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Archive for the ‘Buffets’ Category

Country Cookin by George Review – Lexington, KY

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Country Cooking by George Review I was out on a buffet drive, down I-64, I-75 and environs.  I had done my research in advance (‘natch) and had made up my mind to go to a different location, originally, but a last minute check on YELP showed a gaggle of bad reviews lately.

When they are grouped together in rapid succession, it makes me nervous.

So I instead opted for Country Cookin, an unassuming joint in a nondescript strip mall in the middle of town, not so easy to find.

They have three tables of hot entrees, one of salad, and one of desserts, and the food is quite typically representative of the region. There are probably about a dozen hot entrees, including fried chicken, catfish, shrimp, a couple of beef dishes, baked and fried ham, and one or two features that change daily.

I rolled in on a Saturday afternoon, just past most people’s lunch time and attendance was pretty sparse, yet the serving trays were well attended to. Beverage orders were taken and delivered and I hit the serving lines, loading up on catfish, fried ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, and some excellent smoky greens.

The salad offerings aren’t as extensive as most places, but that’s fine with me, I’m not there for the salad.

While the desserts (cobblers, puddings, etc) looked great, I passed to have most capacity for catfish.

This room is a little dated.  The restaurant isn’t as bright and shiny as buffets built in recent years.  But I found the food well prepared and tasty, with no skimping on ingredient quality.  Yes, I’d to it again.  Lunch and beverages for two, under $25.

Country Cooking by George Review

Country Cookin by George! Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Country Cookin by George Review

Country Cookin by George Review

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Jewel Osco Hot Food Bar Review

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Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Jewel Osco Hot Food Bar Review 

First time I ever recall seeing a “hot food bar” was in the corner delis and bodegas in New York City, must have been 30-40 years ago.

That made sense, people rushing home from work, late, wanted a hot, somewhat balanced meal that they didn’t have to fuss with it.

Along came the concept of “groceraunt” (but years before that term was coined) and grocery stores started adding full service hot deli counters, which then evolved into the “bar” – a dozen or more hot entrees along with mass appeal sides – mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, stewed carrots and the like.

They accompanied fairly standard hot dishes, meatloaf, fried chicken in various forms, chicken and dumplings, stews, baked or fried fish and the like. I’m willing to be a lot of money that none of these foods are prepared in-house, but come in large tinfoil pans fully cooked, probably frozen, waiting for the “heat and eat” stage and to be dumped onto the food bar.

A giant version of TV dinners, if you will.  If it’s a large grocery, it’s likely there is an accompanying “salad bar” that also includes a half dozen soup offerings. Both the hot food and salad are priced by the pound, and it varies depending on the chain and the zip code.  I’ve seen them from $6- $9 per pound. (Expert tip – “liquid” has weight. Watch that you keep liquid accompanying your entree or side to a minimum.

There are only two or three massive grocery holding companies any more, they’ve gone out and bought all the regional chains up. Jewel-Osco, in the Upper Midwest, is part of Albertson’s, which is part of SuperValu.  Then there is Kroger Company, which owns a gaggle of brands, and of course WalMart and the member only clubs. Jewel Osco, was originally the grocery chain “Jewel T” and Osco was a drug store chain. They are co-located and co-named now, obviously.

If I’m ever in the mood for the hot bar concept, I limit my grazing to the upmarket groceries, Whole Foods or regional choices. Better quality, larger variety, but more expensive, of course. Whereas your regular grocery might have beef burger tomato goulash, the upmarket places are going to offer pad thai and that type of thing.

So passing by one of my local Jewel-Oscos (I purposely avoid them, they are spendy compared to competitors, and with no real right to be spendy, plus their big “sale” prices, especially the BOGOs are hilariously dishonest), I thought I’d graze the hot bar just for something to write about.

Friday is “wing day” apparently and they were offering maybe eight different styles of chicken wings, and a couple types of “boneless wings” which aren’t wings at all, are they?

So I retried some “Buffalo” boneless wings,  meatballs in marinara, and fried cod (hey, it is lent).  My feelings about the dishes are as follows:

Why do they call them “boneless wings?” I realize anything “nugget” related is associated with McD, but why not bits? Mini tenders?  Something. The buffalo flavoring wasn’t.  I think they mixed up the trays, and what I ended up having was boneless wings of General Tso variety. They were sweet, with a little heat, and deep fried.  Not a trace of buffalo seasoning flavor.  These weren’t billed as “all white meat” because they weren’t. There was some white, some grey, whatever that was.  Diced chicken parts rolled together in the batter.

