Why do you get one Tater Tot in your order of fries at Winstead’s?
According to Kathy Fern, the general manager at the Winstead’s near the Plaza, that’s not a mistake.
About five years ago, they started adding the lone tot as a promotional thing, but then it stuck. It’s something they strive to do with each order, she said, though that renegade tot doesn’t always appear.
“We started noticing that people were really excited when they got that extra Tater Tot,” she said. And after seeing that excitement on social media and in online reviews about the bonus Tot, they decided to continue that tradition.
Another tradition that the wait staff added was singing a song whenever someone orders a Skyscraper — the ice cream float that’s served in a tall vase and, according to the menu, feeds anywhere from two to four people. When the Skyscraper is brought out to the table, it’s accompanied by a group of staffers who are singing and shaking tambourines.
The holidays are a particularly busy time at the restaurant, said Fern. Nostalgia has been a driving force behind their business.
“I think comfort food is tied in with our memories and the people we shared the food with. We’ve been here 76 years, so people have tons and tons of memories here,” she said.
“It’s crazy, I worked 12 and a half hours yesterday,” she added. “It has to be your passion to work down here because whenever there’s a holiday, families want to recreate those memories at Winstead’s.”
While there are seven locations throughout the metro, the Plaza location was the first. The Winstead sisters opened it in 1940 — it started as a diner selling root beer and hamburgers. Later, they added shakes and fries.
According to server Judy Eddingfield, the original Plaza building included just two counters and 10 booths. Most of the business was outside because it was a drive-in.
Eddingfield started working there as a teen in 1965. She was a car hop, and she’s still serving today after 51 years.
“Oh, this place is my second family, really,” Eddingfield said. “We’ve gone through a lot of people over the 51 years. But it’s still like home.”
Jen Chen is associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.