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What are your memories of Ken's House of Pancakes in Menlo Park?

Original post made by Memorie Man on May 9, 2007

Kenneth H. Pruitt, who became known as the "Pancake Man" after opening his first Ken's House of Pancakes in Menlo Park in 1959, died April 13. He was 83. [See obituary: Web Link ]
The Menlo Park restaurant, a local fixture for many years, closed in 1999. [See the Almanac story: Web Link ]
What are your memories of the local pancake house?

Comments (48)

Posted by JBH, a resident of another community
on May 9, 2007 at 11:57 am

I remember Ken's.
It was a great place to get great pancakes with all the trimmings, served on platters, a simple plate wouldn't work. You would always see the same waitresses year after year there which I always thought spoke well of the company. Always the same consistent food and service. Maybe it wasn't the latest or the hot-spot in the area but Ken's you knew that you would get lots of good food for a fair price.

Posted by Mystery Mom7, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on May 9, 2007 at 1:24 pm

Fond memories of Ken's. Miss the great pies and burgers. No restaurant in the space since Ken's has flourished as well. It was unique and something we need more of.

Posted by Reba, a resident of another community
on May 17, 2007 at 2:21 pm

Ken's was the first restaurant my family and I ate at when we moved to Menlo Park in 1980. Our kitchen wasn't unpacked and we didn't have a lot of options. But to a hungry seven-year-old kid, a plate of pancakes was just about the best option around.

Later, Ken's became a regular favorite for us whenever the grandparents were in town.

Posted by Andrew L. Freedman, a resident of another community
on May 21, 2007 at 3:53 pm

I was about 11 years old and my older brother was a year older. We had just ordered lunch and my parents went to another table to briefly visit some friends. Before they returned to the table, the waitress delivered our lunches. My older brother was trying to kick me from under the table. He was sitting opposite of me. Just as my parents were returning to the table, my brother went to kick me again, but instead he kicked the pole or leg that supported our table. All the dishes quickly tumbled to the floor along with the table. I think our parents were a little more embarrassed than we were. I remember my mother with a look of horror on her face when she saw and heard what happened.


Posted by Jim M, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jun 18, 2007 at 10:13 pm

I remember when Ken was in both Menlo and Mountain View, and when I asked about the "Kens of Hawaii" menu (framed on the wall), I was told that a former employee of Ken's had opened a pancake house in Hilo with permission to use his name. I decided to make a trip to the Big Island and drove across a really very big island through several micro-climates to actually find "Ken's". My large stack with coconut syrup was excellent and worth the trip!

Posted by trixie1, a resident of another community
on Jul 28, 2007 at 9:48 am

I worked at Ken's Milbrae and Menlo Park for 12+ years. Wonderful place to work. Good food. Good people. Ken will be missed. I think of the people I met there often.

Posted by Patrick Gardner, a resident of another community
on Jan 11, 2008 at 8:49 pm

I used to go to Ken's in Mountain View. There was a bartender there that called everyone a rabbit. After many years there was even a painting of him as a rabbit. I first met him in 1964. I cannot remember is real name, but I can sure remember the face. Is there anyone out there that remembers him as well? Also, is Ken's in Mountain View still in operation?

Leeuwarden, The Netherlands

Posted by Don Frances, a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2008 at 11:54 am


The Ken's House of Pancakes in Mountain View is long closed. In fact, we called the Ken's in Hawaii (I edit the Mountain View Voice) and found that it's the last remaining of the chain. Read more about it here:

Web Link

I hadn't heard what Jim M posted above -- "a former employee of Ken's had opened a pancake house in Hilo with permission to use his name" -- but if that's true the Hawaii restaurant wasn't exactly part of Ken Pruitt's chain anyway.

Posted by JOHN KRACHT, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 5, 2008 at 4:53 pm

Patrick....did you ever identify the 'rabbit?' I'm looking for a former employee of either the Campbell of Menlo Ken's by the name of Ed Dees. Does that ring a bell?

