The Menlo Park restaurant, a local fixture for many years, closed in 1999. [See the Almanac story: Web Link ]
What are your memories of the local pancake house?
Original post made by Memorie Man, another community, on May 9, 2007
I remember Ken's.
It was a great place to get great pancakes with all the trimmings, served on platters, a simple plate wouldn't work. You would always see the same waitresses year after year there which I always thought spoke well of the company. Always the same consistent food and service. Maybe it wasn't the latest or the hot-spot in the area but Ken's you knew that you would get lots of good food for a fair price.
Fond memories of Ken's. Miss the great pies and burgers. No restaurant in the space since Ken's has flourished as well. It was unique and something we need more of.
Ken's was the first restaurant my family and I ate at when we moved to Menlo Park in 1980. Our kitchen wasn't unpacked and we didn't have a lot of options. But to a hungry seven-year-old kid, a plate of pancakes was just about the best option around.
Later, Ken's became a regular favorite for us whenever the grandparents were in town.
I was about 11 years old and my older brother was a year older. We had just ordered lunch and my parents went to another table to briefly visit some friends. Before they returned to the table, the waitress delivered our lunches. My older brother was trying to kick me from under the table. He was sitting opposite of me. Just as my parents were returning to the table, my brother went to kick me again, but instead he kicked the pole or leg that supported our table. All the dishes quickly tumbled to the floor along with the table. I think our parents were a little more embarrassed than we were. I remember my mother with a look of horror on her face when she saw and heard what happened.
I remember when Ken was in both Menlo and Mountain View, and when I asked about the "Kens of Hawaii" menu (framed on the wall), I was told that a former employee of Ken's had opened a pancake house in Hilo with permission to use his name. I decided to make a trip to the Big Island and drove across a really very big island through several micro-climates to actually find "Ken's". My large stack with coconut syrup was excellent and worth the trip!
I worked at Ken's Milbrae and Menlo Park for 12+ years. Wonderful place to work. Good food. Good people. Ken will be missed. I think of the people I met there often.
I used to go to Ken's in Mountain View. There was a bartender there that called everyone a rabbit. After many years there was even a painting of him as a rabbit. I first met him in 1964. I cannot remember is real name, but I can sure remember the face. Is there anyone out there that remembers him as well? Also, is Ken's in Mountain View still in operation?
Leeuwarden, The Netherlands
The Ken's House of Pancakes in Mountain View is long closed. In fact, we called the Ken's in Hawaii (I edit the Mountain View Voice) and found that it's the last remaining of the chain. Read more about it here:
I hadn't heard what Jim M posted above -- "a former employee of Ken's had opened a pancake house in Hilo with permission to use his name" -- but if that's true the Hawaii restaurant wasn't exactly part of Ken Pruitt's chain anyway.
Patrick....did you ever identify the 'rabbit?' I'm looking for a former employee of either the Campbell of Menlo Ken's by the name of Ed Dees. Does that ring a bell?
When I first moved to Silicon Valley I was put up at the motel next door and ate at Ken's then and many times between 1985 and 1987. Sometimes we would get partially full at Ken's and then go to Toshi's Sushiya on University Ave in Palo Alto -- Toshi had a couple of places after that, last being Kaygetsu which I think is just closing. Things change, huh?
(But I first ate at the Ken's in Hilo which was I think 24 Hour and a big place for the locals -- this was 1984 or so when I visited during a volcanic eruption -- very excellent memories of nice island and people.)
Loved Ken's when I was in high school. As an adult, I noticed that they never could make a cappuccino. That's my bad for ordering a cap in a diner.
We went to Ken's for years. The Apple pancake was our and our kids favorite. We would also many times order it to go.
However, we had a very bad incident with a snotty waitress one Sunday, and even after writing our complaint, never heard back. We never went back after that. It wasn't too long later that it closed.
After a number of un-successful restaurants in that spot, a real winner has been found in Jeffry's, which if not the most successful eatery in MP is certainly very near the top, even after being open for only a short time period.
Our family went to Ken's after church in Woodside in the 60's didn't go much after. My memories are of huge pancake dishes.
Old Timer - that must've been the same waitress who was nasty to me re my cappuccino. The last time I ordered one, when I said I'd been given a latte by mistake, she breathed fire into my face and tried to convince me that I was wrong. They closed not long after that.
