I decided to flip the television to the local news on Wednesday, not expecting to hear this.
The K&W Cafeteria location in Chapel Hill has permanently closed. The restaurant is apparently one of several closures in this area for the chain, which is based in Winston-Salem.
K&W – or “Kanes and Walkers” as it was affectionately called due to the makeup of a majority of its clientele – has been a staple in the local community for more than 30 years. Located at University Mall (now University Place), the restaurant first opened its doors inside the mall. It was later moved to a stand-alone building on mall property.
K&W served as a place filled with memories. Memories made with family members, particularly three grandparents on both sides. I grew up with the restaurant, going as a youngster with my family quite often and continuing through grade school and young adulthood.
One of my fondest memories, well, probably more for my mom than me, was the entertainment provided by goblets of square Jell-O that were staples there. My tiny and silly self would poke the Jell-O cubes, making them respond with a shimmy and me, in turn, with a belly laugh. My infatuation with them would make folks around us chuckle as well.
K&W also served as a place to grab a bite to eat after a UNC game, pre-N.C. State days of course. I cannot tell you how many times I have stopped there after a game for baked spaghetti, mac n’ cheese, a soft dinner roll, and a slice of Dutch apple pie. Oh, the spaghetti, mac n’ cheese, and pie! So good! Not to mention, the times I saw UNC Basketball players there. From Phil Ford to Luke Maye.
I recall my maternal grandmother always enjoying chicken pan pie with a vegetable or two and a slice of coconut pie for dessert. My paternal grandmother usually choosing to go the healthy route and get a vegetable plate. My paternal grandfather, chicken livers (yuck) and probably a slice of pie as well. My mom enjoying seven-layer salad along with spaghetti.
I cannot forget the numerous employees we have come to know throughout the years. One lady in particular, who has seen me journey from childhood to young adulthood. She still called me “baby” the last time I ate there earlier this year, just as she did way back when. Another lady, who moved on from there several years ago, was always super nice to us and brought refills of exactly what we were having to drink – before we sat down! Even an employee we called “UNC Lady” who always donned her Tar Heel gear no matter if there was a game going on or not.
These memories all came to the forefront of my thoughts as I read the news this week. It is hard to believe, just like that, everything about K&W has turned into a memory for me. There are other locations still open, but I won’t be patronizing any of them. None of them will ever be like Chapel Hill.
So long, K&W.