With no announcement, no fanfare and no farewell, one of the most venerable eating establishments in all of High Point closed suddenly last month.
I’m sad to say the K&W Cafeteria on Westchester Drive in High Point is gone. Done. Kaput.
As much as I like the cafeteria — and I really do like the cafeteria — I’m really not all that surprised.
As our children got older, the cafeteria became harder and harder to sell. One evening over the Christmas holiday our youngest, Anna, was home from college, and I said, “What if we eat at the K&W tonight? Who’s in?”
Anna, who is normally our most agreeable child, spoke up with a force and vigor that surprised me. “Noooo, Dad. Please, nooooooo. I’ll eat anywhere, anywhere but there. Literally anywhere.”
“I’m not proposing we eat roadkill. C’mon, I thought you liked the cafeteria?” I said.
“I’ve never liked it,” she replied.
“Yes you did. When you were little, you got excited about the orange Jell-O.”
“OK. I haven’t liked the cafeteria since I was 5,” Anna said.
“How can you not like the cafeteria?” I said. “That’s un-American. What’s not to love about red congealed salad with those canned-hospital-peaches suspended inside?”
“Dad, I know you like hospital peaches, but nobody else does,” she said.
I pressed on. “Or those starched cloth napkins with the silverware rolled up in the middle? Or the neat rows of fake greenery that separate the raisin and carrot salad from the beet salad? How can you not like that?”
“Beet salad? Beet salad? You don’t even like beet salad,” she said.
“I know I don’t like beet salad,” I argued, “but that’s not the point.”
“So, what is the point? The food is terrible, and I don’t like anything about it,” she said.
“OK. You got a point,” I said. “The food isn’t the greatest, I’ll admit. But the point of the cafeteria, the whole point of going there, the whole point is precisely that it never changes. It stays the same. It’s always the same. It’s been the same since you were a kid, and it’s been the same since I ate there growing up. The same food, the same carpet, the same wallpaper, the same trays, the same art deco medallion heat lamps hanging over the food. The same Salisbury steak, the same desserts, and the same assortment of rolls and cornbread. Although, one small change they’ve made is that the staff seems friendlier now. When I was growing up servers shouted at you in the line.”
“They shouted at you?” she asked.
“Oh yes,” I assured her. “They screamed and shouted, ‘SERVE YOU MEAT? SERVE YOU MEAT, SIR?’ and this started long before you ever got to the meat. I think they did it to keep the line moving, and sometimes they would shout at you across 10 or 15 people and way before you’d made up your mind about choosing either the watermelon slices or the melon balls.”
Anna looked at me with an expression of wonder. Wondering how on earth I could have ever enjoyed such a thing.
“And this is where you want us to eat tonight?”
“Yes,” I said. “The shouting was part of the whole experience, and it was wonderful. Yes, wonderful. And the more I think about it, the servers are much friendlier now.”
Needless to say, I lost the argument, and we ended up at one of those chain style Chi-poltle-ritto type places that offer guacamole with everything, and it didn’t have anywhere near the character of the K&W.
And now it’s closed, and I’m going to miss it greatly.