I'm glad that the Jeffrey's is there - it's The O for kids & families ;-) My spouse digs the milkshakes. But the chain curtain in back is a little SM/dungeony, imo - makes MP a tad racy ;-)
I remember going to Ken's in the early '70s to carbo-load on pancakes for Bay-to-Breakers. Not sure it helped my race time, but it sure tasted good.
Remember those golden coffee jugs they'd leave at each table? Once, close to when they closed, we got a really old one with a Giants logo and the GG bridge in the background. I bought it for $20, mostly to have a Ken's relic. Shoulda eBayed it when they won the Series.
I remember that as a high schooler in the mid-late 70's we would 'kidnap' our friends on their birthdays by waking them up and dragging them in pajamas to Ken's for breakfast (either before school or early on a weekend). As it was not trendy in those days to go out in your pj's, this would cause quite a scene and was lots of fun! Ken's was a great neighborhood pancake house!
Boysenberry syrup! When I was a kid in the 1970s I remember the boysenberry syrup for pancakes. It was a great treat to have something other than maple syrup.
By the late 1970s I remember cutting second period at M-A and going to Ken's with my friends for breakfast.
By the late 1980s Ken's wasn't so good any more. Either the quality had gone way downhill, or I raised the bar and wanted something better, healthier maybe.
I also remember going to Ken's in Mountain View and Millbrae. At some point Ken sold the Millbrae eatery and the new owner changed the name to "Ben's House of Pancakes." It made for a cheap change to the old Ken's sign.
For that old-school pancake house experience, the Millbrae House of Pancakes is still there and is exactly as it was 25 years ago.
Loved Ken's. It was a wonderful family restaurant and a great place that parents did not mind their middle school and high school kids to go without supervison. Loved the spaghetti and garlic bread and my parents loved the pork chops. Ken's was a great place and is still missed.
Ken's! I still miss it. As students at M-A in the '60s, my friends and I used to meet at Ken's before school for a huge pancake breakfast and that bottomless carafe of coffee. The old-time waitresses were kindly tolerant of our caffeinated exuberance. Thanks for the memories, Ken!
From early time, my family would go to Ken's after church. Actually I remember leaving church early so we could get a seat . I loved the apple pancakes. The waitresses were great and always friendly. Such a family tradition for me and always will be remembered. Also a great social event as we always met someone that we knew. Good times not forgotten.
It was a great place to have breakfast with your friends or family. Definitely one of those truly "local" places. Too bad it's gone; we're left with good memories though.
Dressing up in our pj's & going with a gang of high school friends
ken's out lasted us all - a go to place - my mom never returned her food - it was
perfect - a diner where delicious comfort food was dependable as were the folks that
served it and frequented it - the new owner of jeffrey's is a friend who asked for a 50's
picture i had of myself and an old boy friend - both of us ex MA students sharing
a milkshake- i am proud to say our photo is on the wall at jeffrey's --- but for me it
will always be on the wall at KEN'S with buicks- fords and chevys parked outside---
Great place. The German pancake with powdered sugar and lemon was to die for! Thanks to Ken
I entered Ken's as a small child holding my Dad's hand in 1960 and remember the door had a decal on it saying Diners Club. That was the first time I ever saw any reference to a "credit card" and even my Dad had no idea what Diners Club decal meant. I remember the tall "world" atop the building spinning around perhaps??? Was there a top hat too? The building was very distinctive and once inside I remember the biggest pancake I had ever seen go by. Very busy place. Smells of butter and sweets. We went there often as a family after that. Many years. Growing up here since 1955 Ken's House of Pancakes, Johnny's Smoke Shop, Foster's Freeze, Joe Prein's Record Shop, and the original Round Table Pizza Parlor. God bless you Mr. Ken!
We missed Ken's when it closed because it was a favorite Sunday morning treat for the family. We could always count on the good service and great food.
Remember with fond memories eating at Ken's at all of the locations like Mountain View on the El Camino! The dinner salads and German baby pancake were awesome! I still taste those salads, burgers and fries. I also remember eating and running at Ken's! lol!
The "Rabbit" who bartended at the Ken's in Mountain View, his real name was Tommy.
Ken Pruitt at one time owned Ken's in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Hawaii, Milbrae, and a place with a pipe organ(?). He also briefly had Mr. K's Cabaret in Burlingame.
Ken's was famous for the German and Apple pancakes. The one in Hawaii now does not serve those.
Ken's was a great place to hang out with friends back in the day. They didn't make it because coffee shops became passe and the rents sky-rocketed in the late 90's early 2000's.
