Some of the earliest complaints from guests when Great Adventure first opened were the long lines for food from the park's limited numbered of eateries. This problem was lessened over the next three seasons with the construction of several food stands. However, it wasn't until 1978 when Six Flags purchased Great Adventure and added fifteen new buildings that the issue of long food lines was truly addressed. The largest of these new facilities was the Lightnin' Loops Cafe.
When Great Adventure was built in 1974, the park ended at the Gingerbread Fancy restaurant. With numerous expansions in the following seasons, the Enchanted Forest's boundaries were extended beyond this major restaurant. To hide the backstage service areas, a second restaurant was constructed facing in the opposite direction.
To accompany the new Lightnin' Loops roller coaster, the Lightnin' Loops Cafe was added. It opened with the debut of the first loop (lower loop) on June 23rd, 1978. The restaurant was strategically located across from the coaster's entrance to handle the expected additional crowds. Since many guests couldn't muster the courage to ride a looping roller coaster, those waiting for friends and family members to return from the ride filled the tables. The menu included a specialty item known as the Lightnin' Loops Burger.
The Lightnin' Loops Cafe facility was initially configured with four queue lines and four cash register. It was remodeled after its third season from a walk-in cafeteria style restaurant to a counter service location. A serving area cover was constructed to provide shelter from sun and rain.
In 1992, the Lightnin' Loops Cafe was re-themed and renamed River Bank Cafe to match the recently added Adventure Rivers section, one season prior to the removal of the Lightnin' Loops coasters. From 1992 to 2007, park maps listed the River Bank Cafe as the River Bank Country Kitchen.
Over time the restaurant has been upgraded and modernized with new equipment as the menus changed. New windows, new menu boards, and new tables were often added. The surrounding area was also changed over time with the path along one side being realigned after the creation of Movie Town.
1978-1991 Lightnin' Loops Cafe
1992-2007 Riverbank Cafe
(Riverbank Country Kitchen)
2008-2010 Johnny Rockets &
2011-Present Johnny Rockets &
in 2007, Six Flags management began introducing brand name eateries to
all their theme parks. Numerous food outlets throughout the park
were transformed from in-house operated facilities to in-park food
For the 2008 season, the cafe saw the biggest changes in its lifetime as it became side-by-side Johnny Rockets and Papa John's locations. The restaurant was split down the center with the two restaurants sharing a kitchen area while operating separately. The building was given a large addition on the Johnny Rockets end disrupting its original symmetry. In addition, the building was repainted red with green trim on the Papa John's side and white with red trim on the Johnny Rockets side.
As a part of the transformation, the patio area was updated with new tables and super sized umbrellas as well as a surrounding wall of benches to help isolate diners from the passing crowds and limiting the flow of traffic.