Mrs. Knott's Fried Chicken--Worth The Wait?

Categories: Local Eats
Dave Lieberman

Two hours. That was the wait the first time I tried to go to Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant. The line stretched out the door, along the memorabilia, around the corner. All these people waiting for chicken? Even the takeout line was two dozen deep.

And so it went. It'd be a huge line; it'd be too hot to wait outside; it'd be the wrong time for a big meal. Excuses, excuses. Finally, we left the theme park one evening in time for an early dinner. The line was only out the door, not past the railing, so we figured we'd suck it up and wait. It's supposed to be special, and special dinners deserve a wait.

So, is it worth the wait?

The biscuits were slightly crumbly, and hard to butter, but they sure tasted good. I'm sure anything would after a long wait.

The rhubarb starter was sticky and of course very sweet; the soup tasted like it came out of giant cans; it had that same slightly-emulsified liquid sensation you get from Progresso. Not bad, but not revelatory. The salad was... well, institutional is really the only way to describe it, but very true to the era of its birth. The mashed potatoes were among the worst I've ever subjected my stoic gut to; the cabbage with ham tasted like Charlie Bucket's tears, salty and watery.

Dave Lieberman

The big disappointment, though, was the much-vaunted boysenberry pie. Knott's IS boysenberries, so it seemed like an obvious order. The filling was gloppy in the extreme and far too sweet, and the crust was neither tender nor flaky, serving just to encase an inch and a half of purple goo in a chewy coffin.

But the chicken... is the chicken any good?

Dave Lieberman

Yes. The chicken is very good. The crust was crunchy, the meat itself was perfectly cooked, even the white meat, and it stayed rocket-hot for a lot longer than I expected, which was good because the normal dinner portion appears to be half a Big Bird. It's definitely one of the better plates of fried bird in the county.

Value? It's a shockingly huge amount of food for $17; even the smaller portion at $13 is a huge amount. If you like the food, it's a great value. I'm just not sure I want all the accoutrements; just the chicken and maybe the biscuits. Thus, it doesn't make sense to go and wait when there's a takeout counter (and free parking) right next door.

I suspect--though I've never done this--that if you got the chicken from the takeout counter, with whatever fixings you felt like, it'd probably stay hot until you got home, assuming you live within a reasonable distance. If not, there's plenty of lawn--bring a blanket and have a picnic in the middle of exciting downtown Buena Park.

It is not, however, worth the long line.

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Location Info

Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant

8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, CA

Category: Restaurant

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I get the chicken there a lot but I've never been to the restaurant. The takeout is reasonable. Last time, the guy gave me a extra wing and 3 biscuits for free. I really like the Chicken Box in La Habra.


Do the takeout.  It stays warm for quite some time.  (We live in HB and get takeout.)The wife loves the Chicken and Dumplings.   My only gripe about takeout is that they are very skimpy with the jelly.  You get like 4 packets with a full order of rolls. (Yes, they want you to walk down the hall and buy a jar instead of giving a little for good customer service.)


The absolute BEST boysenberry pie is served at Rutabegorz.  Particularly the Tustin location.  That and their cheesecake is amazing.  Definitely worth a try if you're near one of their locations.


For the money... La Palma chicken pie shop.... Pretty good fried chicken crispy skin, juicy and hot as napalm!


Walcott, Iowa. 1979.

Rumbling down I-80 with 18 wheels beneath me.

New to the "trucking game" and it was time to eat. Unsure where to eat; knowing that the presence of the BIG rigs often only meant there was room to park, not that it was a place ith good or even merely edible food.

The truck stop was small, an older place, nothing special in appearance.

Inside, the local gals, several rather elderly, were kind and pleasant and recommended the fried chicken dinner.

The meal arrived in stages.

A decent salad with several ingredients; not just droopy lettuce with glop atop. A good salad.

Then the main meal arrived accompanied by a small loaf of warm bread baked on location.

BIG hunks of chicken with a lotta' meat on each piece. Tasty and thinly breaded with yummy non-greasy breading that assisted making that meal one of, if not the single best, fried chicken meals this now semi-elderly Disgruntled Old Coot has ever dug into!!!

The large pile of real mashed taters was slathered with a thicker white gravy with chunks of some type of meat within the gravy. It complimented the fried chicken, not competing with it.

The green beans were also quite good with added spices I could not identify making them tastier. I did detect some added butted melted into the beans that were not soggy as so many typical canned green beans are.

And that bread... so yummy and the whipped easily-spread butter made it even better.

I had a more-then ample appetite "in the day" yet that wonderful meal filled me to the tippy-top and I savored every delicious bite.

I complimented the waitress and asked her to convey my thanks to the chef and crew; who were all local rural Iowa folks I was told.

It was farm country and I could envision the delights awaiting locals when after a day of shucking corn and plowing the lower 400 acres returning home to their awaiting meal.

The truck stop still exists but I left trucking years ago and the Web tells me that small older truck stop has grown, expanded, and rightly so if they continues serving food of the quality I had upon that visit!!!

 Here's their Web site; something that didn't exist for the general public back in those pre-Web days. Heck, many truckers still used 8-track tape players!!!


Good write up.......KCDR is over !...... For the reasons you have listed....But I can tell you in 1955 it was worth the wait !......

Sandie Reed
Sandie Reed

We took family friends to have some of this famous chicken dinner. Waited over an hour. NO it was not worth the time or price. I was really disappointed is the flavor of the chicken. KFC is better. The biscuits came to us cold, sent them back; then were good. The salad was pitiful. The pie was ok. Overall a big disappointment.


Despite the fact that the mashed potatoes and the boysenberry pie look exactly as unappetizing as you described, it's actually great news that Mrs. Knott's chicken -- something 'OC' that's so well-known [and has been around for ages] -- is very good.  Polishes the rep of our fair county, which needs everything it can to offset the embarrassing stuff. 

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

I know that place! It's called the Iowa 80 truckstop. I had a friend doing student teaching in Calamus when I was a senior in college and went down to see her. Never went to the truck stop though, but you could see it for miles around. Sounds a lot like Iowa home cookin' to me.

Me, I miss the multi-stage meal at the Ronneburg in the Amana Colonies, the tenderloin sandwiches from Joensy's in Center Point, and the Gunderburger from Gunder's only restaurant.

Bill T.
Bill T.

Clean spelling and syntax, extra white space made it easy to read (no need to comment on content, Gustavo and Dave did that).

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