Meatball.  Zero flavor, very dense.  Now it wasn’t billed as “Italian” but swimming in a red sauce, one might (like me) assume it would be Italian, but no garlic, oregano, basil, fennel. Just meat. Of an unknown origin.  I’m gonna go with pork, because of the color.  No noticeable bread crumbs or filler.

Fried cod. Like the chicken, these are bits of fish rolled into a batter and fried.  It was the best of the three things I tried, and I’m not a big cod fan, but on any Friday night in Chicagoland or Southern Wisconsin, you’ll see restaurant offering all you can eat cod, fried or baked, at a pretty low price. There must be a lot of cod left in the ocean, though Newfoundlanders would disagree with you.

That’s about it for the Jewel Osco hot food bar.  I won’t make it a regular thing.

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Meatball

 

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Meatball, Dissected

 

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Boneless “Wings”

 

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Inside a “Wing”

 

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Fried cod

 

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Deep inside a fish

Jewel Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Jewel Osco Hot Food Bar Review

 

 

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Buona Beef Restaurants Review – Chicago area

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Buona Beef Restaurants ReviewAbout thirty years ago, Chicagoan Joe Buonavolanto Senior had a notion to open a restaurant serving Chicago specialties – Italian beef and sausages, hot dogs, ribs, sandwiches and pizza.

He took a 2nd mortgage out on his house to finance it, and did some of the initial construction with his own hands.

Today, the third generation is overseeing a company with nearly 20 Buona Beef restaurants, several full-service restaurants, two catering facilities, and a custom food manufacturer,  Authentic Brands, which makes a line of products that includes Italian beef and sausages for their own restaurants and private label, meatballs, sauces and other products.

Italian beef is a Chicago thing, lots of stories on the origin, but the main one seems to be families made the dish for weddings and reunions, it was a way of extending a little food for a large crowd.  A beef roast is marinated, slow cooked, and then simmered in its own sauce, thinly sliced and put on an Italian roll. Hot or sweet peppers are added as a personal preference.

Old hands know to order their Italian beef dry, wet or dipped, which are references to how wet you want the bun to end up from the beef’s gravy.  You can order your beef as one of three different sizes (5,7, or 10 inch) – call for a “combo” and they’ll nestle a hot Italian sausage right there on a bed of beef.  Getting fancy?  Have some mozz melted on top. In a no bread mood? Order it by the bowl, instead of as a sandwich. It’s allowed!

So wandering into one of their Buona’s newer locations, in Algonquin, IL, I ambled up to the counter and ordered my beef wet, with a side of house-made parmesan chips. The beef was ultra flavorful and tender, the chips ultra flavorful and crispy. Dinner hour on a weeknight and the joint was jammed as was the drive-through.

I have no idea how many places there are in Chicago that serve Italian beef – a thousand or more? Each claiming theirs is the best recipe. Count Buona’s claim as deserved.  I’ll be back.

Buona is set up to do party, office, or family catering and you can even place your catering orders online.  Find the nearest location of a restaurant, groceries where the products is available or order online at the restaurant’s website.

Buona Beef Restaurants Review

Italian Beef w/ Cheese

Buona Beef Restaurants Review

House-made Parmesan chips

 
Buona Beef Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Buona Beef Restaurants Review

Buona Beef Restaurants Review

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Big Boy Breakfast Buffet Review – Hamilton, OH

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https://t.co/pkcTH6HVoY

Burbank, CA Location

Neither you nor I have enough time to go into the history of Big Boy restaurants. Suffice to say, started in California in the 30s, oldest one still standing is Burbank, CA (pictured below),  chain went thru several owners and now is a “chain of chains,” in that while they share menu, decor, and marketing, most Big Boy’s across the country have a “different first name,” by regional owners,   like Frisch’s, Marc’s, Shoney’s, Bob’s, Elia’s, and so on. In the “good to know” category, in 1936, Bob came up with the double-decker burger with bun in the middle, (pictured below) which most people today call a “Big Mac.”  It’s still on the Big Boy menu, too. As the “Big Boy.”

I used to pop into one in New Orleans on occasion for their breakfast buffet, that one was torn down to widen the freeway in front of it. They promised to rebuild, but alas, no luck. There’s just one left in New Orleans now.

Driving thru Hamilton, OH, a distant suburb of Cincinnati, I noticed a Frisch’s Big Boy (they are one of the largest Big Boy operators) so as I was spending the night, I decided I’d take in their breakfast buffet the next AM.

