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Davis Journal

End of an era – Kitty Pappas Steakhouse closes after 75 years

Aug 12, 2022 02:02PM ● By Becky Ginos

The restaurant has had many of the same customers for decades. Kitty has been the only cook and was famous for her food. Photos courtesy of George Pappas

WOODS CROSS—It’s been 75 years since John and Kitty Pappas opened a restaurant along Hwy 89 in Woods Cross. It was a simpler time when deals were made with a hug and a handshake. Now the diner, well known for its homemade food and friendly atmosphere will be bulldozed over to make way for a parking lot. 

“Mom and dad got married in 1946,” said Kitty’s son George. “Dad worked for a produce market and was a truck driver. Mom wanted him to stay closer to home and one day he came home and said ‘I got us a restaurant.’”

It was an old decrepit place called the Scenic Inn at first, he said. “They operated under that name until they got the money to get a big neon sign.”

Dad would cook and mom would wait tables, said Pappas. “In 1963 my dad died. She had three kids by then so she grabbed her boot straps and yanked them really hard and took over running the business.”

In 70 years there’s only been one cook, he said. “She had the art of cooking five to six different items at different cook times and they’d miraculously be done at the same time.”

Originally the name of the restaurant was Johnny Pappas Steakhouse. “The name was changed to Kitty Pappas in the early 80s when my brother John died,” he said. 

Their living quarters were right on the premises, said Pappas. “If you heard a bump in the night you could grab a shotgun and do a walk through then be back into bed in 10 minutes. I was lucky to grow up in our workplace.”

Pappas said his mother (me ma) would come home when there was a break and sit in the La-Z-boy recliner. “She’d take cat naps during the day until someone would come and tell her an order had come in. She had a remarkable work ethic.”

Mom’s goal was to keep the business solvent while she was alive, said Pappas. (Kitty died on July 19.) “Five generations of the same family came through that door.”

Kitty was known for her cakes and made up her own recipes. “She never wrote them down,” Pappas said. “She used simple ingredients with no measurements. The recipes evolved over time.”

The restaurant had some unique offerings like the egg burger, a salami sandwich with or without cheese and an egg, a steak sandwich and of course her famous cake. “We had a group of conference goers who would stop here because their parents and grandparents ate here. Tradition was a strong thing.”

Pappas said they had a beautiful relationship with the community. “We contributed good food and atmosphere. It was a laid back place where working men didn’t need a suit and tie. We had a slew of customers who loved to stop by on a Saturday for a cold beer and a cheese burger.”

The customer base has been so wonderful, he said. “They were always so quick to help. If it got really busy they’d wash dishes.”

There was no dishwashing machine in that kitchen, Pappas said. “If we hired a new kid he’d come into the kitchen and say ‘where’s the dishwasher?’ She’d say ‘son, you are the dishwasher.’”

Mom was not only a force at the restaurant but loved adventure too, he said. “She enjoyed bungee jumping and skydiving in her 70s and 80s and always loved to drive very fast!”

Pappas said he’s sad to see the restaurant go. “We need a ma and pa business instead of a stucco building with fake rock. I’d just a soon taste the flavor of someone’s creativity. We’ve had customers for decades. It’s been a grand life.” 

See photo gallery online at λ