Posted by Abe, a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2011 at 8:19 pm

When I first moved to Silicon Valley I was put up at the motel next door and ate at Ken's then and many times between 1985 and 1987. Sometimes we would get partially full at Ken's and then go to Toshi's Sushiya on University Ave in Palo Alto -- Toshi had a couple of places after that, last being Kaygetsu which I think is just closing. Things change, huh?

(But I first ate at the Ken's in Hilo which was I think 24 Hour and a big place for the locals -- this was 1984 or so when I visited during a volcanic eruption -- very excellent memories of nice island and people.)

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Loved Ken's when I was in high school. As an adult, I noticed that they never could make a cappuccino. That's my bad for ordering a cap in a diner.

Posted by old timer, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 26, 2011 at 10:59 pm

We went to Ken's for years. The Apple pancake was our and our kids favorite. We would also many times order it to go.

However, we had a very bad incident with a snotty waitress one Sunday, and even after writing our complaint, never heard back. We never went back after that. It wasn't too long later that it closed.

After a number of un-successful restaurants in that spot, a real winner has been found in Jeffry's, which if not the most successful eatery in MP is certainly very near the top, even after being open for only a short time period.

Posted by bob, a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 27, 2011 at 11:14 am

Our family went to Ken's after church in Woodside in the 60's didn't go much after. My memories are of huge pancake dishes.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2011 at 11:58 am

Old Timer - that must've been the same waitress who was nasty to me re my cappuccino. The last time I ordered one, when I said I'd been given a latte by mistake, she breathed fire into my face and tried to convince me that I was wrong. They closed not long after that.

I'm glad that the Jeffrey's is there - it's The O for kids & families ;-) My spouse digs the milkshakes. But the chain curtain in back is a little SM/dungeony, imo - makes MP a tad racy ;-)

Posted by Lorrie, a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Oct 27, 2011 at 12:13 pm

I remember going to Ken's in the early '70s to carbo-load on pancakes for Bay-to-Breakers. Not sure it helped my race time, but it sure tasted good.

Posted by Cass, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 27, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Remember those golden coffee jugs they'd leave at each table? Once, close to when they closed, we got a really old one with a Giants logo and the GG bridge in the background. I bought it for $20, mostly to have a Ken's relic. Shoulda eBayed it when they won the Series.

Posted by chrissie, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 27, 2011 at 2:27 pm

I remember that as a high schooler in the mid-late 70's we would 'kidnap' our friends on their birthdays by waking them up and dragging them in pajamas to Ken's for breakfast (either before school or early on a weekend). As it was not trendy in those days to go out in your pj's, this would cause quite a scene and was lots of fun! Ken's was a great neighborhood pancake house!

Posted by B, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 27, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Boysenberry syrup! When I was a kid in the 1970s I remember the boysenberry syrup for pancakes. It was a great treat to have something other than maple syrup.

By the late 1970s I remember cutting second period at M-A and going to Ken's with my friends for breakfast.

By the late 1980s Ken's wasn't so good any more. Either the quality had gone way downhill, or I raised the bar and wanted something better, healthier maybe.

I also remember going to Ken's in Mountain View and Millbrae. At some point Ken sold the Millbrae eatery and the new owner changed the name to "Ben's House of Pancakes." It made for a cheap change to the old Ken's sign.

For that old-school pancake house experience, the Millbrae House of Pancakes is still there and is exactly as it was 25 years ago.

Posted by Menlo resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 27, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Loved Ken's. It was a wonderful family restaurant and a great place that parents did not mind their middle school and high school kids to go without supervison. Loved the spaghetti and garlic bread and my parents loved the pork chops. Ken's was a great place and is still missed.

Posted by JT, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 27, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Ken's! I still miss it. As students at M-A in the '60s, my friends and I used to meet at Ken's before school for a huge pancake breakfast and that bottomless carafe of coffee. The old-time waitresses were kindly tolerant of our caffeinated exuberance. Thanks for the memories, Ken!

