Extended families are often overextended families, and Mike King, owner of the Corner Kitchen, is offering something unique to the Charleston area to help them: fully cooked homemade comfort foods, frozen and ready to be heated and eaten.
“We’re trying to offer Charleston something it doesn’t have,” King said of his unusual business model.
It began as a regular restaurant and then gradually expanded to frozen options, which have proven to be wildly popular.
“It started as one customer who wanted the foods frozen and then another customer, and I started asking my customers and they all wanted it. It’s the menu I regularly cook. It’s what they come in for,” King said.
“What the frozen foods are really good for is people taking care of their parents. The frozen meals are also great for families and people on the go. Dad can have what he wants. Mom can have what she wants and the kids can have what they want.”
The restaurant, at the intersection of Bigley Avenue and Westmoreland Road, reopened May 19 after a regularly scheduled holiday vacation around the first of the year turned into a five-month break because of the January water contamination crisis.
Now, in addition to his regular breakfast, lunch and dinner menu, King’s restaurant is offering a wide selection of homemade frozen foods — including baked steak, cabbage rolls, lasagna (regular and vegetarian), meatloaf, baby back ribs, barbecue chicken, fried chicken, pulled pork barbecue, chicken and dumplings, beef tips and noodles, roast beef, salmon patty, soups and spaghetti sauce.
The frozen foods cost $4 to $5 per serving, and pint-size sides can be added for $2.50 or quart-size for $4. King said many of the servings easily feed two people, and dinner can be as easy as 10 to 15 minutes in the microwave — and the “cook” knows the meal is something people actually want to eat, that’s been cooked from scratch with no preservatives or additives.
“We cook it specifically for freezing. We cook it, cool it, individually wrap it and date it,” King said.
“You can make your own sides if you want, or I can make them. We have scalloped potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green beans, mashed potatoes, corn casserole, fried apples, creamed peas and baked beans as frozen sides,” King said.
Coleslaw, potato salad and salads also are offered as sides but cannot be frozen.
Judy Cossin began as a fan of the restaurant when it opened about four years ago. She worked in Charleston for the federal government and retired last year to Mason County to care for her 92-year-old mother.
“I love it. My freezer is full. It’s so nice to be able to go home and pull a dinner out and heat it up. My mom may want a baked steak and I may want something else. You can’t beat the baked steak. It’s tender and the best I’ve ever tasted.
“Mike King will work with you and fix anything you want. He’s made kale and turnips just for me,” Cossin said in a recent interview from her Leon home.
Customers can sit at one of two tables in the front room — which has the feel of waiting at Grandma’s house — but most orders are pickup or delivery.
Dennis McCormick was there to pick up his lunch recently.
He said he has been a regular customer for over three years and that he keeps coming back for the “excellent food — and the staff is friendly too.”
Dione Copney works at the Go-Mart across the street.
She walked over to the restaurant recently and picked up the lunch she had phoned in earlier.
“I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Corner Kitchen,” she said as she got her first meal from the restaurant.
Andy Luoni said he became a fan of King’s cooking when his employer, Airgas, had training sessions for six weeks and the Corner Kitchen catered 30 lunches a day for the company.
“Everybody loved it. We had two groups — one group for three weeks, and another for three weeks. Everyone got too fat was the only complaint,” Luoni said with a laugh.
King said he regularly caters events of about any size, from a few dozen to up to 500 people.
“Don’t be surprised to see the Corner Kitchen around downtown selling breakfast burritos,” King said, as he outlined his made-from-scratch breakfast menu of sausage, bacon, eggs, vegetarian quiche, meat-lovers quiche, biscuits, gravy, fried potatoes and fried apples.
“I’m giving free dessert every day next week, June 2-6, to everyone who orders a lunch or dinner meal,” King said.
The restaurant offers a variety of desserts on a rotating basis, including four types of cakes — chocolate, lemon, pineapple upside down, banana split — and five types of pies — apple, cherry, Hawaiian, mudslide and peanut butter. He also creates an ambrosia dessert he named “Out of This World” with bananas, strawberries, pineapple and mandarin oranges. Customers also seem to love his homemade brownies.
The Corner Kitchen has a Facebook page and a website, cornerkitchenwv.com, where the daily special is posted for the restaurant at 1701 Bigley Ave. It is open from 7 to 10 a.m. for breakfast and 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. for lunch and dinner, Monday through Friday. To place an order, call 304-400-4096 or 304-400-4196. King offers free lunch delivery to businesses from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Reach Judy E. Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1230.