Great place for basic coffee shop foods here in California and Hawaii. The one in Hilo Hawaii did not please me when I was all of ten years old and they served still frozen strawberries on my now soggy waffle. The picture in the menu showed fresh strawberries and having just moved from California to Hilo I thought they had fresh strawberries. WRONG! Lesson learned. But if you are in the way to or from the Hilo airport it couldn't hurt to check Ken's out. The yelp reviews look good, but I wouldn't bet on getting fresh strawberries there anytime soon. LOL.
Loved Ken's. Ate at Ken's, MP, all the time. After they closed I started eating at Ken's, Mountain View until the day I was served the specialty of the house, Blueberry Pancakes with hidden cigarette butt. Never went back.
Then they finally closed. Surprise, surprise!
I used to go to Ken's in Mountain view with my folks Melody and Rod Romayne. Ken always called the bar Melody's for my Mother.we spent many good times there with Tommy the bar tender and another bartender named Don Manners. My husband and I also went there. it was a great hang out, just down the road from "the Echo" in Los Altos.The place was always friendly and Ken always had great free goodies at the bar. .
I was kicked out of Ken's House Of Pancakes in 1968 for having long hair. I was with a social worker, a friend who was going to Hasting's Law School and a friend interning at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco. The police were called and they enforced "the right to serve" sign on the door. We were kicked out, those are the times. The Redwood Room in the Clift Hotel in San Francisco had the same standards.And those were the times.
Remember Ken's, and miss it too. Wish we had a place like it around town again. It would be great! Love (and miss) the old Diners.
This thread started in 2007
All this talk about pancakes makes me want to have some, and Ken's is closed. I guess I'll go home and have potato pancakes for dinner.
We used to go to Ken's Menlo Park every Sunday after attending Holy Trinity Church. Started going there in the early 60's and continued till it closed. Great place for breakfast and as kids we loved all the flavored syrups and the dutch baby apple pancakes. Wish there were still places like Ken's.
Thank you Ken Pruitt for being part of the MP community for years. I played on Ken's House of Pancakes little league baseball team growing up. Great memories. A long-missed member of the MP community and much different than a Stack's type breakfast place. I miss the good old regular pancake house style restaurant Menlo Park needs so badly to return to town. I-Hop is the closest thing but a big chain! Not the same.
I sometimes breakfast on pancakes at Ann's Coffee Shop down Santa Cruz Av, opens at 6:30. Palo Alto doesn't wake up until 7.
Like the earlier post from Tricia Young I too remember all the old haunts of Menlo Park....and I can add Don's Hobby Shop. Our family used to go to Ken's House of Pancakes after going to Nativity Church on Sunday. We had moved to the area in 1959, about the same time Ken's and Round Table first opened their doors. It was always such a treat to go to Ken's...great pancakes/waffles and friendly service. Was so sad to see it go but Jeffrey's is doing a good job keeping the ambiance of the 50's and 60's. Will have to try the Hawaii Ken's when we are in Hilo.
Chocolate Cream Pie
I have many warm and pleasant memories of Ken's. My father started taking us there when we moved to Woodside in 1962. He loved going out for breakfast and Ken's was one of his favorites. When I had my daughter the first place my dad took us was to Ken's for breakfast when she was a month old. When my parents were older they would go there for dinner sometimes. It was a nice friendly place for them. I was sorry to see it closed.
I recall many breakfast whence I debated between Kens's delightful German pancakes (which took extra time to prepare) or a greasy item lower down on the menu called the Weasel. Yes, the Weasel was an open face omelet slathered in chili con carne and raw heartburn. Once ingested, the Weasel would scurry around your intestines for the rest of the day and take on a wretched life of its own. Curse that vile weasel. I always wished that I had the patience to wait for the German pancakes instead of hastily ordering a weasel.
I remember Ken's well. My dad owned Viking Muffler next door to Ken's. Bob Cunningham was a cook there and Jim's son. I remember Jim sitting in his office all the time. My dad would have lunch there everyday and sometimes breakfast too. When I went to work at the muffler shop in the late 70s, I would have a Monte Cristo sandwich everyday. Sometimes strawberry pancakes in the morning. I remember the little creek that went down between the booths and the window. They later took it out, to much up keep I guess. There was always Doris at the counter. Loved her. Bob even came to work for us for a while at the muffler shop. Bob and I both had cameros and we would race them around town and get in trouble. We knew Ken pretty well. He bought 3 Hydro Cycle boats, Brought them to the shop. He had me put all three of them together and dad built a trailer, for which Ken gave me 1 of the boats. That was pretty great. In the 70s you were lucky to have a car, thanks to Ken I had a boat too. We would take it to San Luis Res. wait for the wind to come up and take it out and jump off the big waves. I miss that family and there restaurant.
