Eleanor King, the machine behind the scenes at King’s Diner, has been feeding Kodiak locals and visitors for 37 years.
King cooks everything from scratch — from soups and pies to her famed lasagna and her holiday favorite, pirok, seasonally available when she can get fresh king and silver salmon.
King’s Diner, located at 1941 Mill Bay Road, also serves locals typical diner food, such as hamburgers, sandwiches, pancakes, omelettes and endless pots of coffee.
After living in Kodiak for 62 years and running the diner for half that time, King has no desire to slow down.
The love she has for her work and community drives her to put in long hours, seven days a week.
“I like to please the customers. It’s nice to hear them come up and say, ‘thank you, it was excellent.’ It makes you more incentivized to keep going,” King said.
She begins her day at 4 a.m., when she gets up to begin preparing food for the day’s menu. She chops onions, dices vegetables, fries bacon and prepares her “old fashioned” sourdough pancake batter, the recipe for which she says is 100 years old and passed down from her grandmother.
She said she never gives the recipe out.
“I like that it gets me out of the house, gets me to socialize, and by the time I get done here I’ve had enough with people,” King said with a laugh.
King is originally from Chignik. Her mother passed away when she was 5 years old, and she later moved to San Francisco for high school, where she lived with her aunt. She quickly returned home because she missed her family.
But after experiencing life with running water and indoor plumbing, she decided she wanted to leave Chignik for good. When King’s brother travelled to Kodiak for dental work, she found an opportunity to move to the town with him and her grandmother. At 15 years old, she found an apartment and two part-time jobs to help support her family.
At that time, the mailboat traveled to Chignik once a month, so her father expected them home the following month. But after three months in Kodiak, King convinced her father to move the family to The Rock, where they have lived ever since.
King worked days at a store as a gift wrapper and nights as a dishwasher at the Polar Bear Cafe, located near where the Orpheum Theatre now stands. She also worked for a while at a seafood processing plant.
King moved up the ranks at the cafe and eventually learned to cook. She stayed for four years and quit working when she married her late husband Robert A. King.
“I met him through the restaurant. He used to come in there and talked a lot,” King said. “It was just supposed to be.”
After her children were born, she worked as a cook at Kodiak High School and Middle School.
One day, when King went to the airport to pick up a package that had arrived for her son, the owner of a bar and restaurant located in the airport asked her to manage the business for him.
“‘I’ve got a good deal for you. I can’t take care of this place anymore … Come in, take over for me, pay my bills off and you can have the rest,” King recalled the restaurant owner telling her.
She took him up on the offer, but after two and a half years, the owner sold the restaurant to a new owner, with whom King did not see eye to eye. So she left and eventually opened King’s Diner at its current location.
Through the hardships she has lived through — including the deaths of her two brothers, her husband and, more recently, her daughter in January — King has always had her restaurant.
“It’s everything,” she said. “I’ve alway enjoyed cooking and it gives me an incentive to get up and go in the morning.”