Posted by Barbie, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 27, 2011 at 7:33 pm

From early time, my family would go to Ken's after church. Actually I remember leaving church early so we could get a seat . I loved the apple pancakes. The waitresses were great and always friendly. Such a family tradition for me and always will be remembered. Also a great social event as we always met someone that we knew. Good times not forgotten.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 27, 2011 at 10:16 pm

It was a great place to have breakfast with your friends or family. Definitely one of those truly "local" places. Too bad it's gone; we're left with good memories though.

Posted by julie, a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 28, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Dressing up in our pj's & going with a gang of high school friends

Posted by susan thomas, a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Oct 28, 2011 at 3:58 pm

ken's out lasted us all - a go to place - my mom never returned her food - it was
perfect - a diner where delicious comfort food was dependable as were the folks that
served it and frequented it - the new owner of jeffrey's is a friend who asked for a 50's
picture i had of myself and an old boy friend - both of us ex MA students sharing
a milkshake- i am proud to say our photo is on the wall at jeffrey's --- but for me it
will always be on the wall at KEN'S with buicks- fords and chevys parked outside---
cheers ---

Posted by Jon, a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Oct 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Great place. The German pancake with powdered sugar and lemon was to die for! Thanks to Ken

Posted by Tricia Young, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm

I entered Ken's as a small child holding my Dad's hand in 1960 and remember the door had a decal on it saying Diners Club. That was the first time I ever saw any reference to a "credit card" and even my Dad had no idea what Diners Club decal meant. I remember the tall "world" atop the building spinning around perhaps??? Was there a top hat too? The building was very distinctive and once inside I remember the biggest pancake I had ever seen go by. Very busy place. Smells of butter and sweets. We went there often as a family after that. Many years. Growing up here since 1955 Ken's House of Pancakes, Johnny's Smoke Shop, Foster's Freeze, Joe Prein's Record Shop, and the original Round Table Pizza Parlor. God bless you Mr. Ken!

Posted by Larry Steiner, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 31, 2011 at 11:15 am

We missed Ken's when it closed because it was a favorite Sunday morning treat for the family. We could always count on the good service and great food.

Posted by Day Trader, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 31, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Remember with fond memories eating at Ken's at all of the locations like Mountain View on the El Camino! The dinner salads and German baby pancake were awesome! I still taste those salads, burgers and fries. I also remember eating and running at Ken's! lol!

Posted by Marie, a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2012 at 1:33 pm

The "Rabbit" who bartended at the Ken's in Mountain View, his real name was Tommy.
Ken Pruitt at one time owned Ken's in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Hawaii, Milbrae, and a place with a pipe organ(?). He also briefly had Mr. K's Cabaret in Burlingame.
Ken's was famous for the German and Apple pancakes. The one in Hawaii now does not serve those.
Ken's was a great place to hang out with friends back in the day. They didn't make it because coffee shops became passe and the rents sky-rocketed in the late 90's early 2000's.

Posted by LocalGuy, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 21, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Great place for basic coffee shop foods here in California and Hawaii. The one in Hilo Hawaii did not please me when I was all of ten years old and they served still frozen strawberries on my now soggy waffle. The picture in the menu showed fresh strawberries and having just moved from California to Hilo I thought they had fresh strawberries. WRONG! Lesson learned. But if you are in the way to or from the Hilo airport it couldn't hurt to check Ken's out. The yelp reviews look good, but I wouldn't bet on getting fresh strawberries there anytime soon. LOL.

Posted by Jim K, a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2012 at 8:07 am

Loved Ken's. Ate at Ken's, MP, all the time. After they closed I started eating at Ken's, Mountain View until the day I was served the specialty of the house, Blueberry Pancakes with hidden cigarette butt. Never went back.
Then they finally closed. Surprise, surprise!

