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King’s Sandwich Shop

Posted by NOK 7 Aug 2010 19 Comments

Several years after closing down, King’s Sandwich Shop by the old ballpark officially opened for business on Tuesday 8/3. The story of its resurrection has been well covered by Bull City Rising here and here, and multiple Carpe Durham contributors were excited enough to stop by on opening day.

At lunchtime, it is safe to say that King’s was slammed. An eclectic mix of hungry Durhamites braved the heat and opening day long lines to sample the new menu, featuring burgers, dogs, veggie options, pulled pork, and shakes. We went anticipating a wait, and between expected opening day logistical issues and a large and enthusiastic crowd, it took about as long as we expected to order and get our food (25-30 mins). The ordering system involves filling out a paper slip (one per order) and we expect it won’t take long for the kitchen to hit its stride. One additional logistical note: place your order at the south window, and pick up your food at the east window – several customers waited to order in the pick-up line for several minutes before realizing they had to order at the other window.

Like the unprofessional reviewers that we are, interest in trying the burgers trumped any efforts to sample a variety of offerings. The burger, cooked on a flat-top griddle, was very good. The beef is ground fresh daily, so they can cook it medium. It had a good balance of outside crust and pink middle, with little seasoning on the patty. You have a number of options for toppings, but we just got the King Burger, which comes with tomato, onion, chopped lettuce, and “King Sauce” which seems to be a mustard/mayo hybrid. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the tomatoes were fresh and in season – it’s always a letdown to get a supermarket grade tomato on a sandwich at this time of year. The burger was a bit prettier than pictured when I first got it, but I had a few bites before remembering to take a picture.

I was disappointed by what appear to be frozen fries. They were good enough, well cooked and salted, and on par with the fry offerings at the old King’s and Wimpy’s, but Durham is blessed with some great, house made fry choices (OnlyBurger, the Fed, Piedmont, Rue Cler, Vin Rouge, to name a few), that my standards have been raised. Maybe they’ll take a cue from Joe’s Diner – the first time I visited I got frozen onion rings, but on subsequent visits I’ve watched them peel a whole onion, slice it, bread it, and drop in the fryer, a massive step up.

Fan’s of the old King’s will surely miss staples like the Fried Bologna sandwich, fatback, and other regional specialties. A larger menu would be welcomed at some point, but we are fine with the philosophy of mastering the basics before expanding (I’ve previously heard rumors of breakfast or hours outside of the current window of 11-4).

Read on for additional comments from a fellow CD reviewer:

The Spicy Black Bean burger held up well to this reviewer’s toppings (kraut, pickles, onions, mustard, tomatoes, & lettuce). It was slightly crisp on the outside and retained moisture on the inside- something difficult to attain. This patty had a sweet spice to it that was not overpowering and exceeded my expectations!

Ah King’s, I fell in love with your sign and cute style you brought to a cinder block burger shack. I love that once again I’m able to consistently pick up a quick meal in Central Park. Then, when I arrived to try out your newly restored place, I found you offer the rarest of delicacies in Durham restaurants: crushed ice for your beverages. Little slivers of ice refreshed me as I waited on your new picnic tables, admired your sun flowers, and chatted with your other followers.

UPDATE: Since this visit on 8/3, King’s has posted an updated menu on their website. The King Burger now seems to be of the choose-your-own toppings variety instead of a preset list. It also looks like they tweaked some of the prices. The burger is now $3.75 and the combo, with fries and drink, is $6.75 (up 25 cents for each). As the new menu is dated “August 2010″ perhaps they are planning on regular updates as they get up to speed.

King’s Sandwich Shop
701 Foster St. map
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 682-0071
www.kingssandwichshop.com, click through for menu

Reviewed 8/3/10


  • Pam said:

    I stopped by King’s on Wednesday & again on Friday. I’m very excited that they finally opened & plan on working my way through their little menu quickly. The burgers were going to be the next thing I try so I’m glad to hear that I can order my burger medium.

    Don’t forget to try their shakes (topped with whipped cream with a cherry on top), malts & freshly squeezed lemonade.


  • DID said:

    FYI – when I talked to the owner a few months ago, he did say they plan on bringing back the bologna and fatback once they’ve been open a while.


  • Patrick said:

    Excellent. Now bring back Biscuit King, please…


  • KW said:

    I thoroughly enjoyed my two hot dog combo. I got mine topped with chili and slaw. The chili was very good and the dogs were delicious. This will probably become my go-to place for a hot dog in Durham. I look forward to going back to try the burger too.

    I do question the logistics of creating separate tickets for each person ordering. For instance my wife and I got separate tickets even though we paid together. Seems like unnecessary duplicating of effort. As a consequence, waiting to order took longer than waiting for the food to be cooked, even though there were only 5 people ahead of us when we got in line.

    But such delays are to be expected in the first couple of weeks of business. I’m sure they’ll figure out the best system in time.


  • Tom from Raleigh said:

    Glad to hear King’s is open again. I only ate there a few times, but I recall the fried baloney sandwich well. Glad to hear they’re planning to bring it back.


