K-Lair celebrates 50 years

By Chase Sanders

Over the past 50 years, many UK students have satisfied their appetites at K-Lair.

The diner-style grill lit its burners for the first time in 1961 and has been a consistently dependable restaurant for students and UK Dining Services.

Even though it’s the smallest of UK’s campus eateries, K- Lair has been part of the college experience since it was established.

“It’s just a really special place in its own little way,” said Parker Edwards, assistant director for UK Dining Services.

His relationship with the popular grill runs deeper than most students. “It’s special to me because that’s where I started as a student,” said Edwards, a UK alumnus.

Twenty years ago, K-Lair gave birth to the professional career Edwards has today. He serves as an administrator over UK’s four main residential dining facilities: Commons, K-Lair, Ovid’s and Blazer.

“I worked the dining room, dishes, the front line — I did everything just like the student workers today have to,” he said.

Edwards said that when he was a student his peers enjoyed eating at K-Lair just as much as students do now.

“For years, everyone loved its chili because of the cook who used to be there,” he said. “It was really good!”

The second oldest eatery on campus (besides the Student Center) has an unparalleled history.

When K-Lair first came into being, it was one of UK’s early conservation of “green” projects, according to Edwards.

The building, located next to the Haggin Hall dormitory, was originally the football team’s locker room before it was converted into a restaurant.

Even though most people don’t understand its name, it does have a meaning.

“There was contest to name the place,” Edwards said. “The K is obviously for Kentucky, and the Lair is because Wildcats live in lairs.”

K-Lair’s first menu consisted primarily of burgers, but it adjusted to students’ taste buds over time.

“As styles have changed, K-Lair has changed,” Edwards said. “Now, most of its sales are on the chicken side. It’s kind of famous for its chicken strips.”

Students do not deny that K-Lair is still a campus favorite.

“Freshman year I ate there about three or four times a week,” said Steven Decker, a mining engineering junior. “I really liked the spicy chicken sandwich and tenders.”

UK freshmen, like Jazmine Hudson, might not be familiar with all aspects of campus yet, but they know about K-Lair.

“I was in FSP (Freshman Summer Program), so the first few times I ate there was this past summer,” said Hudson, who is an education and social work double major.

Hudson said she’ll continue to be a one of K-Lair’s patrons.

“I would consider it among my favorite places to eat (on campus),” she said. “I like it more than Ovid’s or Commons.”

Hudson said she usually orders the cheeseburger, but she also likes other items she has eaten at the restaurant.

This past summer, Hudson was one of the first students to experience K-Lair in its new form after the eatery received an early birthday gift.

The price tag was $42,000 for the facility’s second-ever renovation, which included new seating, floors, countertops and menu additions.

The decision to update K-Lair shows that it has been a UK tradition for a half-century, and will continue to be one in the future.

“It will be around as long as the university will let us,” Edwards said.