I had the great fortune of working at KHOP around 1977-79. I started as a weekend busboy, then worked my way up to grill cook working nights when I was in Jr. College. Man, what a great learning experience it was for me at a young age. Ken was a bit of a crumudgeon to be sure, but he ran a tight ship and we were taught to do things right. For me working at Ken's was like going to school every day... and I mean OLD school. In that kitchen, everthing... and I mean EVERYTHING was made from scratch. Even with all the hoey about farm to fork and organic restaraunts, nobody today even comes close to the way it was done at Ken's back in the day. I miss Ken, and all the servers I worked with (Betty, Ursula, Roxanne, and Ken's daughter Dana) not to mention all the cooks and our Chef Bill Bennet. They all taught me a lot that served me well in life all these years. I really miss Ken's to be sure, but not just for the incredible food and ambiance. For me it will always be more than that, with many fond memories.
Ken's was one of the favorite hangouts of Pacific Telephone technicians back in the 70s, and I was one of those. We could always get a great breakfast and a decent cup of coffee there. Of course, the variety of pancakes was excellent. The German pancakes and apple pancakes took a little longer, but were unique and we always had the time to wait for them. Times were definitely different, and so was Ken's. We'll never see the likes of it again.
According to some articles in Hawaii a couple years back, Ken Pruitt and Bonnie Twitchell opened the Hilo Ken’s in 1971 - maybe Bonnie is the "former employee" mentioned above?
In 1990 it was sold to Lindberg "Lindy" Ching (a businessman from the Kahuku-Hau'ula area of northern Oahu) and his wife Frances Lee Ching, and has been run ever since by their daughter Debra Ching Maiava and her husband Ric Maiava.
Ric, incidentally, is from the same Maiava family roots (in Samoa, I think?) as Duane "The Rock" Johnson - behind the register at Ken's in Hilo there are all kinds of photos of Maiavas who were pro wrestlers in the old, old days.
I've been to Ken's in Hilo probably dozens if not hundreds of times, but I finally got curious tonight about who "Ken" had been, looked up the history, found out Hilo was one of several locations, and found this site! My experiences in Hilo resonate with what others have said - staff that have been there for years, even decades... waitresses who have seen my eldest daughter grow from a 2-year-old to a teenager, and are now watching my youngest do the same.
Once I went there and someone asked if I was me (by name) and the next thing I knew, Debra herself was at the table explaining that the LAST time I ate there, I had been given someone else's check by mistake (I had paid without even looking) and that they owed me several dollars, which she proceeded to give me. That really made an impression. So I'd say even with different owners (and a presumably different, definitely Hawaiianized menu), the Hilo Ken's is still largely holding true to the kind of atmosphere and values you folks are all remembering in here.
Would be nice to have a "down home" place like that around again.
Best to the family!
I miss Ken's and the German pancake they made. Loved those small, thick edged coffee cups too which meant a refill before the coffee ever gets cold.
The Apple pancake was my go to. Never had to eat lunch on those days!
Went there on a regular basis when I attended Menlo College. Use to meet teachers there. My favorite as well was the German Pancake. Had to order right away, took like 20min to bake. Had a routine with the lemon wedges and butter. You're right about the coffee cups, thick rim. Sorry to see it's gone
All things must pass
I'm not a big fan of maple syrup, but I always remember being able to get boysenberry syrup at Ken's. To this day, whenever I have pancakes in a restaurant I always ask for boysenberry syrup. Of course all they have is maple, leaving me disappointed. Ken's set the bar high.
I first went to Ken's as a kid with my family back in the late 1960s. In the 1970s, I remember cutting class at M-A with my friends and going to Ken's for breakfast. Great memories, for sure.
When I was young lad in the early 1970s, my dad and I would sometimes take a weekend adventure riding the old SP commute trains from Menlo Park to Millbrae, where we would walk over to the Ken's at Millbrae Avenue and El Camino Real for lunch before taking the train home. More memories I will always treasure.
