As most locals will know there is a wonderfully unique little burger joint in Fort Bragg at the North end of Fort Bragg called Jenny’s Giant Burger. But many probably do not know the history of this Mendocino County landmark. Who's Jenny? Why such a traditional menu? Why such a small building?
I can tell you that I have lost count of how many people ask who Jenny is — it is a common question.
Thirty-three years ago in 1982 Herman Kreienhop and his wife Jenny Kreienhop decided to open up a small Burger Joint with the encouragement and help from Jenny’s brother, who had previously opened Bartel’s Giant Burger in Redding. Together they were able to find a building to rent in Fort Bragg and began their business.
That building, originally owned by Matt Huber, then the Mayor of Fort Bragg, was the perfect location for the Kreinhops' new business. It was right on busy Highway One with plenty of parking. Herman named the restaurant after his wife Jenny. They put their hearts into the place and wouldn’t settle for anything less than food and service of the best quality. With the help of their four kids and great employees, the business bloomed and went on to build its great name.
The menu is simple because Jenny believed in doing one thing well and that was to make burgers the old fashioned way, burgers that don't include bacon, which may disappoint all those people who have gotten used to bacon with their burgers.
The thriving business suffered a huge loss in 1996 when Jenny Kreienhop passed away from breast cancer. The four children were all adults and pitched in to help their father, Herman Kreienhop with the restaurant.
The news of how good the Jenny’s Giant Burger had spread among townspeople and visitors alike. A meal at Jenny's has become a tradition for many families and out of towner who come to Fort Bragg to camp and take a break from the summer heat inland.
The business stayed steady as it continued to climb in reputation.
In 2008, another blow. Herman Kreienhop passed away from renal kidney cancer. He left the business to his four children who continue to run it today. All four had grown up with the business and it has become a passion of theirs. They refuse to sell and continue to improve the business. Today, the oldest Kreinhop, Bobbett Meadows, lives in Idaho as a retiree. While the rest of the family continues to live in Mendocino County and stay closely involved in the business. The youngest, Jason Kreienhop, manager from 1994 until 2012, now works at the Heritage House. He has built up the reputation for a great burger. Denise Kreienhop, also now a retiree, puts much dedication into Jenny’s Giant Burger to ensure that it meets its full potential. Troy Kreienhop, who drives a school bus for the Anderson Valley School District, does regular check ups on the family enterprise and supports the business however he can.
Mike Beck has been a faithful customer since the grand opening of Jenny’s Giant Burger. He is now a retiree and volunteers to keep the Fort Bragg streets clean and eats at Jenny’s regularly after he has deposited the trash he collects in Jenny's dumpster.
It has also become a tradition for all children of the family to work at Jenny's and there are lots of us, including us Kreienhop grandchildren, seven of whom have worked there. The other two are not yet old enough to begin their labors, but we expect them to eventually take their places.
It is now my turn. I work at Jenny's during the summer and in my spare time. The restaurant business is not an easy one. All the employees work very hard and do the best they can. We always try to smile; it was one of Jenny’s rules: “Smile at all times.”
This last summer has been rough because of a few complaints on Yelp. (Some people complain about anything and everything.) Jenny’s Giant Burger is a small building and there isn’t much room in the kitchen area. We can only make 12 burgers at a time, and with a demand of 30 burgers at a time, it can get stressful! For the most part we get everything right, but I would be lying if I told you we never make mistakes. We do mess up orders occasionally, but we always try to fix them with a smile and a good attitude in order to make up for it. With a large group of people, such as 10 or more, things can get confused.
My first time working there, I was only 12 and just learning how everything worked when a mostly naked man came in nearly nude and demanded service. Well, Jenny’s Giant Burger is a family-oriented place and Jason Kreienhop, the manager at the time, had to kick him out because he refused to put clothes on. (I could go on.)
Things can get intense with some of the difficult people who stop in, but what I can never forget is all the families who come in to enjoy a wonderful meal with the people they love.