Posted by judi sexton, a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2013 at 9:30 pm

I used to go to Ken's in Mountain view with my folks Melody and Rod Romayne. Ken always called the bar Melody's for my Mother.we spent many good times there with Tommy the bar tender and another bartender named Don Manners. My husband and I also went there. it was a great hang out, just down the road from "the Echo" in Los Altos.The place was always friendly and Ken always had great free goodies at the bar. .

Posted by Sheldon Donig, a resident of another community
on Nov 3, 2013 at 3:04 pm

I was kicked out of Ken's House Of Pancakes in 1968 for having long hair. I was with a social worker, a friend who was going to Hasting's Law School and a friend interning at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco. The police were called and they enforced "the right to serve" sign on the door. We were kicked out, those are the times. The Redwood Room in the Clift Hotel in San Francisco had the same standards.And those were the times.

Posted by DinerFan, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 4, 2013 at 10:39 am

Remember Ken's, and miss it too. Wish we had a place like it around town again. It would be great! Love (and miss) the old Diners.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2013 at 3:18 pm

This thread started in 2007

Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 4, 2013 at 6:02 pm

All this talk about pancakes makes me want to have some, and Ken's is closed. I guess I'll go home and have potato pancakes for dinner.

Posted by aejrko6, a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Nov 5, 2013 at 12:32 pm

We used to go to Ken's Menlo Park every Sunday after attending Holy Trinity Church. Started going there in the early 60's and continued till it closed. Great place for breakfast and as kids we loved all the flavored syrups and the dutch baby apple pancakes. Wish there were still places like Ken's.

Posted by We miss Ken's H.O.P!, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 5, 2013 at 10:37 pm

Thank you Ken Pruitt for being part of the MP community for years. I played on Ken's House of Pancakes little league baseball team growing up. Great memories. A long-missed member of the MP community and much different than a Stack's type breakfast place. I miss the good old regular pancake house style restaurant Menlo Park needs so badly to return to town. I-Hop is the closest thing but a big chain! Not the same.

Posted by musical, a resident of another community
on Nov 6, 2013 at 8:05 am

I sometimes breakfast on pancakes at Ann's Coffee Shop down Santa Cruz Av, opens at 6:30. Palo Alto doesn't wake up until 7.

Posted by Patty Welling, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 6, 2013 at 11:06 am

Like the earlier post from Tricia Young I too remember all the old haunts of Menlo Park....and I can add Don's Hobby Shop. Our family used to go to Ken's House of Pancakes after going to Nativity Church on Sunday. We had moved to the area in 1959, about the same time Ken's and Round Table first opened their doors. It was always such a treat to go to Ken's...great pancakes/waffles and friendly service. Was so sad to see it go but Jeffrey's is doing a good job keeping the ambiance of the 50's and 60's. Will have to try the Hawaii Ken's when we are in Hilo.

Posted by Stu Soffer, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 6, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Stu Soffer is a registered user.

Chocolate Cream Pie

Posted by Jocasta , a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Nov 13, 2013 at 6:15 am

I have many warm and pleasant memories of Ken's. My father started taking us there when we moved to Woodside in 1962. He loved going out for breakfast and Ken's was one of his favorites. When I had my daughter the first place my dad took us was to Ken's for breakfast when she was a month old. When my parents were older they would go there for dinner sometimes. It was a nice friendly place for them. I was sorry to see it closed.

Posted by Hungry Jack, a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 2, 2014 at 10:33 pm

I recall many breakfast whence I debated between Kens's delightful German pancakes (which took extra time to prepare) or a greasy item lower down on the menu called the Weasel. Yes, the Weasel was an open face omelet slathered in chili con carne and raw heartburn. Once ingested, the Weasel would scurry around your intestines for the rest of the day and take on a wretched life of its own. Curse that vile weasel. I always wished that I had the patience to wait for the German pancakes instead of hastily ordering a weasel.

