Royal Castle Returns

Royal Castle is back.

You know, the tiny hamburger smothered with onions that you dreamed about after, well, a little glowing preparation. The one you could buy anywhere in Dade County from the 1950s till 1977.

Arnold's Royal Castle, the tiny restaurant on the corner of NW Seventh Avenue and 124th Street in North Miami, quietly opened January 1 for the first time since a fire gutted the place three and a half years ago. There were 904 customers on opening day. "It's doing more business than ever before," owner Wayne Arnold says. "Unbelievable."

Arnold, now 70 years old and living in Davie, went to work for Royal Castle back in 1961, when the burger that costs 99 cents went for 15 pennies. The company moved him around the South until Burger Chef bought it in 1973 and then declared bankruptcy four years later. He was fired.

Arnold bought the North Miami place in 1980 and reopened it in 1982. For the next 23 years, it was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It burned in late 2005 after a storage room fire.

"Now everything's new except the floor," Arnold says. The menu is the same, though, except for the chicken wings. Birch beer that once went for seven cents a glass now goes for $1.49, "but that's with all the refills you can get," Arnold notes.

Of course, trouble still looms. There's only one other Royal Castle in Miami-Dade — at NW 79th Street and 27th Avenue. "I don't know if they even have rights to the name," manager Laverne Wright says. "We have a long history here."

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse

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