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The Whale's Tail / Rubino's Italian Restaurant, 11210 Broad River Road (I-26 exit 97): 1980s   29 comments

Posted at 11:11 pm in Uncategorized

We never ate at The Whale's Tail growing up. I wasn't a big seafood fan (which is to say I refused to eat the stuff), and my parents didn't push the issue too often (in fact we used to go to Oliver's Lodge before 5pm because I could get spaghetti before 5 but not after. (Which really sounds odd to me at this remove, but I'm pretty sure thats right..).

Anyway, while I never went there, I used to see the billboards from time to time, and I decided to go looking for it today. The old phonebooks (the above ad is from the 1977 one) never give a real street address for it (it was pretty far out in the boonies back in the day) but I took exit 97 both ways and didn't see anything that looked probable. There's certainly a lot of new construction in the area, and I suspect the building must have been torn down long ago. Can anyone confirm or refute that? The only possible place I saw was Little Pigs barbecue which looked to be the right vintage, but I always imagined The Whale's Tail as a bigger building.

UPDATE 27 May 2010: Added shots of Little Pigs which turns out to be the old Whale's Tail building.

UPDATE 15 February 2012: The Italian restaurant was Rubino's Italian Restaurant and I have added it to the post title along with the full Broad River Road street address.

Written by ted on May 16th, 2010

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29 Responses to 'The Whale's Tail / Rubino's Italian Restaurant, 11210 Broad River Road (I-26 exit 97): 1980s'

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  1. The map is pretty much dead on as to the location. I believe it is indeed the Little Pigs, but they might have scaled back the size, because, as you have inferred, it had a pretty good sized seating area. Also, I think it was actually open into the mid 1990s, but several other restaurants have also tried that location, including one that I think was pizza-themed around 2000 (don't recall the name).

    badger

    17 May 10 at 10:26 am

  2. Yeah, I remember the pizza themed one. Never ate there, but I think I did pull over coming back from the upstate once (and having already eaten) to see what it looked like (not that I can actually *rember* what it looked like now..) I certainly had no idea it was the old WT. I'll have to get a shot of Little Pigs to add here..

    ted

    17 May 10 at 1:01 pm

  3. The Little Pigs location is indeed the old Whale's Tail.

    Thomas

    17 May 10 at 5:23 pm

  4. I went inside Little Pigs recently and they have photos of the Whales Tail on the walls. You can also see some nautical-themed decorating elements on the inside that have several coats of paint over them.

    Brad

    17 May 10 at 5:59 pm

  5. I remember eating at The Whale's tail many years ago. But i had forgotten where it exactly was located. Thanks for the details.

    Sammy

    18 May 10 at 11:27 am

  6. The "pizza" place was very short-lived. I know there was a place with a woman's name that served pizza, steaks, seafood, etc. but am not sure if there were two establishments after The Whale's Tail. I think that it was. The Whale's Tail billboard was on 26 before the Peak Exit for many years after it closed. It was definitely locally owned, but I cannot recall the name. Kinda a "something for everyone" type place, like Chili's and the like, but not a chain. So if you didn't like Italian, there were always other choices. This is going to bother me. I will have to research. Before Little Pigs, it had the sign posted that they were "remodeling" but that never transpired.

    Jonathan

    18 May 10 at 11:38 am

  7. Okay, I was able to track one of the names as "Rubino's Italian," but there was also a restaurant that had a woman's name as the name of the eatery. I guess I'll have to hit the RCPL soon.

    Jonathan

    18 May 10 at 4:14 pm

  8. Wow what a memory !!!! Have not thought about this place in years. I remember going there in the 70's, they had an all you can eat menu; Consumed a "boatload" of boiled shrimp in this place.