  • Paulette said:

    Congratulations Maggie and T.J. on your opening!
    I may make the trek from Algonquin:)


  • Michael from Durham said:

    To expect King’s to serve fresh french fries is ridiculous. As chef at Mayola’s Restaurant in the ’70′s, I know what it takes for a kitchen to serve fresh potato fries. King’s is very limited in space and they will do a volume business in french fries. To do fresh fries they would have to add a new building onto their site and have another employee just to keep up. The other restaurants you list don’t compare to King’s when it comes to offering fries. Be real!

    Just heard about the opening myself and am spreading the word! Congratualtions to all the folks at King’s and all the best!


    robin replies on November 6th, 2010 at 6:36 pm:

    that’s an interesting bit of info. i never would have guessed that. thanks.


  • Nick J said:

    I definitely was also disappointed in frozen fries (or more to the point, frozen-tasting fries), especially as they were visually deceptive, actually looking like they had been cut from potatoes. In response to Michael from Durham, if OnlyBurger can manage great fries, then so can King’s. Although King’s does already seem to have a huge number of employees working (unlike OnlyBurger’s always slow service).

    As for the rest of the meal, I had a great-tasting burger with all kinds of junk on it (the only surprise here being only one cheese option). And I had the chocolate malt, which was delicious and generous on the malt. My wife had the vanilla malt, which was also really good.

    I hope they get all kinds of business from the Farmer’s Market, and it would be great if they could stay open late for special events sometimes, like Third Fridays, Art Walks, and even Man Bites Dog shows next door.


  • rock lobster said:

    The burgers were great, the fries were fine, the lemonade was awesome, the shakes and cookies checked out. The service was 100% cool. I am down with everything so far, except the red dogs. Are those a nod to tradition or something? I will probably avoid ordering those in the future.


  • NOK (author) said:

    For those who are interested, we’ve received word that the above-mentioned Black Bean Burger is veg, but not vegan – it contains egg.


  • Jerrica said:

    Today we decided to try Kings Sandwich shop.. We had heard such good things about the food.. For the most part the food tasted good, but we unfortunately had a problem with one of the cheeseburgers.. We found two course hair like things in one of the burgers.. It was truly gross, and I couldn’t finish my food.. I tried to call and report this at the shop, but the phone was busy for an hour.. Really sorry this happened and don’t think we will be going back anytime soon..


    TSQ75 replies on October 5th, 2010 at 10:17 am:

    wow, i guess i’ll never find a hint of a hair in any food at your house.


  • squidproquo said:

    Jerrica, don’t just complain about this semi-anonymously on the internet and vow never to go back again. If their phone is busy, email them (info@kingssandwichshop.com, it was on their website under “contact us”), Facebook them, or go by the shop and talk to the owner directly (I think his name is T.J. and that he’s the guy writing down orders in the line). I’ve eaten there maybe 4 times now, had him take my order all 4 times, and get the general feeling that he cares enough to make it right. I do feel your pain over the foreign objects in your burger…I get sick to my stomach if I come across a random bit of bone in chicken salad. If it makes you feel any better, it probably wasn’t a hair but a piece of stainless steel off of a pot scrubber. That’s what it usually is, and MOST people find this thought less gross than a short and curly…

    Anyway, you should go through the trouble because I think they have the best burger in town, and my fat self has eaten quite a few burgers in the Bull City. Their griddle is “seasoned” just right, which is the real key for me. Also, the tomato is always high quality and they never put on too much mayo. My husband loved that jalapenos were a topping option, and said that the chili on his burger was great, but I haven’t tried it yet. I don’t usually eat fries, but I tried a couple of his and wasn’t horrified. Frozen…probably, but I personally think that the fries at OB, Tylers, Rue Cler and the Fed are always a touch over-done. Then again, I like a fry that’s more starchy than crispy and never veering towards too brown (even still, I don’t like them much).

    I hear that the red hot-dogs are what King’s has served since the beginning of time. I think it might be an Eastern part of the state thing, because I don’t recall them being popular growing up in Winston-Salem (for a good reason). Anyway, Joe’s on Angier is your best bet for dogs.

    Am eagerly awaiting word of fried baloney sandwiches—on white bread with mustard…mmm-mmm good.


  • LBD said:

    Yes there are many great fries in Durham but just because they are fresh cut doesn’t mean they are good. Allen & Son and 5 Guys are both fresh cut and IMO horrible.


  • PMo said:

    I suppose it’s probably prohibitively expensive, but wouldn’t it be great if they could stay open late on Friday and Saturday to take advantage of the ever expanding crowds at Fullsteam. A couple pints followed by a one-block walk down to get a King Burger would be a great evening.


  • Sant said:

    Ate there today and am ready to crown (pun intended) King’s as having the best burger in Durham (or the Triangle for that matter). The patties had a really beefy flavor and although they are cooked medium well they remained juicy. I normally don’t like thick cut fries like King’s serves because the inside tends to remain dense but these fries were soft and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. Perfect!

    And before anyone wonders, yes, I’ve tried Only Burger, both the truck and the new sit down joint, and I like King’s way better. It also doesn’t hurt that a burger, fries, and a drink is a couple bucks cheaper at King’s!

    Long live the King’s!!!


  • Motorco Music Hall | Carpe Durham said:

    [...] is the case with Fullsteam, food truck and cart offerings outside appear to be plentiful, and King’s Sandwich Shop down the road might be convinced to stay open later soon, too. They already held later hours for [...]

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