And I did. Alone. I was the only customer. The restaurant and bar were immaculate and the warming trays kept tidy. They had the usual breakfast buffet items, with several types of meats, eggs, breads, fruits, cereals, pancakes and more.

I helped myself.  I always like to see how many types of breakfast meats I can gather up at one time, I think here it was four. Bacon, ham, link sausage, patty sausage. Wait, there were two kinds of patties, so five!

It was all hot and tasty and around $8. Service people were helpful and friendly and coffee was topped off regularly.  Many Big Boy’s around the country (but not all) offer the breakfast buffet, and some have nightly buffets that vary by day of the week (seafood, southern style, ribs, etc).

The food is better than almost all the fast-casual chains, and a much better value. Stop by one.

 Frisch’s Big Boy locations.  If you’re not in Frisch territory, you’ll have to Google to find a Big Boy operator near you!

https://t.co/pkcTH6HVoY

Breakfast Buffet

 

https://t.co/pkcTH6HVoY

Mascot Statue

The Big Boy Double Decker Burger

The Big Boy Double Decker Burger

 

 
Frisch's Big Boy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Big Boy Breakfast Buffet Review

Big Boy Breakfast Buffet Review

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Village Pizza & Pub Review – Elgin, IL

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Village Pizza & Pub has two locations in the NW suburbs of Chicago, one in Elgin, and one in Carpentersville, not terribly far from each other. Both feature extensive menus (below) for dine in, carry out, catering, and delivery, and the Elgin location has an all you can eat buffet at midday, Monday through Friday. The buffet includes a variety of kinds of pizza, an extensive salad bar, fried chicken, wings, and soup. Each day of the week has an additional special, like fish, ribs, or pasta.

We paid around $10, which includes a soft drink, and I was quite surprised at a few things about the buffet. First was the depth of the offerings, second was the freshness of the food, and finally the fact that they are very diligent about keeping the supply replenished. You’re not going to be standing around waiting for another pizza or be staring at a tray of dried out pasta.

I’m happy with it, and I’ll do it again. We went on Thursday, which is “rib day,” and I’m not a rib eater, but my dining mate said they were just fine.  The Carpentersville location does not have the buffet, offering daily lunch specials, instead.

Village Pizza & Pub Review

Plates from the buffet

Village Pizza & Pub Review

Village Pizza & Pub Review

Village Pizza & Pub Review

Village Pizza & Pub Review

 

 

 

 

Village Pizza & Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Village Pizza & Pub Review
Village Pizza & Pub Review

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Old Warsaw Buffet Review, Chicago, IL

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Old Warsaw Buffet Review

Old Warsaw Buffet Review

Chicago’s rich melting pot of immigrants makes for some really good eats, often time at a real value as well.

There are many, many Polish restaurants like the White Eagle, where food is served family style.  Check out Czech grub at the Czech Plaza. Whatever you like, whatever you’re curious about – Ukrainian, any kind of Chinese, Eastern European, Malay, Italian – you’re apt to find it in Chicago. Restaurants and grocers.

I was dropping off a friend at O’Hare, and we had time to kill, we stopped at Old Warsaw, a legendary Polish buffet. The spread was magnificent, and included hot and cold entrees, borscht, many salads, and desserts.  Sausages, blintzs, potato pancakes, rustic bread.

All in, around $12 per person and of course it’s all you can eat.  The restaurant has group space and has special menus on holidays at different pricing. Full bar. Distinctly Eastern European decor, which is a fun ambiance as well.

I was in Poland as it was just emerging from its decades of darkness.  This was much better food. LOL

On Harlem, just south of the Kennedy.

Old Warsaw Buffet Review

Plate #1 of many!

Old Warsaw Buffet Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Old Warsaw Buffet Review

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Bigfoot Inn Review, Harvard, IL

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BigFoot Inn ReviewThere’s a burg on the Wisconsin/Illinois border, on US 14, about halfway between Chicago and Janesville, WI (home of JerkInChief Paul Ryan), or halfway between Rockford, IL and Milwaukee.

Name of the town is Bigfoot. No relation to the legendary monster whom we never see, because Noah didn’t let him on the ark. Along with the dinosaurs.

Blink and you’ll miss Bigfoot. There’s a cemetery. A used car dealer. A closed manufacturing facility of some sort, and a “Welcome to Illinois” highway sign. The Bigfoot High School is in Walworth, WI, a few miles north.

Bigfoot is also home (since the mid 1940s) to the Bigfoot Inn, a survivor of a dying breed of restaurants in the Upper Midwest we call “Supper Clubs,” which wikipedia defines as “a dining establishment generally found in the Upper Midwestern states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Iowa. These establishments typically are located on the edge of town in rural areas.”

