When Faye and Roy Knowlton bought a roadside food stand in Anaheim 37 years ago, most of their customers were ranchers and farmers from the orange groves that surrounded it. They came in their dusty, battered trucks for bacon, bread, butter and sandwiches.
Today the stand is on one of the busiest streets in North County--Imperial Highway. Trucks are still found in the parking lot, but they're the suburban kind--clean and freshly waxed.
Still, the primary reason to come to Knowl-Wood is to eat one of the best hamburgers you could ever hope to sink your teeth into.
You don't go to Knowl-Wood for the service--its strictly the fast-food window type. Ask for water and the cashier gives you a cup and points to the drinking fountain.
The decor, well, there is no decor; just concrete floors and picnic tables. There's not even a view to elevate Knowl-Wood to quaintness. It's shabby, but it works because these are indeed great burgers and sandwiches.
Most popular are the juicy hamburger ($2.50), grilled to a perfect medium on buns freshly-made from Knowl-Wood's own recipe, and the ham ($3.25) and pastrami ($3.50) sandwiches, both piled high with meat and cheese. There's also a good, lightly seasoned grilled chicken sandwich.
Knowl-Wood also offers complete dinners, including barbecued and fried chicken. Both serve up a half chicken with fries and fruit for under $5.
Manager Marie Cline has worked at Knowl-Wood for 10 years, but she's a relative newcomer compared to some of her customers.
"We have some farmers who come here every morning for coffee; they've been coming here since the place opened," Cline said. "Some people who came here as kids bring their own kids in now."
But the continuity will be interrupted next year when Knowl-Wood moves to a new site 20 yards north of the existing building, which will be torn down to make way for a shopping center.
According to Mike Rhodes, president of Frontier Restaurants, which acquired Knowl-Wood in 1988, the new restaurant--scheduled to open in the summer--will retain the flavor of the original, including the picnic tables.
Knowl-Wood, 1521 N. Imperial Highway, Anaheim. (Other locations: 14952 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine; 4700-A Barranca Parkway, Irvine; 2107 E. 17th St., Santa Ana.) Winter hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Friday through Sunday till 9:30 p.m. Open half-hour later in the summer. (714) 779-2501.