I received a message Monday from one of my long-time friends whom I’ve known going on 30 years:
Michelle: So mom told me they closed the Country Buffet (Burton, MI) this weekend.
Me: Oh the memories. Where will your folks eat on Sundays now?
Michelle: Gosh… I bet there will be a new slop bucket there in no time. Although it’s hard to beat a name like Duff’s.
Me: I dunno. Courtland Center doesn’t exactly have businesses beating down its doors.
Michelle: Everyone loves a good slop bucket around these parts.
Me: So many buffet memories! Will have to blog about it. Waiting for food on revolving Duff’s buffet was epic! Also finding feathers in the fried chicken!
I try to visit Michelle on during Thanksgiving week every year, when she visits her folks. If my visit happened to be on a Sunday, I would usually be invited to join Michelle – and her folks – at Old Country Buffet – where they typically ate every single Sunday after church. It was a good deal, especially since her parents usually bought dinner for everyone! Here’s a pic from the most recent time I ate at Old Country Buffet with Michelle and her family (2011)…
When Michelle shared this pic on Facebook in 2011, my comment was: “Aw geez, I’ve got cleavage. Must be the magic top. It’s an optical illusion (sigh)!” She re-shared the photo again with me last Monday in our message thread. All I can say is it must’ve been kind of warm that day! Oh lord – what was I THINKING?
Sadly, Courtland Center, as a mall, is now dying a little bit more with the departure of Old Country Buffet. At last check, one of the three “anchor” spots was still vacant, with JoAnn Superstore and JC Penney occupying the other two spots. My suggestion to put a roller rink in the third anchor spot obviously wasn’t taken very seriously (JK)! A store selling what I can only surmise is “pimp apparel” is still open and doing brisk business. If you want a hot pink or lavender suit – or a matching hat with a feather? Look no further than Courtland Alterations and Menswear! They will also do alterations for you (I think it’s pretty much a one-man operation).
Years before Old Country Buffet served its “slop” (as Michelle called it), there was another buffet restaurant in the same spot called Duff’s Smorgasbord which I would frequently visit as a kid. Every time I talk about my Duff’s experiences with my husband, he gets all wide-eyed. Especially when I tell him about the revolving buffet. Yes, there was a revolving buffet…
I remember patiently waiting for the mac ‘n cheese or fried fish to come around on the buffet! For inquiring minds, yes, the buffet made a “whirring” sound…
Though most of my “buffet” memories are quite fond, there are some…darker ones too. Finding feathers in my fried chicken at Duff’s was ALMOST enough to turn me off from fried chicken completely. But that was not to be until a couple of years later when I found a LUNG in my Banquet fried chicken breast! To this day, I STILL won’t eat fried chicken on the bone! Some “food traumas” you just don’t overcome!
When I was in high school band, we went to a Plymouth, MI area Duff’s (or maybe it was being called Old Country Buffet by then, I honestly don’t remember). All of us kids were on the bus, and we were STARVING! We all had a good laugh over seeing an…ambulance parked out front with its lights flashing. And we watched while someone was brought out on a stretcher and put into the ambulance. Rib overload? We never found out what happened.
That was the thing about buffets. You always knew you were kind of taking your life into your hands when you ate at one of them. Botulism, E. coli, and salmonella were all things that could be served up right along with the feathery fried chicken, fried fish parts, super salty mashed potatoes and overcooked broccoli. But you didn’t care, because….there was a… TACO BAR! And when you were done shoving starchy fatty, meaty goodness at your face, there was soft-serve ice cream you could put as many sprinkles on as you liked! You could get as many drink refills as you wanted.
The best part about buffet dining? Besides the unlimited amounts of salty, fatty food and sugary drinks and desserts? Was watching other people eat their salty, fatty food! There was nothing quite like being at the buffet on “rib day.” Nobody on this planet can eat pork ribs neatly. Nobody. But it’s still great fun to watch people try!