People and Places: King Chicken Drive-In

People and Places

Much has changed in the Washington community since King Chicken Drive-In opened in the 1950s.

Yet, the restaurant has stood the test of time by not really changing at all.

“King Chicken and Bill’s Hot Dogs is the only two things left that was here 60 years ago,” said Granville Lilley, the restaurant’s former owner. 

Things have changed all around, yet it remains virtually the same.

Chicken is king at King Chicken, but owner Zack Mixon said the menu doesn’t stop there.

 “A lot more than chicken, yes,” said Mixon. “We’ve got cheese biscuits. We’re famous for our cheese biscuits.”

“Cheese biscuits,” said Lilley. “We sell the best cheese biscuits in the world.”

“Chicken and cheese,” said Mixon. “Where we take a whole chicken breast and put it inside one of our handmade cheese biscuits.”

“Collards are one of our staples here and has been for years and years and years,” said Mixon. “And we’ve got some ladies that have passed that on from generation to generation that know how to cook them. Because not everyone knows how to cook collards.”

And the restaurant itself is now being passed on.

Zach Mixon is the new owner.

“I came here as a little boy,” Mixon said. 
     
Mixon bought King Chicken last summer from Granville Lilley, who owned the restaurant for 30 years. 

Before that, his father Stancil Lilley started it back in 1958.

Now, it’s Mixon’s turn, who gave up a career in construction to keep the King Chicken tradition alive.

“New to the restaurant business, but I’ve always admired the Lilley’s, Mr. Granville,” said Mixon. “And when I had the opportunity meet him and sit down and talk with him, I knew this is what I wanted to do.”

“The community loves him,” said Lilley. “And the food is going to be the same and continuing right on for another 60 years.”

So, what is King Chicken’s recipe for success?
     
“Good food,” said Mixon. “Just a good product. And good employees, really. I mean, King Chicken has driven this long because of employees.”

“You’ve got to have good help, and we’ve been very fortunate that we’ve had good help,” Lilley said. 

“Ladies and cooks that have been here for 40 years, 30 years. I mean, that’s unheard of in the restaurant business.”
     
One of those longtime employees is Rowena Cole, nicknamed “Mama.”

“I just love being here,” said Cole “I love the people around me.”

Judging by the lines, the customers love being here, too.

Even the now-former owner comes in for at least a cup of coffee, every single day.

“My special place to eat,” said Lilley. “And I’m still coming here since I’ve sold it. I’m still coming here every day.”

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