"There's something about Kenny King's you’ll love."
If you grew up or lived in Northeast Ohio from the '50s through the '90s, you were familiar with the jingle of the restaurant chain that provided workers something different for lunch and moms a break from the kitchen while not sacrificing quality when it came to feeding their families.
Kenny King’s first area location in 1950 was a drive-in in the West Park neighborhood, and once King purchased the rights to the Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe from Harlan Sanders, Kenny King's branched out into the family-style concept that made them a staple all over Northeast Ohio. This allowed them to become in essence the successful franchise restaurant concept in the area.
Kenny King's had the exclusive rights to the KFC recipe for 40+ years. This star power at the top of their menu, along with their “Big King” steakburger, made them the dining destination spot.
Families, first dates, Friday night hangouts... Kenny King's had something for everyone as they evolved from their beginnings as a carhop-style food stop to the full-service restaurants that sprouted up all over the area, maintaining that presence until the last one closed in 2004.
I was very familiar with the one in Bedford, as it was there for all my gatherings throughout high school until its closing in the early part of the '80s. We used to go there after high school football games in the fall, after riding down Tinkers Creek on our inflatable rafts in the summers, and even as a hangout spot after seeing the new movies at either the Southgate, Mapletown or Stillwell theaters. Truth be told, there seemed to be a single-screen theater on just about every corner, all showing the latest new releases.
Kenny King's had a truly amazing run in the Cleveland area. One can only speculate on what motivated Kenny King to secure the KFC rights in the early '50s, but his vision clearly panned out, and his son Kenny King Jr. maintained the momentum after taking over the chain upon his father’s passing in 1972.
Last but not least, Kenny King's was also known and appreciated mostly by moms for their nicely designed plates, saucers and coffee cups that made the experience complete. Each plate and cup had the colorful logo design that greeted guests and just made you feel welcome.
If you happen to be a fan of antique malls or shows in the area, you might just come across someone selling some of the old dinner plates, cups, or saucers. One thing is for sure, if you did grow up in the area from the late '50s through the late '90s and you come across some of these lasting symbols of the restaurants, I’m sure it will bring a smile to your face because of the memories it will recall.