Yellowknife is mourning the loss of KFC, but the return of territorial fast food legend Lenny’s is around the corner.
Matt Jason, who will continue to run the city’s KFC franchise until it closes on August 23, intends to relaunch his father’s burger bar – an announcement greeted by waves of enthusiasm from longtime Yellowknifers.
“Lenny’s burgers were a treat. Glad that they are coming back,” wrote Mireille Richer, in a comment echoing the thoughts of many.
“I remember Lenny’s back in the day. Best place to go after school and eat a burger,” added Charles Brintnell.
“A little sad to see KFC go,” admitted Dustin Arychuk, “but excited for Lenny’s burger. It is probably the best hamburger ever.”
That’s a big claim, especially as Lenny’s remains a mystery to many residents who arrived after its demise.
So what was it like?
Lenny’s occupied what is now the Coldwell Banker building, says Val Pond, who worked at Lenny’s for a year in the early 1980s. She even met her first husband there, when he walked in as a customer.
“Our uniform jackets were yellow and brown,” Pond recalled to Moose FM, “and we called it Lenny’s the great Canadian hamburger store.
“It was the hangout for kids back in the day, it was the place to be. It was an old-fashioned restaurant, all booths, with young staff and young owners, just a really good atmosphere.”
Len Jason himself passed away in 1995, but his memory and recipe live on. Owners Matt and Sasha Jason hope the new Lenny Burger will be open by the end of the year.
Matt Jason told Moose FM traffic to the city’s KFC had “spiked a little bit” since news of its closure became public, while his sister admitted the decision to shut it down had been hard.
“KFC has always been here. It is undeniably a piece – no, probably more of a chunk – of Yellowknife history,” Sasha Jason wrote on Facebook.
“But at the same time [closing KFC] was the easiest decision I’ve ever made, because continuing to work at something each day that I don’t have genuine passion for is simply not an option.
“Even though the KFC will be gone, we are certain that when you visit The Lenny Burger you’re going to feel like you’re home. The positive responses to the burgers coming back are amazing.
“For those of you who haven’t tried one yet – just you wait.”
Some people may have sampled Lenny’s legacy without quite realizing it, as the burgers continued to be served over the counter at KFC for many years after Lenny’s itself physically closed down.
Only in the past three years did KFC’s national headquarters insist that the Yellowknife franchise stop trading in Lenny’s burgers on the side.
“The burgers? We had a secret sauce and everything,” said Pond. “I never revealed the secret – but I make the sauce for my own burgers, in my own kitchen.
“I got really excited when I heard Lenny’s is coming back. It’s pretty cool, having it come back after all these years and another generation getting to try out the burgers.
“I’ll be down there, that’s for sure.”