10, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Probably. But Wimpy’s was almost certainly better.

    He’s obviously meant to be J. Wellington Wimpy, but also for legal purposes not J. Wellington Wimpy at all what are you talking about no.

  6. Iain Griffiths

    November 21, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Wimpy were great in their classic early 80’s pomp. Had my 9th birthday party in one with a couple of school friends ( and in the strange world that it is, one of them was Thomas Ap Rhys Price; the guy who got stabbed to death a couple of years ago, he ate a whole banana longboat to himself. ).

    There are a couple where I live but due to where they actually are I’ve not visited one , which is a bit sad . I will try to rectify as soon as possible.

  7. Manny Fagnett

    January 18, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Ahhh Wimpy! With the half pounder burger (Always bought one after a night on the pop but never fully finished eating one) Their fish & chips in a box and the veggie burger (Which wasn’t too bad).
    I think you may also still find them at a few motorway services. Birmingham has no more Wimpys (To my knowledge)

  8. Enoch S

    February 10, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    A couple of times in my childhood we took holidays in London (I’m a Northern lad, tha kno’s). The only place you could find Wimpy bars in 1969 (I think). For me they made the place even more exotic than Carnaby Street.

  9. televisualcabbage

    February 10, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Patrotic always to have a spicy bean burger…. If McDonalds was the American diner…
    Then Wimpy with Mr Wimpy was like Sid’s Cafe with Sid sweating away in the suit and then going back to flipping the burgers…

    Though I’m tempted by a Brown Derby….

  10. Lee James Turnock

    July 20, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Dudley Moore was a short-order chef for Wimpy’s in the film Bedazzled, and if that doesn’t coat this British brand with a slender layer of vicarious cool, then I don’t know what does.

  11. Arthur Nibble

    July 20, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Joe Dolce managed the Wimpy in Ashford, Middlesex and had a gold disc for ‘Shaddap You Face’ on one of the walls. Couldn’t imagine that happening inside a KFC or McDonalds.

  12. sb2009

    July 21, 2010 at 9:07 am

    ‘Mr Wimpy, as impersonated by many a cash-strapped teenager’

    Sigh…. that would be me then. 1987-1989, up and down Market Street, Manchester ( We were told, ‘don’t go near Mcdonalds, it will provoke them !’) and kids parties.

    Overriding memory, is kids punching the costume(it was a solid thing you put over your head) and saying ‘ That ain’t Mr Wimpy, someone’s in it’

  13. Andy

    July 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    …don’t forget the sublime Lime flavour milkshake…

    Where else but Wimpy?

  14. Richard Davies

    August 10, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Most of them became Burger King in the early 1990s, the last old school one I saw was in Northamptonshire in 1998.

    My Dad can remember when they first opened the burgers used to taste like they had crushed up Oxo cubes in them.

    Bill Bryson mentions that they seemed to have had their recipes telexed over from America, with a faulty connection messing things up.

  15. Blofelt

    September 28, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Wimpy’s brown derby mmmmmmmmmmmm.
    Allways preferred Casey Jones burger bars when I could find one,the Casey Jones veggie burger was awesome,they were all turned into Burger King some time ago.

  16. Richard Davies

    September 29, 2010 at 9:53 am

    I remember Casey Jones burgers at the bigger railway stations in the 1980s.

    I used to have a Rail Riders magazine around with a full page advert for CJB.

  17. Kaye

    May 27, 2011 at 3:56 am

    My sister used have to dress up as Mr Wimpy in Sunderland town centre in the 80s, its now a burger king, and she doesnt work there anymore.

  18. Adrian Lane

    June 7, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    there’s one in ryde isle of wight

  19. Leebo

    September 10, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    I remember the Wimpy in Newport, Gwent still being open when I started work in 1998, my on-off girlfriend at the time worked there. It was awful, not a patch on the Mcdonalds further up the high street. It’s long gone now, think the building is being used by one of those Starbucks-esque coffee chains (though I could be wrong…)

  20. The Haj

    September 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Wimpy was also the nickname given to the Vickers Wellington bomber by RAF crews during World War Two. It was designed by Barnes ‘Dambuster’ Wallis….

  21. Richard Davies

    September 12, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    A couple of week ago me & my girlfriend went to the one in Marlow for a some milkshakes.

  22. THX 1139

    September 12, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Lauren Laverne has a hilarious anecdote about Mr Wimpy.

  23. Applemask

    June 17, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    You’re right, that is hilarious.

  24. Pete L

    October 12, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    There was one in my town centre up until quite recently when it was closed down & replaced with some crap cafe. The kind that stays open for 6 months then closes and is replaced with more of the same

  25. Harold Steptoe

    April 12, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    The one at the top of Market Street in Manchester (opposite the original HMV and next to Boots) was good… Now we have to make do with MuckDonald’s, Sushi crap, and Fish and Chips for over a fiver….

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