Hot Spots: Long live the ‘King’

Ambrosio Rodriguez

Ambrosio Rodriguez

Walking down Main Avenue, people may find themselves fixated on a Vegas-style neon sign.

The sign hangs above 308 Main Ave., signaling the entrance to Pizza King, a landmark of the downtown area. The striking neon sign has hung above the building since April 1961.

Prior to becoming known as Pizza King, the building was a barbershop and its tiles still pave the entranceway to the King.

In May 1961, at the age of 61, a Greek immigrant by the name of Gus Kakas opened the first pizza parlor to grace the streets of Brookings.

Kakas’ dream lives on at Pizza King, where his black-and-white photo still hangs on the wall to this day.

The current owner, Shannon Brown, a former employee of the Pizza King, acquired the restaurant in 1998 and has carried on the tradition of making traditional homemade pizzas. Brown, a Brookings native, remembers eating at Pizza King as a kid and working during the ’80s.

When Brown was an employee, SDSU students fueled Pizza King’s business.

“When I worked here in the early ’80s, I used to deliver a lot to campus,” said Brown.

Today, Pizza King delivers to campus only about once a month. Yet Brown said this has no direct correlation to the pizza itself: Brown does no advertisements, so not many SDSU students know about Pizza King other than those who spend a lot of time downtown.

“It’s all word of mouth, plus once people try it and like it, they come back,” Brown said.

Other than students and residents, Pizza King brings in return customers from all around the United States. People who grew up in Brookings often return to Pizza King to remember their childhood, including a man during hunting season who has a standing order for fifty half-baked pizzas.

“A lot of people tell me they had their first date [here], or they met their wife here,” Brown said.

The original owner’s children and grandchildren also visit frequently. Brown said he remembers the stories the Kakas kids tell about early Pizza King.

“Back then, at about 8 o’clock, his grandpa would lock the door,” he said. “If you were in, you were in. If you were out, you were out. That’s how busy they got.

“[Pizza King] used to be a place to go after the school dances. Back then, people would cruise Main and stuff. ? They don’t do that anymore.”

Even though times have changed, Pizza King’s pizzas have not. When Brown purchased Pizza King in ’98, he received the original 1961 sauce and dough recipes. The recipe has not changed since.

All the dough and sauce is made daily from scratch by Brown himself. Whole fresh cut mozzarella cheese, supreme pepperoni and freshly cut vegetables go into every pizza. A crispy, almost cracker-like thin crust, forms the base for the homemade pizza.

Though never a frequenter of the traditional pizza shop, Tami Bergen, a senior biology major, has heard positive things about it.

“I’ve heard that [Pizza King] is really good because it tastes different than the others,” she said.

#1.881429:67343767.jpg:Pizza.King.RG.CMYK.jpg:Formerly a barbershop, Pizza King has been a part of Brookings’ downtown since 1961.:Robby Gallagher#1.881361:7527732.jpg:Hot.Spot.jpg::