In February 2009, ABC News reported two million free Grand Slams were served on the Tuesday after Super Bowl XLIII between 6 am to 2 pm (a 30-second ad promoting free Grand Slam was shown during Super Bowl).
Denny’s originally opened as a donut shop in Lakewood, California in 1954
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Whether eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Denny’s restaurant has become synonymous with family and friends get-togethers. Locally, the restaurant is also a great pitstop after a night out in downtown Vancouver (pre-pandemic that is). This year marks 45 years since the debut of the Original Grand Slam combo dish.
In a January 2022 article on mashed.com, the Original Grand Slam first appeared at Denny’s restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia in 1977—in honour of baseball legend, Hank Aaron. Three years earlier, Aaron broke the legendary Babe Ruth’s home run record (714 home runs). Aaron, who stood six-feet-tall and weighed 180 pounds played 23 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers. He finished with 755 career home runs, second all-time behind Barry Bonds (762 home runs).
The Original Grand Slam comprises two eggs, two buttermilk pancakes, two bacon strips and two sausage links. Notably, two months after the pandemic began, Denny’s Canada posted on Twitter—offering for one day on May 4, 2020, a free Original Grand Slam for all first responders and healthcare workers: “Today is Slam Day at Denny’s! We want to thank First Responders and Healthcare Workers today with a FREE Original Grand Slam Breakfast at participating Denny’s locations.”
Denny’s has a long and rich history of serving customers since the 1950s. According to the official Denny’s US website, the restaurant was founded in Lakewood, California in 1953 by owners Richard Jezak and Harold Butler—with Jezak leaving the business in 1956. But it was not called Denny’s, but a donut and coffee shop called Danny’s Donuts. According to a January 2014 article published on kcet.org, it was a modest, 900-square foot restaurant.
In a May 2012 interview with LA Magazine (uploaded on YouTube), Nancy Jezak-Grgas, daughter of Richard Jezak, displayed a newspaper ad promoting the grand opening of Danny’s Donuts at the corner of Del Amo and Bellflower Boulevard in Lakewood, California on July 30, 1954. The ad also stated free donuts and coffee for the first weekend; and a ten-cent discount off a dozen donuts. Jezak-Grgas also remembered when she was four years old, her father had attended donut school before opening the first location: “He came back with his friend, and they had big white hats on and aprons. And they were just so excited because they were going to [open] a donut shop.”
In 1956, it was renamed Danny’s Coffee Shops and operated 24 hours a day—sandwiches, burgers and other items were later added to the menu. In 1959, the name was changed to avoid confusion with another popular competing restaurant in Los Angeles called Coffee Dan’s. According to Laurie Pasiuk, editor of the 2005 book, Vault Guide to the Top Hospitality & Tourism Industry Employers, another reason the name was changed was to settle a lawsuit by Coffee Dan’s over naming rights. Danny’s Coffee Shops was now called Denny’s Coffee Shops. Two years later, the name was changed again to Denny’s—and the rest is history.
However, there appears to be inconsistency about how many years Jezak worked with Harold Butler. The official Denny’s US website stated Jezak left the company early in 1956. Yet, Nancy Jezak-Grgas said her father worked with Harold Butler for a decade. “[My] Dad left Denny’s after about 10 years to pursue other interests,” she said. “And [also] so he could be closer to home; because Denny’s was expanding quickly and his job was to [open] new franchises. And he was travelling all over the place. So, he had four children at home and he wanted to be closer to home. So, [that is why] he left the company.” Also, OJ Freed, an original investor in Danny’s Donuts, confirmed Jezak was involved with the first five stores (a total of six stores to begin with) and then, “Harold bought him out.”
Interestingly, according to the franchise website for Denny’s Canada, the first Canadian Denny’s restaurant opened in Vancouver in 1970. And on the official Denny’s Canada website, it states it is proud of its accomplishments: “Denny’s Restaurants have been providing guests with great food at a great value and is constantly working towards becoming the world’s largest, most admired local restaurant brands. With over 70 locations across Canada, there are plenty of opportunities to experience the best in family dining.” And the popularity of the Original Grand Slam has not diminished. Notably, in February 2009, ABC News reported two million free Grand Slams were served on the Tuesday after Super Bowl XLIII between 6 am to 2 pm (a 30-second ad promoting free Grand Slam was shown during Super Bowl).
Lastly, if you are in the mood to celebrate the Original Grand Slam with friends and family, you can order the Grand Slam pack for four people for $46.99 (before tax). Takeout orders placed on dennys.ca via Denny’s xDine will receive a 15 percent discount. And even reading what the Grand Slam pack entails will make your salivary glands overflow like waves striking Waikiki Beach: “Served Family-Style. Four orders of Denny’s Original Grand Slam®. Each person enjoys two buttermilk pancakes, two eggs, a choice of two bacon strips or two sausage links and a choice of hash browns or red-skin potatoes.” Or you can build your own Grand Slam, and choose four items and make it your own—just like Hank Aaron did—when he built his legacy as one of the greatest home run hitters of all time.