February 22, 2024


World's finest Food

Kinlaw’s serves classic Southern food

“What is it, baby?”

More than 1,000 people a day walk through the front door at Kinlaw’s Welcome Grill to a resonating greeting from Miss Betty, a fixture at the front of the cafeteria line at Kinlaw’s for more than 15 years.

Customers may get a “baby,” “love” or “mama,” whether it’s their first time in, or they’re returning for lunch after stopping in for breakfast earlier that morning. In just a few minutes, several regulars tell Miss Betty they love her, a feeling she promptly reciprocates.

There are no windows at Kinlaw’s, an open square space with about 25 unadorned tables illuminated with overhead fluorescent lighting. Rather, Kinlaw’s is a window into life in Fayetteville, a place where folks of all ages, demographics and walks of life find common ground in a plate of hush puppies, fried chicken and meatloaf.

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The history of Kinlaw’s

Kinlaw's Welcome Grill owner Tom Kinlaw Jr. gives the meatloaf a coating in ketchup glaze.

Tommy Kinlaw, a butcher at the old A&P grocery store in Fayetteville and his brother, Bobby, a truck driver for Star Foods, decided to get into the food business for themselves and opened Kinlaw’s Supermarket on the east end of Fayetteville in 1979. A few years later, they opened a grill in a small building attached to the market. 

The grill proved successful and they opened a second location downtown, next to the First Presbyterian Church on Ann Street. That spot, named the Country Table, is where Tom Kinlaw Jr. got his start as a kid in junior high working in the family business.