St. Louis Park, Minnesota
When Frank Theros began operating the Stadium Cafe in Minneapolis in the 1920s, he couldn’t have known that he was setting up a family restaurant legacy that would last nearly a century.
At an age when most men were considering retirement, Frank Theros put his 30 years of experience running the Stadium Cafe into launching a new venture in St. Louis Park. He brought his sons, George and Robert, into the business this time. Together, they purchased the Lilac Lanes Cafe at 3901 Wooddale Avenue, just off Excelsior Boulevard. George operated the restaurant, and it soon became known as a welcoming place with a supper club atmosphere where families could enjoy a hearty meal.
The King’s Inn rose from the ashes of the Lilac Lanes Cafe in January 1964 after a fire caused more than $250,000 worth of damage. The Theros family completely revamped the old cafe with updated decor and a new menu. When the King’s Inn opened in November, it was evident that the restaurant’s overall theme had changed from a comfortable suburban family eatery to a romantic supper club. The posh 1960s decor included walls covered in dark paint or wallpaper, extravagant chandeliers, thick carpets, and dark wood tables, chairs, and paneling.
Once at their table, guests found a menu printed on parchment and presented in a scroll. Once unrolled, diners could choose from straightforward supper club fare such as steaks, chops, seafood, and pasta. Each entrée could be ordered in small or large portions and was served with soft bread brushed with butter and a side salad.
The King’s Inn build-your-own salad bar was a fantastic option for those who wanted a lighter meal. It was noted for being the longest (and often claimed to be the first) salad bar in the Twin Cities. Diners grabbed a clean plate and shuffled along a table, choosing from more than 76 salad items. There were veggies and fruit in various forms, crunchy add-ons, seasoned salts and oils, and a variety of condiments and salad dressings that came together to form a salad unique to each guest.
To make an evening even more special, guests could reserve a table in the smaller Gourmet Room and enjoy a more private dining experience. For $12.95 per person, diners could enjoy four bottles of imported wine and a multi-course dinner of cheese fondue, Escargots, coquille (a seafood or chicken dish baked with a sauce and served in a shell-shaped serving dish), Green Goddess Salad, a steak entrée, and Alaska Flambe for dessert.
It was a sad day for many in the community when the King’s Inn was forced to close due to a major redevelopment project at Highway 100 and Excelsior Boulevard that began in 1984. The project claimed several properties for the expansion and left other businesses nearly impossible to reach because of road closures and detours.
Then, in 1989, the family revived the King’s Inn a little further west in Minnetonka. They altered the name slightly to King’s Inn Out and About to signal a subtle shift in the menu and ambiance. The atmosphere – dubbed “country club casual” – was lighter, as were some of the menu options. Guests could still enjoy a hearty steak, chunky salmon fillet, vegetable stir fry, one of the new sandwiches, various soups, or other standard items from the menu.
Without much fanfare, the King’s Inn era ended in 1994 when Theros changed directions again and turned King’s Inn Out and About into Rudolph’s American Bar and Grill, and later, Chop’s, to keep up with dining trends.
Burnt Butter Fettuccine
- 8 ounces fettuccine
- 1 ounce Kefalotyri cheese, grated (goat’s milk cheese)
- 3 ounces Mitzithra cheese, grated (sheep’s milk cheese)
- 8 ounces butter
- 1 gallon highly salted water
- tablespoon cooking oil
- Bring the salted water to a boil and add the oil. Break pasta in half. Add pasta to boiling water; cook until done.
- Blend the two cheeses together.
- Burn the butter in a frying pan.
- Rinse cooked pasta in cold water to remove starch. Have a large serving dish ready.
- Sprinkle ⅓ of the cheese on the bottom of the serving dish. Using tongs, put a layer of pasta on the dish and sprinkle with another portion of the cheese; continue alternating pasta and cheese. Pour burnt butter over the entire dish and serve immediately.