Pal’s Sudden Service, or Pal’s as most of us in these parts know it as, is as homegrown as you can get.
Now considered one of America’s premier quick-service restaurant chains, the very first Pal’s opened in 1956 in Kingsport – and still stands today on Revere Street. It is indeed a Kingsport Original.
While the first Pal’s restaurant ever built stands apart from the other 28 locations – it’s old school, carrying a red and white motif, and doesn’t have a drive-through window – there’s no getting around the fact that the rest of the locations are nothing short of eye-catching. Painted a light, bright shade of blue every Pal’s features larger than life food items, which include a burger, hot dog, fries, and a milkshake, on the front of the buildings.
While the restaurants themselves grab your attention, it’s the food – and the service – that have made Pal’s so popular, unforgettable, and irresistible. And that was owner Fred “Pal” Barger’s intention from the very beginning.
In the early ‘50s, Barger, a Kingsport native, attended a National Restaurant Convention in Chicago where he met McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. After that fateful interaction, he came home and began planning his own restaurant, which would ultimately feature tasty burgers, hot dogs, fries, milkshakes, breakfast fare, and more. Barger knew from the get-go that he wanted his restaurant to be drive-through only and feature lightning-fast, personalized service.
To say Barger hit it out of the park on his first solo foray into the restaurant business would be a vast understatement. The iconic frenchie fries, sauce burger, cheddar rounds, and of course, the Big Tea, and the rest of the items on the menu are highly sought after.
It’s not just the locals that appreciate Pal’s. The chain has been featured in articles in both the New York Times and the Washington Post, and in 2001, it became the first restaurant chain in the country to earn the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award. Just recently, Food and Wine Magazine named the restaurant the best fast food in Tennessee.
The demand for new Pal’s locations to be built is fierce and ongoing. Those traveling through the region who have tried Pal’s clamor for one to come to their hometowns of Knoxville, Roanoke, or Charlotte. We suggest you come for another visit though, because for now, we get to keep those tasty frenchie fries all to ourselves!