    Swampy Bob

    27 May 10 at 9:01 pm

  9. This is the Whale's Tail. I should know, this was my first job as a teenager back in the early-70's. I was a short order cook in the front kitchen. I was always amazed at the amount of people that would line up around the building every night. I do have some horror stories about the place (which I will keep to myself, but they managed to keep an 'A' or 'B' rating most of the time). Working there did spark my interest in cooking; which I have to this day; even though I couldn't look at seafood for months after I quit. I am going to have to check out Little Pigs to see what the old place looks like!! Wonder if they will let me look out back where the really SCARY stuff was??

    Homer

    16 Aug 10 at 12:12 am

  10. I lived pretty close to there and we ate there a lot. But I did have a friend who waitressed there and said she would never eat there based on what she saw in the kitchen. I told her never to tell me because we loved it there. We also loved the cedar cabin (closed), and Jack's diner (still open but only on weekends).

    kathy

    25 Jun 11 at 4:05 pm

  11. I have to say that this was a traditional stop for my family on the way to the beach. Mom and dad loved the oyster stew (which many pearls were found) and my mamaw could make a meal on the hush puppies. As to reply to Jonathan's post, if my memory serves me correct (I'm only 31 so it isn't too bad, yet) I think after it closed, it became Kathryns (not sure how to spell it). Never ate there after The Whale Tail closed.

    Kevin Thomas

    3 Dec 11 at 9:28 pm

  12. Has anyone every done any research on Jack's Diner in Chapin? My folks used to take me there religiously when I was growing up to partake of the fried baby catfish that they used to specialize in. I know that they closed last year and, supposedly, they gave the catfish recipe to Little Pigs when they were occupying this building. It was located at 209 Chapin Rd. (Hwy 76). I only have one image that I have pulled off of the net. Hopefully, here it is. I remember it being a sort of yucky sea foam green when I was younger but this is definitely the building.

    Homer

    27 Apr 12 at 12:38 am

  13. I've seen some work going on at this building recently, anyone know what's going in there now?

    Ryan

    2 Sep 12 at 1:33 pm

  14. Coming October 2012, Cletus' Roadside Grille. Check them out on Facebook!

    Pent

    17 Sep 12 at 9:35 pm

  15. Serving breakfast all day, lunch and dinner items, family setting with attached banquet room and separate bar area. Come and meet Cletus!!

    PDent

    17 Sep 12 at 9:39 pm

  16. After finding a whales tail shirt at the goodwill today in southwest Va. I was very interested in finding out if it was a seafood restaurant. I am very heart broken to find out that it is closed down, but I really love the baby blue tee with a whale on the front and back. Did the waitresses wear this shirt??

    Noelle

    26 Oct 12 at 8:21 pm

  17. I think they were sold mostly as souvenirs. Some of the waitresses may have worn them but for the most part the they wore your typical white blouse and black pants. The cooks, we wore whatever, usually blue jeans and a tee shirt. I am surprised that you found one. That is amazing since I worked there in the early 70's. Not sure how many years they sold them.

    Homer

    19 Nov 12 at 10:47 pm

  18. I remember TheWhale's Tail. In the 80s options for beach travelers were few and far between. We were starving and my mom saw the billboards and followed the directions into what was then the boonies. It was one of the worst food experiences, which is why to this day we have a running joke about the place. Had it been just mediocre or even good we would not have this collective memory. Rotten mayo in the coleslaw. Yucky fried shrimp- the kind bought already breaded and died. Salad bar with flies. Yep, good times.

    Loni

    29 Jul 14 at 8:06 am

  19. Dang Loni - I thought it was bad in the 70's, but your comments made it sound like a 5 Star establishment when I worked there in '73.

    Homer

    2 Aug 14 at 1:07 am

  20. Now I feel bad! But truly appreciate the place because my mom, brother and I have a beach memory together that doesn't involve raccoons! The tshirts sounded cute!

    Loni

    3 Aug 14 at 4:32 am

  21. @Loni - no need to feel bad. Back in the 70's the place really packed them in. There was a line every weekend night waiting to get in. And, honestly, the food wasn't that bad in the 70's despite sub-standard equipment and working environment as well as the owners' penchant for cutting corners any way possible. The owners were the nicest people you would ever want to know and everyone in the area back then knew them. It does sound like it really went downhill in the later years prior to its closing.