Supper clubs became popular during the 1930s and 1940s, and generally feature “simple” menus with somewhat limited offerings featuring “American” cuisine. Menus include dishes such as prime rib, steaks, chicken, and fish. An all-you-can-eat Friday night fish fry is particularly common at Wisconsin supper clubs.

Full meals are quite inclusive, starting with a relish tray, cracker basket or rolls and butters, and entrees generally include soup, salad, starch and vegetable. Some establishments even include dessert.

The Bigfoot Inn is no exception to the aforementioned generalities, but their menu is quite extensive, features daily and nightly specials, and offers an AYCE champagne brunch on Sundays. The establishment is open seven days, has a large, full bar, and video gambling machines.

Spoiler alert. Was I ever impressed! Our server “the guy from Elkhorn,” was informed and attentive without being intrusive. He knew the menu and the area well. He boasted that everything was made from scratch, and after eating (btw, servings are HUGE), I had no reason to doubt his claim. I over ordered, because there were so many good things on the menu.

Started with appetizers of saganaki (flambed cheese, a Chicago thing) and perfect onion rings, large cut, nice breading, mildly seasoned, fried perfectly.

Along with the appetizers came complimentary crackers, rolls, butter, and cheese spread (another geographical thing). Soup? Yes please, and a tale from the server of when he met the actual “Soup Nazi.” Salad, with a wide choice of dressings, and then the entree; they come with vegetables and a choice of many different starches. With my Wienerschnitzel Holstein style, I went with steak fries. Couldn’t finish the steak or the even start on the fries, was too full with the prelims.

Also at the table, perfectly grilled, inch thick pork chops,  a huge spud with all the fixins’ brought without asking.

$70 for two dinners, two appetizers, an adult beverage, and worth every nickle. Actually, I think the place is under priced, but don’t tell them.

Will I return? You bet. The bottomless champagne brunch (Sundays only) is around $13! Egad!  The Washington Times did an interesting bit on Wisconsin supper clubs.  I was recently at another, “Donny’s Girl,” which apparently I didn’t write about.  It was out in the sticks, kinda hard to find, but worth the trek.

Menu

 

Big Foot Inn Review

Saganaki

Big Foot Inn Review

Perfect Rings

Big Foot Inn Review

Schnitzel

Big Foot Inn Review

Grilled chops

Big Foot Inn Review

Bigfoot, Wisconsin

Big Foot Inn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Bigfoot Inn Review

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Pizza Hut Buffet Review

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Pizza Hut Buffet ReviewAs a regular reader, you know I try and find positive things to write about every time I stop someplace. Spoiler alert: not here.

I’ve been in a Pizza Hut maybe three times in the past ten years, once in a small town in Western Kansas, the place was filthy, the pizza worse. I liked Pizza Huts in China, tho, it was before the Chinese became amenable to liking “cheese” and the menus said the pies had “melted topping.” Selections were ample and the salad bar (which the Chinese adored) was always well stocked.

Went into a Godfather’s Pizza Buffet a few years ago, and that was dreadful. Pizza Ranch, a fast growing chain based out of Iowa, has so-so pizza, but drop dead fried chicken and a lot of other choices. And it’s a good value.

Round Table, based in California, has a pretty fair buffet.

But Pizza Hut? At least this one? Ugh.

They had six pizzas out, nothing exotic, either standard thin or thick crust. I went in because I thought it would give me the opportunity to sample some of the innovations they have been bragging about lately – stuffed crusts, added flavors, blah blah. But this operator was interested in minimizing costs and maximizing revenue, so choices were pretty basis. There was a single bin of plain spiral pasta and plain red sauce to accompany it. One bin of “dessert bread sticks.” No salad. No chicken. I expected wings, since Pizza Hut has that whole “Wing Street” thing going. Buffet price, without drink $6.99 plus tax and gratuity.

I had a slice of sausage, a slice of pepperoni, one with pork pellets, one with ‘everything’ and one with cheese. The plain cheese was the best, despite being drastically under-cooked.  To me, Pizza Hut just doesn’t taste like much.  It will always be in a three-way tie for pizza of last resort with Dominos and Caesar’s.

The joint was clean. The help was friendly. They seem to have some ‘regulars,’ at least based on overheard conversations.

It is next door to a KFC which was empty at high noon. No buffet there. KFC buffets are kind of hard to find, but they can be a real treat!

