Slices of chocolate and lemon meringue pies / Photos by Mark Davis

About 13 years ago, a tornado swept through North Dallas damaging everything in its path, including Kel’s Kitchen at Forest and Inwood. The roof blew off, and the cedar façade fell on top of parked cars. “It was scary,” owner Johnny Meredith says. “The place was packed, and people were still saying, ‘Where’s my hamburger?’ It didn’t faze them.”

Since it opened in 1963, Kel’s has become a neighborhood institution, serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner from scratch — from staples such as chicken fried steak to less common diner fare like cheese enchiladas. Even the salad dressing is homemade, using family recipes and other ideas that are sort of “thrown together”.


It all started in 1962 when Meredith’s father, a milk truck driver, decided to buy Ken’s Kitchen at Preston and Forest. He couldn’t afford a new neon sign, so he just changed one letter and thus, Kel’s Kitchen was born. Meredith started working in his dad’s restaurant at age 7.

General manager Jimmie Harris and owner Johnny Meredith

The diner relocated to Forest and Inwood in 1985. General manager Jimmie Harris has been working at Kel’s for more than 20 years and trained all the line cooks himself.

“They can do this stuff in their sleep,” he says.

And servers know their regulars so well they can place their orders before customers even walk in the door. Denny Kelly has been eating at Kel’s four to five times a week for the past 39 years. His favorite dish is one that probably doesn’t get as much notoriety — the oatmeal.

“It’s just like my mom used to make,” Kelly says.

Kel’s Kitchen
Forest & Inwood

Three more neighborhood dives

1 Mama’s Daughters’ Diner
Owned and operated by three generations, this local diner keeps it all in the family, offering made-from-scratch favorites on the cheap.
• Royal & Harry Hines

2 Mecca
For a tried-and-true greasy spoon, try Mecca, which has been serving up home-cooked dishes since 1938. The cinnamon rolls, chicken fried steak and pies keep customers coming back.
• Lombardy & Harry Hines

3 Original Market Diner
Established as a drive-in in 1954, this local diner has changed hands over the years but eventually made its way back to the Greek family that started it all. Burgers, chocolate pie, milkshakes — you’ll find all the staples here.
• Wycliff & Harry Hines