Food in LA: Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner

One of our dinners, per my sister’s request, was at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner restaurant at Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park in Buena Park.  Knott’s Berry Farm is “the other amusement park” in Orange County, located just up the road from Disneyland.  Jennifer requested that we go to Mrs. Knott’s as she had fond memories from a visit there when we were children.


The history of Knott’s dates back to 1920, when Walter Knott and his family sold berries and preserves from a roadside stand.


In 1934, to make ends meet, Knott’s wife Cordelia (1890–1974) reluctantly began serving fried chicken dinners on their wedding china. For dessert, Knott’s signature Boysenberry Pie was also served to guests dining in the small tea room. As Southern California developed, Highway 39 became the major north-south connection between Los Angeles County and the beaches of Orange County, and the restaurant’s location was a popular stopping point for drivers making the two hour trip in those days before freeways.

These days, the wait for dinner is still long.  Admittedly, we were a larger group than normal – about 10 people – but the wait was still about an hour.


Prices have gone up over the years (by about 100 times) but the menu remains pretty much unchanged.  Frankly, this was more food than I wanted to have, as I was more interested in the boysenberry pie than anything else.  Walter Knott was responsible for naming and popularizing the boysenberry, a blackberry, raspberry, loganberry hybrid cross-bred by Rudolph Boysen of nearby Anaheim.


The interior of the restaurant, made up of several medium sized dining rooms, looks very run-down, badly in need of a makeover or, at least, a deep cleaning.


Buttermilk biscuit – okay, but not nearly as flaky or tasty as mine.


Rhubarb compote served chilled as a starter.  Very, very sweet.


Very sad salad.  “Farm fresh”?  Pathetic, really.


The main course itself – three pieces of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and corn.  The food was okay, although I found the chicken a bit oily and, like pretty much all chicken in the US, the meat lacked any discernable flavor.

The dessert – the boysenberry pie with ice cream – was pretty good.  So good that I managed to not get a picture of it!  But overall, the meal proved the conventional wisdom that things are better in our memories than they are in real life.  At least I was surrounded by family, so in good company for an otherwise mediocre dinner.


A nearly full moon climbs over the structure of GhostRider, the park’s wooden coaster.


0 thoughts on “Food in LA: Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner

  1. Oh, maybe it’s worth a try! Looks like the interior of the restaurant has not changed since the 20’s! I like fried chicken meals once in a while. Did you pose a photo with Snoopy and Company at the Farm?

  2. I think you are right about the memory. I also think places like this begin to rely on their reputation and are unwilling to update. Obviously the word hasn’t gotten out about the mediocrity of the food or you wouldn’t have had to wait an hour. Then again, perhaps your taste buds have matured considerably and your expectations are higher. I do miss those Boysenberries, however. Nothing like them in Indiana.

  3. I’ve not eaten at Knott’s Berry Farm in many years — doesn’t look as if it’s changed much, though!  The rest of the park is mostly roller coasters — not my favorite, so I really have not had much reason to go thee…

  4. hmm…that always sucks when you remember something, then want to go back and when you do, it’s just not the same. i’ve had that happen to me more times than i can imagine. some things really are just meant to be experienced just once. but boy i could go for some fried chicken right now!

  5. It is shame that the food lack luster. I think the main course was prepared from frozen chicken parts. I try to avoid anything that looks like that. Now the ride looks inviting to me!

  6. Knotts hasn’t changed their help staff in 50 years either. We had a waitress that must have been in her 80s seeing how she looked about my mom’s age when we went a couple of years ago. Many have worked in the restaurant for 30 – 40 years.My wife had to run for the rest room after having the chicken dinner, she’s lactose intolerant and the potatoes and gravy are full of milk. It is kind of a tradition for locals to eat there once and a while, in the 1950s – 1980s there were always long lines to get in for a dinner.My daughter’s mom lives a couple of blocks on the back side of the park, you can see the taller rides from her yard. They have huge block parties on the 4th of July to see the Knotts fireworks show over there. I also had many friends who worked at this park, one friend’s photo still exists at the Birdcage Theater lobby along with Steve Martin’s, who started there as a banjo player and juggler. Small world, huh?

  7. As I said, you sure can critique a restaurant! I like the paintings a lot. Laughed about the disappearing boysenberry pie! Don’t remember you ever missing a photo before. That good, huh?

  8. Yeah Chris sometimes memories are better left alone. I am not sure if I would be able to eat that salad. I am surprised that you had to wait one hour for that meal.

  9. I ate there many years ago, and I was not very impressed. It was good but not worth long drive for.  Anyway,I do not enjoy roller coaster rides at all. 

  10. I’ve never had boysenberry before – that sounds interesting. Your palate is certainly a lot more sophisticated now so food from childhood days likely will not meet the grade. (my mom’s cooking of course will be an exception)

  11. oh the restaurant looks like she needs a visit by Gordon Ramsay’s programme for a makeover from head to toe..been to Knotts’s Berry Farm once for the Snoopy and Company only…..

  12. places like that are sad; they really need to put out good quality, home-style cooking that harkens back to the things that made them famous in the first place. it doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be good.

  13. It always amazes me when people say it isn’t as good as I remember it was. Well of course it won’t taste the same, meat processing has changed since the twenties. Back when I had a chicken dinner there the chickens were fresh and not frozen the suppliers probably got them locally. Now, they are frozen and shipped in from out of state. I am sorry that the woman who couldn’t take milk ate those mashed potatoes but I don’t like mashed potatoes without milk added why do I have to suffer because she can’t tolerate milk

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