Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant:
As the longest-standing theme park restaurant in history, it buries other hallowed eateries, and admission’s not even required. It can seat up to 1,000 customers at a time. The restaurant and bar, which only closes on Christmas, serves about 1,000 birds a day. The nearly 84-year-old restaurant is perched outside this regional theme park, which got its footing on the back of Cordelia and Walter Knott’s 10-acre farm of berry crops. In the 1920s, the couple sold fruit, jam, sweets, and biscuits to passersby from a farm stand. They eventually expanded with a stock of berry plants sold out of a stucco building that included an onsite tea room. To supposedly help with funds during the Great Depression, Cornelia added her homemade fried chicken to the menu in the summer of 1934, serving each 65-cent meal atop her own wedding china.
Success came shortly thereafter, and three years later, the tea room transformed into a full-fledged restaurant. By 1940, Mrs. Knott’s was serving 4,000 chicken dinners every Sunday to unfathomably large crowds that waited outside and wandered through Knott’s Berry Place, a shopping mall filled with small town bric-a-brac and home goods that stands to this day.
The Knotts never set out to abandon their origins as berry farmers. The theme park merely served as a preoccupation for entertaining chicken-seeking crowds.
There are plenty of menu choices at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, but everyone’s here for $21.99 headliner, which it serves all day. It comes with three pieces of the crispy good stuff along with salad, rhubarb, veggies, mashed potatoes, pie, and unlimited biscuits. The menu has barely evolved over time, merely adding substitutions of chicken noodle soup and sherbet and a choice of corn or cabbage with ham. The chicken recipe has only changed to remove one ingredient: lard.