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The History of Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant


The restaurant’s history dates back as far as 1920, when Walter and Cordelia Knott began farming 10 acres of leased land on Highway 39 in Buena Park. Way back in 1920, when the First World War was barely over, and a brand new automobile cost $350, the young farm couple had to struggle to make a living.

Desperate to make ends meet, Walter and Cordelia opened a small roadside stand where their usually fine rhubarb, asparagus, and berries sold better than they had hoped. Business was so good that Cordelia added hot biscuits and homemade preserves to fare offered customers at the roadside stand. Eventually, Cordelia moved her biscuit and jam business into an adjacent tea room.

Before long, folks began making special trips to sample the fancy crops this unknown farmer was growing. As 1927 rolled around, there were always visitors at the Knott’s place, and they made sure to stop at the tiny tea room for a lunch of Cordelia’s hot biscuits and berry jam.

In 1934, Walter harvested the very first crop of boysenberries, and they were an instant success. Cordelia decided it was time to expand her tea room, and began to cook the southern fried chicken dinners that would wake up a sleepy farm community called Buena Park and make the Knott name famous. On opening day, the restaurant served just eight, 65-cent chicken dinners on Cordelia’s own wedding china.

But word of these delicious dinners grew and by the 1940’s the lines at the Chicken Dinner Restaurant were so long that Walter and Cordelia felt they needed something to keep the guests entertained while they waited to get into the restaurant. The challenge of entertaining these growing crowds led Walter to create an authentic Old West Ghost Town adjacent to the restaurant. The town eventually grew into what is now the Knott’s Berry Farm Theme Park.

Today, the Chicken Dinner Restaurant seats more than 900 guests at a time, serves more than 1. 5 million guests each year, and is the largest full-service restaurant in California that serves chicken as its main course.

Over the years, Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant has hosted thousands of celebrities and VIPs, including: Elizabeth Taylor, Connie Stephens, Lucy Arnez, Donnie and Marie Osmond, John Wayne, Harriet Nelson, Burt Reynolds, Jane Russell, Natalie Wood, Charles Bronson, Amos and Andy, Eddie Fisher, Jonathan Winters, Chuck Norris, and many more.

Source: Knott’s Berry Farm

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