Sadly, though, by the late 1980s Ken's had gone downhill quite a bit and was long in the tooth. Had more than one really nasty meal at Ken's then and never returned.
Nonetheless, the mention of Ken's brings back a flood of good memories. Even when Ken's had gone downhill, the memories are good because of the people I was there with.
I sure miss that place.
I worked at Be Incorporated for several years, in the 4 story building next door. Ken's had the misfortune of being the place where the boss took you to lunch when he was going to fire you. So none of us wanted to be taken to eat there!
It closed. So did Be Inc.
A Sunday morning breakfast in the '70s would always mean waiting outside Ken's for a table to open. That's when we bought the Sunday Chronicle for a pre-breakfast read.
I lived in Menlo Park for seven years in the late 70s and early 80s and ate at Ken's once. It was disgusting, and I never went back. Ken may have been a nice person, but all I know is that the meal I got was no good.
Loved Kens, in the mid 1990's, my roomate and I did not live far from there, it was always the late night go to spot. It must have closed in the mid-00's, but we had a group who used to go there together some this weekend, we were at an IHOP at 2:30AM and someone mentioned Kens.
Here is what I really remembered about it:
1. They had a very good Eggs Benedict, especially for a 24-hour diner type establishment, I dont even think Dennys offers one.
2. Trying to remember, if 2 pancakes came with every meal or was there some sort of combo I used to get, because I remember often 2 on the side plate.
3. The bar there, I remember it was called the Oak Room, and in all the years we went there, even times before 2AM, it was never open. So not sure is as time went on and it got closer to the end in the 90's and 00's, the Bar was no longer in operation?
4. Always found it odd with the Hawaii location. But one of our friends who was part of our Kens regular late night group, ended up going to UH Hilo and was blown away to find Kens there.
Kens House of pancakes is a warm memory for me . My family, then my husband and children lived in Millbrae from the mid 1950's until 2005 and not only enjoyed eating there for many years, but my husband also worked there part-time as a cook. He loved making the Monte Cristobalite sandwich and the German and Apple Pancakes. Kens changed to Bens, I think in the early 1990's, then to Jeffrey's and finally to Peters Cafe. A couple of years ago, visiting my children, I went to Peter's Cafe and was surprised to see that both the Monte Criisto sandwich and the apple pancakes were still on the menu. The atmosphere was similar to Kens and all the employees friendly and welcoming. I am grateful to have happy memories if this seemingly "old fashioned" restaurant.
I remember I grew up in this restaurant since my grandma worked there.She worked there from 1987 to 2004. I loved to play on the PacMan machine in the bar. This place was great and I miss it.The place went downhill after Dana bought it.(Kens daughter) Oh and my grandma has their original recipe for their german and apple pancakes. ;)
Weekend breakfasts at Kens from as early as I can remember in the early 70s all the way up to the 90s! The big golden jug of coffee and German Pancakes! Peters in Millbrae still has them, but not the same.
I want to go into more detail on the Ken's in Hilo. I had gone to the Big Island in 1983 or 1984 to see the volcano erupt. Did not know what to expect when I got there but I stayed in a nice hotel for a decent price. Was initially disappointed to discover that the weather would not permit taking an observation flight over the volcano in a helicopter but that night I was in a sushi bar and saw the red glow in the mountains and thought, well even without the flight that's not too bad. Walking back to my room I saw a young woman waiting outside the disco that was part of the hotel and I paid both of our ways in expecting to be abandoned but instead she and her friends kept me company throughout the night and every local I asked to dance agreed -- would not have happened in SF where I then lived, I don't think. After the place closed, I took the same woman to Ken's. And the next day the weather cleared and I took a copter over the volcano which was amazing. Have not forgotten that weekend in 30 plus years now. Doubt if I could duplicate it if I tried.
Had my first meal in the U. S. at KHOP mountain view on November 17th 1966...I still remember that top hat!!
I remember as a kid having breakfasts at Ken's in Mountain View, on the weekends, and the place would be bustling with customers. I also remember the cigarette smell that would waft all over the resteraunt usually coming from middle aged businessmen's cigarettes. I also remember the mini jukeboxes that were located on the booth tables in the front of the resteraunt. And taking sneak peek in the Oak Room where it was dark, but there was a cozy fireplace in there that was a nice touch. I also remember the double parrot head door pull on the outside entrance of the Oak Room that I though was cool. I wish Ken's was still in business, but times change, tastes change as well as demographics.
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