In 1909, local farmer Frederick Culver asked James Irvine for permission to build a blacksmith shop on Central Avenue near the bean and grain warehouse. Culver’s brother, Willard, ran the operation, repairing farm machinery, making wagon wheels and fitting horseshoes. In 1928, the blacksmith shop was bought by Gene Thomas who also ran the garage next door. Thomas continued to run the shop for the next 50 years.
Today, the old blacksmith shop is home to Knollwood Restaurant, home of “The World’s Best Hamburger,” and after personally sampling their specialty many times, I’d say they have a case. My favorite Knollwood treat, however, is their breakfast which has become a local institution. Next door, Gene Thomas’ old garage is a Denny’s restaurant.
Fortunately for Irvine history buffs, the Knollwood chain embraces the historic flavor of each of their restaurants. Inside the Irvine restaurant you can still see the old blacksmith forge or have lunch in the old tool room.
The Knowlwood Restaurant on Sand Canyon and Burt in Old Town Irvine is one of the best preserved historic structures on the Irvine Ranch. Check it out when you hunger for a good juicy hamburger with a little bit of history on the side.