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Bob Lind, Published March 01 2014

Neighbors: Car hops, frenchees and jukeboxes: ‘Quality’ time at King’s Food Host

What was the name of that old Fargo café in which you placed your order via a phone in the booth?

When a reader asked that question, Neighbors in turn bounced it off Forum readers. Well, the answer bounced back, and then some, as many came up with the café’s name: King’s Food Host.

“I remember going to King’s Food Host with friends in high school especially after activities and games,” Kim Eisenbeis, Fargo, writes. “Two of the most popular items on the menu were the cheese frenchee and the tuna frenchee. I usually ordered a burger and fries. Good times!”

Earl Williams, Fargo, and Cheryl Gumke, also Fargo, were others who wrote about the King’s Food Host, both noting that Mom’s Kitchen now is located in that building on Main Avenue.

Galen Bares, Moorhead, says he remembers placing orders via the phones. “I moved here in the early 1970s, so it was after that,” he says. “It was really a novel idea, and I agree (with a reader’s comment in an earlier column) that we (siblings) argued over who was going to place the order.”

Here are others who identified the Food Host:

Scott Funfar, Fargo – “Back in the 1960s and early ’70s, it was one of my favorite places to eat.”

Judy Coughlin, Fargo – “When my children were young, we often went to eat in the King’s Food Host. They had GREAT chocolate malts.”

Terry Peterson, West Fargo – “I believe the building started out as a grocery store, maybe a National T. I’m not sure about the name, but I recall a grocery store there when I was a young boy.”

“Junior” Berg, Fargo, who says most people know him by that nickname – “My friends and I hung out there many nights after car club meetings. The club was the Rebels. We raced at the West Fargo Speedway back in the ’70s. Our asst. minister drove our car.”

Sandy Rodriguez, Moorhead – “There was also a King’s Food Host in south Moorhead. Their hamburgers were wonderful. Customers could call their orders in from their booth. This was in the late ’60s and early ’70s.”

Dave Hellie, Detroit Lakes, Minn., says the Moorhead Food Host was by the old mall, about where the Marriot Hotel now is located. “When my family lived in West Fargo, we had gone to both,” he says.

Barbara Graalum, Grandin, N.D., who worked in the Fargo Food Host for eight years: “There also were phones in the drive-up area. King’s had the biggest and best burgers in town in the ’60s and ’70s. Wonderful homemade onion rings and tuna frenchees to name a few great items on the menus. It was owned by Tom Drayton, of Fargo, who recently passed away. He was a fantastic boss and a pleasure to work for. His brother Terry Drayton also opened a King’s Food Host in Moorhead.”

Michael Peterson, Fargo, worked at the Fargo Food Host, too. He was 18 then and he’s 65 now.

“I washed dishes and was a car hop,” Mike says. “I’d wash dishes, then take off my apron and take food out.

“They just had guys as car hops, because they didn’t want girls out there talking to the guys,” he says.

The management banned smoking by the employees, not even on the grounds. “Do that once and you’re fired,” they were told. “They were way ahead of their time.”

Mike says tips were discouraged, but if people left them, they went into a jar to be used for the employees’ Christmas party.

Kenneth Gartzke, Fargo – “I moved here from Sioux Falls, S.D., in 1982 and King’s Food Host was one of the places that was open after the bars closed back then.”

Alice Engel, Fargo – “They had the best onion rings and tuna or cheese frenchees.”

Deb Kyllo, Mayville, N.D. – “As NDSU students, we spent a lot of ‘quality’ time at King’s Food Host. We loved the phones. It was too bad the night we saw an ambulance broadsided at the intersection that we weren’t able to use the phones to call 911.”

Carol Haugen, Fargo – “Discussing this with my friends, we reminisced about the little juke box in each booth. How fascinating the little colored juke box was, and by putting in the 5 cents to 25 cents you could pick the song you wanted played. This is to see what responses you get from those who remember the individual juke boxes.”

Sue Johnson, formerly of Fargo, now of Detroit Lakes – “They (King’s Food Host) had lots of good food, but the most memorable for me was the cheese frenchee, a deep fried cheese sandwich.”

Joanne Zaharia, Cummings, N.D. – “My brother Jim came up with the King’s Food Host name. There was one in Minot, N.D., too. This has been fun, remembering the past.”

“When I was at North Dakota State University in the ’60s,” Ken Helland, Fargo, writes, “we almost lived on King’s (food) and at North University Pizza.

“The owner (of King’s) has the Wood House in Bismarck. This is still the best place for a double burger.”

North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger, Bismarck, writes that customers at the Wood House still place their orders on booth phones. “Great hamburgers,” Al says. “They do a lot of catering.”

Al also sent in an article giving the history of the King’s Food Hosts, which was a national chain that once had 136 locations in 17 states and one Canadian province. It was founded in 1951 in Lincoln, Neb. But “rapid expansion led to its rapid decline, causing the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1974,” the article states.

The Bismarck location, renamed the Wood House using its owner’s name (William J. Wood), “appears to be the only survivor of the chain to still operate in the same format,” the article says.

So there you have a bit of history and a lot of memories of a favorite place to eat.

If you have an item of interest

for this column, mail it to Neighbors,

The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com