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.
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?
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.