by Cheryl Senn
Customers are transported back to the 1950s when they enter through the doors of The King’s Diner, one of the newest restaurants to open in Sanger.
Elvis is definitely in the house, with the 50s Elvis inspired decor and 50s diner menu items like “The King’s Burger,” “Hunk of Burning Love,” the “Elvis Aaron Presley” sandwich and “Hound Dog.”
The King’s Diner is owned by Virginia and Vance Enriquez and is located at 1028 N. Street, in Sanger. Virginia and Vance have built their reputation as caterers and decorators, which they have been doing for 22 years. Vance sang Elvis songs at weddings too. Virginia said her husband, Vance, inspired the theme of the restaurant. “Well, you look at my husband and that’s the answer. He’s the man with the pompadour and he’s the man that lives in what they call the Elvis home, on Greenwood, with the nice beautiful guitar that he and I designed 22 years ago. He did it in memory of Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll.”
The restaurant, with a main dining room that seats 100, held its grand opening on September 19, of this year. The restaurant also seats 100 in its Ice Cream Parlor Banquet Room.
Since the grand opening, the eatery has been very busy. “I do not want to exaggerate, but we’ve had standing room only for lunch and for dinner, on weekends,” said Vance, “We thank the people that have been coming here and letting the people know. We’ve had a very good response.”
Besides the food, diners can look forward to Vance singing Elvis tunes, upon request. Vance said it all started with his sister getting him to sing one day for a person’s birthday. “The word got out and now every time somebody has a birthday or an anniversary or somebody just wants me to sing them a song. If they ask me I will sing different songs for different people.”
On this visit to the diner, Vance sang “Return to Sender” to first time customers Jim Simpson and Karen-Costa Smith. On other occasions, Vance can be heard singing “Blue Suede Shoes,” and other Elvis favorites.
Virginia stated that she also owns another restaurant in Kingsburg and opening a restaurant in Sanger was done for her husband, Vance, who recently retired from the City of Sanger after 35 years. “I know that my husband is the King of Sanger,” said Virginia who also said the people of Sanger call him the Mexican King.
Vance said they had options to open a restaurant in surrounding communities and the decision to open a business in Sanger was more feasible because the couple live in Sanger. “And of course, myself, you know. I was very surprised. All shook up. I couldn’t believe that this was going to be happening. I said, ‘Virginia, if you feel that we can do it, let’s put it in God’s hands and we decided to go ahead with the project. And we went for it.”
Vance’s love for everything Elvis began when he moved to California when he was 11 years old. “Well, my life with Elvis began back in 1961, when I saw one of his movies and the name of the movie was Jailhouse Rock. I liked the performance. I liked the way he performed and acted and of course, the most important thing, I love the music that was coming out at that time. So, ever since then, I’ve been an Elvis fan.”
Vance has even adopted Elvis’ hairstyle. “I saw more of his movies and more of the way he dressed. So, eventually I started to let my hair grow and started combing my hair where people could recognize me just by the way my hair was. Of course, that’s when it began, people telling me ‘You look just like Elvis’. I appreciated the comments because I have hair and I still have hair. Thank God for that. Nevertheless, that’s how my life continues, as far as being recognized as an Elvis fan, because of my hair, of course [and] because of my singing of the songs that he sang,” Vance said.
The most ordered menu items, according to the wait staff, are the Buddy Holley Bacon Burger and the Elvis Aaron Presley sandwich. According to the menu, The Buddy Holley Bacon Burger consists of a tasty half pounder with avocado, bacon, American cheese, dressed with sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, onion and bell peppers. The Elvis Aaron Presley sandwich consists of a peanut butter and banana sandwich on Texas Toast, which is fried in butter and smothered in creamy peanut butter and topped with sliced bananas.
This reporter tried both the Buddy Holley Bacon Burger and the Elvis Aaron Presley sandwich. The burger was a wonderful blend of flavors of the onion, burger, bacon and rich avocado and very satisfying. The Presley sandwich was tasty as well and I am sure The King, himself, would have enjoyed eating one. Both items come with traditional French fries or you can upgrade and order curly fries, onion rings, fried mushrooms or fried zucchini.
Vance said his favorite menu item is the King Burger. “I love the King Burger. I love the mushrooms that we have. Everything in our menu, we have an excellent menu. I advise people, try something different that you’re going to be happy with. My favorite is the King Burger with mushrooms.”
There are vegetarian and salad items on the menu as well. Most diners interviewed loved the food, service and atmosphere of the new diner.
Esau Marquez said,” The food’s out of this world,” and he also said the restaurant was the best thing to happen to Sanger.
“It’s great. There’s no venue like this,” said diner Mike Del Puppo, “It’s nice to have a change.”
John Arrabian said he liked how different and unique the restaurant was and that was an advantage. “I like the friendly interaction with the customers.”
When Vance was asked how he and Virginia are able to juggle managing two restaurants and a catering business, Vance said the two restaurants are going to be managed by their two sons. “My older son, Aaron Enriquez, he will take care of the Sanger diner.”
The diner’s 50s inspired decor was designed by Virginia. Some of the vinyl records and memorabilia were part of Vance’s collection. “Every single thing, the way that it is designated and designed was the idea of my wife, Virginia. She is the professional, as far as decorating, at what looks best,” said Vance.
There are plans for decorating the exterior of the building as well. A new lighted sign was recently installed and painting of the exterior and awnings will take place. All decorating color schemes will be decided upon by Virginia.
Customer service is paramount for Virginia and Vance. Vance said the diner’s motto is one that is shared with Elvis’, “The one I have for the diner, which was Elvis’ motto, TCB, which means taking care of business.”
Virginia said she learned the importance of customer service from bank manager, Rita Evans, when she worked at a bank and was told it was important to take care of customers. “Without our customers, we have no business.”
“I enjoy the gratitude, when people are happy. Whenever I’ve met anybody whether it’s in the catering, weddings, if they ask me to do a song, I want to make them happy. I want them to remember us by my performance singing a song to them. I want them to remember the food that we provided for them. I want them to remember the service we provided for them, from our staff and our decorating also,” said Vance. “As far as the diner, here, you know. I want to be remembered for the service, the staff we have on both. Always being there with a smile and a hello, because I believe that some places are always lacking in that.”
Virginia said The King’s Diner and her husband Vance are a perfect fit. “It fits him perfectly. Look at that shirt he has on. He’s unique. He’s very special and he’s the only one…in Sanger.”
Watch KRL for more Sanger articles from Cheryl.