    BTW - the kids t-shirts were really cute!! I think they even had some for babies....

    Homer

    4 Aug 14 at 12:05 am

  22. Ah the Whale's Tale run by good ol Mr. Lever...worked there at 13 for cash the year he sold to Mrs. Kathryn making it "Kathryn's". Worked for her too, sweet woman. Mr. Lever continued to hang around for food and giving business tips for a bit. I can imagine it was difficult to let go of his beloved piece of Chapin history. I miss the sweetheart cook, Ms. Essie...she was like a Momma lookin out for me. I started eating there before I could walk. My dad looooves to share the story of my huge consumption of hush puppies which didn't stop until I projectile vomitted all over the table! LoL Of course with all the southern charm and well known family of mine, no one was offended just wanted to make sure the "cute baby" was ok! Don't know what happened for Kathryn to shut down. Several restaraunts have attempted and didn't stay long. Now it's Yard Birds, the wings are awesome! I came across this trying to figure out if Mrs. Lever still runs the antique doll shop they opened next door after saying goodbye to the Whale's Tale...

    Kirsten

    3 Dec 15 at 9:27 pm

  23. Here is the doll shop.

    ted

    3 Dec 15 at 11:06 pm

  24. The doll's eyes just freak me out. It looks like she could be another Chucky. I would not want that thing staring back at me!!

    Homer

    4 Dec 15 at 3:28 am

  25. @Homer - OO

    Rick

    4 Dec 15 at 6:26 pm

  26. I remember stopping to eat lunch at the Whale's Tale in 1975 while traveling with my grandmother from Marion, south Carolina to visit relatives in Greenville. I remember the restaurant being kind of out in the middle of nowhere at the time too. They must have had fried chicken on the menu as an option for fish, since I didn't eat seafood at the time, and would always order fried chicken. What really stands out in my mind about the experience was a quarter we received back in change when we paid for our meal. On the Tail's side of the quarter was a red sticker that said the Whale's Tale and showed the Whale's Tale emblem. I remember taking it for show and tell during my first grade class at Aversboro Elementary school in the fall of 1975.

    James McColl

    8 Aug 16 at 9:47 pm

  27. God, James, I had totally forgotten about those stickers!! They used to put them to all of the quarters that they passed out as change for advertising. They did have some good fried chicken. It was pressure fried ala KFC. That was the same way they cooked the 'whaler' tater's which were basically a crinkle cut quarter of a whole russet potato. Sort of like a french fry and a baked potato all in one.

    Homer

    10 Aug 16 at 12:00 am

  28. I was the head line cook at the WT in the mid-90's (as the place was shuddering to a stop) and can affirm that it was shockingly filthy. We actually had a dedicated sieve to seperate the German cockroaches out of the fryer breading. Captain Lever (who was an awful boss, but had nothing on his wife, who carried a .357 with a 7" barrel daily) was in open denial about the issues in the back, saying that the cockroach issue was no big deal, as they were just "babies" compared to the larger Palmetto bugs. Mrs. Essie used to boil chitlins in the water we cooked crab legs in. Cpt. Lever's brother, Richard, used to fry pork brains on the flat top we cooked burgers on, without cleaning it. When we got too many orders for burgers and the flat top was full, we'd deep fry them to order. There was a loose wire in the kitchen that made it so that if you touched a fry basket and a plate at the same time, you'd get a 220 volt shock, which routinely knocked me to the floor during service. One of my co-workers absconded after the FBI started looking for him after he'd gotten hired without a background search, and turned out to be an active pedophile on the run. Cpt. Lever would disallow, but still charge those he felt took advantage of all you can eat promotions (3 plates was the limit). We refused service to blacks. I ate a lot, and I mean exclusively, of canned clam chowder.

    Hugh

    6 Oct 16 at 10:50 am

  29. Sounds like nothing much changed from the 70's.....

    Homer

    7 Oct 16 at 12:03 am

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