While Kensington restaurants may not be able to make the claim 'millions and millions served,' they have certainly served their share, as the town's restaurant tradition stretches back over 175 years. In the nineteenth century, public houses along the stagecoach route were required by law to provide food to the travelling public. Perhaps the law was enacted to prevent establishments from being solely devoted to the pursuit of drink! In 1824, Thomas and Margaret Barrett operated a tavern that cooked up meals for hungry travellers on the Old Post Road. In addition to acting as the first postmaster in Kensington, William Glover also built a coach house where he provided nourishment for guests who had arrived on the stagecoach. After bringing a sack of letters all the way from Charlottetown on horseback, the mail courier would no doubt have worked up a hearty appetite. Although it was not fashionable to dine outside the home in the nineteenth century, food service took hold in Kensington primarily to accommodate the needs of travellers.
After Kensington became a bustling railway hub, the need for dining establishments increased, as there was now a steady procession of visitors coming and going from town. Soon after the turn of the century, the idea of eating out also started to catch on with town residents, and heading to the local restaurant for a 'bite' soon became a much anticipated event. Nellie Burns ran a popular tearoom and restaurant during the middle decades of the century, which was situated on Broadway Street. Burns's tea room was a much-loved community landmark, especially by local hockey teams and their fans, who would crowd in for a celebration banquet after big victories. Many can remember eating to burst, and then receiving a bill for no more than 75 cents. Another mid-century family favorite was Joe Davison's Cafe, which had a menu featuring over sixteen different kinds of ice-cream sundaes. One of the most popular was 'Joe's Special,' a tempting concoction of marshmallows, cherries, and fruit salad that would only set you back 15 cents. Davison's was also famous as the first restaurant in the province to make and sell french fries. On 'Spud Island,' where processing plants now churn out millions of frozen fries a day, Davison's left quite a legacy!
In the sixties and seventies, the D&K Restaurant and the Rec Center kitchen became popular hang-outs for community teens, where they could wrap up a Saturday night with burgers, fries, donairs, and shakes. Today, the Country Oven Restaurant operates out of the Rec Center, and the other dining establishment available in town is the Lotus Gardens Chinese Restaurant. It is interesting to note that the Lotus Gardens is only the most recent Chinese restaurant in Kensington. There was another, owned by Yip Hong, located in the K. L. Waite building prior to 1940.
As in other Canadian communities, coffee and doughnuts seem to be the fuel that gets many Kensington residents through a long, cold winter. In addition to popular local shops, the ubiquitous Tim Horton's sign now revolves at the main intersection. But the summer heat also furnishes ample reason to drive into Kensington as well. One of the Island's most popular dairy bars is located on the outskirts of town, and many parents and station wagons have been forced to take an unexpected detour by backseat drivers. Just as in the heydays of Davison's-- and 'Joe's Special'-- the ice cream is still being scooped out by the bucketload.