Valdosta Daily Times

Features

June 23, 2014

Meet the queen of King’s Grill

VALDOSTA — Every weekday morning at 8 o’clock, regulars start filling the booths and tables at King’s Grill for breakfast, a Valdosta tradition that stretches to 1941. Owner Pat Yeomans greets her customers every morning with a smile as she strives to keep the restaurant “just as it was.”

The King’s Grill is Valdosta’s oldest restaurant in operation, said Yeomans, and the blue lettering of its signage at the corner of North Patterson Street and Central Avenue is surely on the list of Valdosta’s most iconic images right along with Valdosta State University’s West Hall and a yellow Wildcat paw print.

The restaurant has been in Yeoman’s family for about 50 years. After spending 20 years as a nurse, Yeomans took the reins in 1985. Since, it has been nearly 30 years of early mornings and familiar faces.

“I usually make all the desserts, so I start on that early. Then, the customers start coming in around 8 o’clock, and we start serving breakfast and all,” said Yeomans. “We have about 50 that are regular customers that are here every morning. Our customers are like family.”

After breakfast, Yeomans prepares for lunch. Wednesdays – meatloaf; Thursdays – hamburger steak; Fridays – grouper. Fried chicken is always on the menu.

“We tried to do some baked chicken and other weight-conscious dishes, but customers didn’t want that. They wanted fried chicken,” said Yeomans.

And customers come for the fried chicken and other “down-home dishes.”

“Fifteen or more will come in at a time from Moody. They love the blueberry crunch and banana pudding, but most of the time, they want meatloaf,” said Yeomans.

The restaurant’s reputation for preparing homemade dishes, like broccoli casserole and squash casserole, has spread online, and attracts more than just locals.

“We have started to get a lot of people from the interstate, a lot of people from out of town. I have customers at least once or twice a day saying that they saw us on the internet,” said Yeomans. “People tell me they like to go to the downtown areas of whatever city they’re in because that’s where you can usually find the better food.”

College students have found King’s Grill to get that taste of home they have been missing.

“They’ll graduate, and then they’ll bring their parents here,” said Yeomans. “There were these twin boys from Atlanta who came in with their parents, and their dad said, ‘I wanted to see where all these King’s Grill checks were going,’ because those kids were here every day.”

Even when Yeomans isn’t serving meatloaf to the military or blueberry crunch to college kids, she rarely finds herself outside of a kitchen.

“I like to get out with my friends. I walk a lot. I used to bowl, but I’m getting a little bit mature for that now,” said Yeomans. “But I like to bake a lot. That’s my life. I love just cooking.”

Just last week, Yeomans left the restaurant to go home and cook for friends and family who came to her house for salmon and salad.

Cooking even finds its way into her other passions.

“I love to go to estate sales. It’s unbelievable some of the old cooking utensils that you can find at some of these sales,” said Yeomans. “I have an old ice cream dipper that has a wooden handle. I don’t have it at the restaurant now. I took it home because I thought it might break.”

Looking ahead, Yeomans has toyed with the idea of opening for dinner. It’s something she gets asked about frequently, and she had previous success at night during First Friday events downtown.

“People are always asking me about First Fridays and if it will ever come back like it was. I don’t know, but it could. I wish it would,” said Yeomans.

Dinner plans aside, Yeomans said one of her greatest priorities is keeping King’s Grill “like it was.”

“It’s difficult, though. I’ve had to change out all the chairs. I’ve had to recover the booths and the stools,” said Yeomans. “It’s very difficult to keep it just like it was.”

Yeomans said there may come a day when she must change the restaurant, but for now, she is content to keep trying and to keep making homestyle breakfasts and lunches for anyone who walks in the door.

“It’s interesting because you’re always meeting new people,” said Yeomans. “Right now, I love people, and I always have a good time when I’m up here working.”

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