The basic menu is below, I notice they have “rebranded” their specialty pies as “Flavor recipes,” and I also see they no longer offer salads or other alternatives at all.  But speaking of rebranding, remember about 5 years ago or so, they made a big hubbub about how they were going to become just “The Hut?”  Whatever happened to that?  It was about the same time Radio Shack announced they were going to start calling the stores just “The Shack,” but that ultimately changed into “The location permanently closed.”

Pizza Hut Buffet Reivew

Pizza Hut Buffet Review

 

Pizza Hut Buffet Reivew

Pizza Hut Menu

Pizza Hut Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Pizza Hut Buffet Review

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Rural New Orleans Seafood Buffets

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(This is from our archives, check on whether they are open before making the drive).

I am in buffet heaven, if there is such a thing.   I’ve previously written about a couple; I hit the other two “main attractions” in the past few weeks.

Number one, in all manners of speaking, was the House of Seafood Buffet, at 81790 Highway 21, in Bush, Louisiana.  Like most restaurants in these parts, they are open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, and they live up to their name.  There used to be a restaurant in my hometown whose slogan was “If It Swims, We Have It,” and I think the same could be said for the House of Seafood.  In addition to the usual fried entrees you will find at any indigenous restaurant, locally, the HOS has  boiling pots a brewing, and you will find ample boiled seafood selections to go along with your other choices.  They also have very respectable beef dishes, delectable fried chicken,  and a whole host of salads and sides, as well as the traditional desserts in the area.

The second stop was the Ole South Seafood and Buffet, at 15273 Highway 21 South, in .  Boasting similar opening days and hours as the HOS (but I believe Ole South is open on Sundays, call first), and a cavernous three room dining hall, the Ole South runs a distant second to HOS in my opinion – for selection, at least, but not for quality.  Both restaurants prepare their food fresh, and Ole South also has a carving station with ham and beef, which HOS did not.  Ole South has probably half the serving table size as HOS, but has accompanying prices which are less.

I’ve never been much of a buffet person, but I like these places, and there should be some of these in the city.  We seem to have dozens of Asian buffets in (the best, by far, is Oki Naga in Metairie, IMHO), but none of these “local dish” places.  I’m curious as to why.  It may well be the cost of rent, because these places in the hinterlands are huge.

I didn’t ask the prices before I went in, and since waitresses at both restaurants asked if we wanted the “buffet” I assume menu items are available as well. Seems like if you deduct the price of your beverage (HOS has pitchers of tea on the table, Ole South has waitresses pouring, but they get busy), I would guess that HOS runs about $15 per person, and Ole South about $12.  Both are good values, but I would return to HOS, and probably not to Ole South. Just personal preference.

Sidebar:  Another recent stop was in Angie, Louisiana, at Stuart’s Café, which is open from 5:30AM til 9PM daily.  I don’t know when they get to rest with those hours, and we could certainly use a place with similar hours in Mayberry, where most restaurants aren’t open early in the week.   I had the “double meat cheeseburger” at $4.00, and for one of the very few times in my life, I couldn’t finish it – it was huge.

But I was intrigued by another menu item, which I’ll have to check out next time:  “meat on toast.”

Doesn’t that just set your mouth a’waterin’?

New Orleans Seafood

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Berrys Seafood and Catfish Buffet, Florence, MS

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I’m not ashamed to say I like AYCE buffets.  Especially at breakfast, where I often find my plate full of a half dozen different processed pork breakfast meats and little else.  But I also like seafood buffets, and I stumbled into a doozy in Southern Mississippi, 12 miles south of the State Capital on Highway 49.

I suspect Berry’s Seafood and Catfish House has been around forever, but in Florence (they have one other location), they are in obviously new and massive digs.

There are “hot bars” and “cold bars,” with fried and boiled shrimp, fried and broiled or blackened catfish, and everything in between, including beautiful salads and desserts.  Fried chicken, too.  More detail on the lunchtime menu can be found right here’ya.  Lunch and dinner are slightly different prices, but count on around $30 for two persons.

Special nights add crab legs to the buffet, and an ala carte menu, which includes steaks and sandwiches, is available for lighter eaters.

There’s no alcohol available, and the dozen or so large screen TVs are generally blaring religious music and messages – just sayin’, if that kind of thing is not your cup of tea.

As for me?  Did somebody say all you can eat catfish?  I’d put up with karaoke for that!

Berrys Seafood and Catfish Review

 

 
Berry's Seafood & Catfish House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
 

 

Berrys Seafood and Catfish Buffet

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