Posted by Mark, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 14, 2014 at 2:37 pm

I remember Ken's well. My dad owned Viking Muffler next door to Ken's. Bob Cunningham was a cook there and Jim's son. I remember Jim sitting in his office all the time. My dad would have lunch there everyday and sometimes breakfast too. When I went to work at the muffler shop in the late 70s, I would have a Monte Cristo sandwich everyday. Sometimes strawberry pancakes in the morning. I remember the little creek that went down between the booths and the window. They later took it out, to much up keep I guess. There was always Doris at the counter. Loved her. Bob even came to work for us for a while at the muffler shop. Bob and I both had cameros and we would race them around town and get in trouble. We knew Ken pretty well. He bought 3 Hydro Cycle boats, Brought them to the shop. He had me put all three of them together and dad built a trailer, for which Ken gave me 1 of the boats. That was pretty great. In the 70s you were lucky to have a car, thanks to Ken I had a boat too. We would take it to San Luis Res. wait for the wind to come up and take it out and jump off the big waves. I miss that family and there restaurant.

Posted by Leslie, a resident of another community
on Jul 3, 2014 at 1:12 am

I had the great fortune of working at KHOP around 1977-79. I started as a weekend busboy, then worked my way up to grill cook working nights when I was in Jr. College. Man, what a great learning experience it was for me at a young age. Ken was a bit of a crumudgeon to be sure, but he ran a tight ship and we were taught to do things right. For me working at Ken's was like going to school every day... and I mean OLD school. In that kitchen, everthing... and I mean EVERYTHING was made from scratch. Even with all the hoey about farm to fork and organic restaraunts, nobody today even comes close to the way it was done at Ken's back in the day. I miss Ken, and all the servers I worked with (Betty, Ursula, Roxanne, and Ken's daughter Dana) not to mention all the cooks and our Chef Bill Bennet. They all taught me a lot that served me well in life all these years. I really miss Ken's to be sure, but not just for the incredible food and ambiance. For me it will always be more than that, with many fond memories.

Posted by Don Fabiano, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 3, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Ken's was one of the favorite hangouts of Pacific Telephone technicians back in the 70s, and I was one of those. We could always get a great breakfast and a decent cup of coffee there. Of course, the variety of pancakes was excellent. The German pancakes and apple pancakes took a little longer, but were unique and we always had the time to wait for them. Times were definitely different, and so was Ken's. We'll never see the likes of it again.

Posted by Dan, a resident of another community
on Jul 4, 2014 at 2:49 am

According to some articles in Hawaii a couple years back, Ken Pruitt and Bonnie Twitchell opened the Hilo Ken's in 1971 - maybe Bonnie is the "former employee" mentioned above?

In 1990 it was sold to Lindberg "Lindy" Ching (a businessman from the Kahuku-Hau'ula area of northern Oahu) and his wife Frances Lee Ching, and has been run ever since by their daughter Debra Ching Maiava and her husband Ric Maiava.

Ric, incidentally, is from the same Maiava family roots (in Samoa, I think?) as Duane "The Rock" Johnson - behind the register at Ken's in Hilo there are all kinds of photos of Maiavas who were pro wrestlers in the old, old days.

I've been to Ken's in Hilo probably dozens if not hundreds of times, but I finally got curious tonight about who "Ken" had been, looked up the history, found out Hilo was one of several locations, and found this site! My experiences in Hilo resonate with what others have said - staff that have been there for years, even decades... waitresses who have seen my eldest daughter grow from a 2-year-old to a teenager, and are now watching my youngest do the same.

Once I went there and someone asked if I was me (by name) and the next thing I knew, Debra herself was at the table explaining that the LAST time I ate there, I had been given someone else's check by mistake (I had paid without even looking) and that they owed me several dollars, which she proceeded to give me. That really made an impression. So I'd say even with different owners (and a presumably different, definitely Hawaiianized menu), the Hilo Ken's is still largely holding true to the kind of atmosphere and values you folks are all remembering in here.


Posted by Manlo Punk, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 4, 2014 at 7:37 am

Liked Ken's.

Would be nice to have a "down home" place like that around again.

Best to the family!

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