Pieces of the Past: The Red Barn

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There is an office for a local construction contractor company on Pennsylvania Avenue East. If you’re a part of one age group, the building was once Noiban’s. I remember it as the Red Barn.

Red Barn restaurants were founded in 1961 by Don Six, Jim Kris, and Martin Levine in Dayton, Ohio. By 1963 the trio decided to try their hand at franchising. Before McDonald’s, Wendy’s, or Burger King found their way to Warren a franchiser found Warren. Seeing United Refinery as an immediate source of traffic it was decided to build Warren’s first fast-food burger chain across the street.

Red Barn in Warren remained alive longer than any of the other Red Barns in the region. It featured a good menu of burgers, chicken, and fresh fries. Prices for a single cheeseburger were low enough that you could find enough money for one in the cushions of your sofa! Depending on who you asked, Red Barn’s Big Barney was created before McDonald’s Big Mac. A Barnful of Chicken was a great dinner all by itself.

I worked at the Red Barn for a few weeks one summer. My main job was running a cash register, but I also did a variety of things. I made a lot of french fries! We would get huge Idaho potatoes in 50-pound bags. We’d load a bag of spuds into a chute up in the attic. All anyone needed to do was open the chute and a batch of raw potatoes would fall out into our “peeler.” This amounted to a stone turntable inside a tubular container.

The turntable was engaged and the potatoes would bounce around and the peel would be ground to a pulp. Then we would take each potato and put it into a hand slicer that would make 4-6 perfect raw fries that would fall into a wire basket. Then once the basket was full we’d pre-cook or blache the fries. Eventually, they’d be cooked a second time and dumped into the stainless steel bin to be scooped up and bagged.

Red Barn just didn’t have the corporate financial strength of McDonald’s, Wendy’s, or Burger King and died a natural death in 1988. I would put a Big Barney up against a Big Mac and the Big Barney would win. Red Barn was the first to try deep-fried cherry and apple pies for dessert. They tried a lot of menu additions including pizza and breakfast sandwiches. All in all if you were a broke hungry kid you could get “MORE OF WHAT YOU’RE HUNGERIN’ FOR AT RED BARN”