When ol’ Lou asked me to try a buffet he liked, he knew what my answer would be. “I don’t like buffets,” I said. Lou insisted that I do a story on Jenkins Buffet in East Ridge because he just knew I’d feel differently once I tried them. He’d been eating there for years and he loved their fried chicken.
I thought I had already found the two best places for fried chicken so when I heard that there might be something just as good or better, I was challenged to find out!
It was easy enough to find and Lou was in the parking lot waiting on me. We headed up the back ramp, went inside and the first thing I noticed was ratty vinyl chairs all lined up in the hallway. The seats had tears and you could see the old foam sticking out – my first impression was not good. I am one to give the benefit of the doubt though and I know a lot of people are more concerned with how good the food tastes over the décor so I just minded my own business.
You have to pay before you go in and the girl at the cash register must have been the owner. She was all dolled up and looked like a country music singer. Lou had a friendly conversation with her and she let him know that a family member had passed away since she last saw Lou. She was a cute girl and seemed to know how to run the show. I got the sense that this place was just ‘good folk’. Our two buffet meals totaled $17.
There was no booth seating so Lou and I found a table and sat down. I like booths better because they shield the sound of other conversations around you. The tables were close together and I felt as if I were sharing dinner conversation with a couple of ladies behind me.
I heard one of them say, “Well, I have overdone it again.” I went to the bar and got a plate for my salad that I put together. There was only iceberg lettuce. I didn’t see fresh spinach or darker greens – typical of most buffets. I looked for a small soufflé cup to have my dressing on the side, but there weren’t any. All that was offered were bowls over at the dessert bar and they weren’t small bowls either. I still used one so that I wouldn’t have to smother my salad in dressing.
When I came back to the table with my salad, I saw that Lou had his salad and his meal together. He said it keeps him from having to go back up there until it’s time for dessert. I didn’t mind walking and, from what that lady behind us had said, I may need the exercise in case I overdid it, too (but I noticed that she was still eating even though she had already crossed the line).
As I ate my salad and looked around the place, I noticed a lot of senior citizens and just good ol’ folk. There is a fine line between Southern and Country and I decided that this place was Country. Even the music overhead was Country, but it was the old Country sound with Jim Reeves and Eddie Arnold. There was a nice simple feeling to this place and it looked as though it hosts plenty of regulars.
I went for the fried chicken, and saw the fluffy rice that looked good. After I put that on my plate, I saw the mashed potatoes with brown gravy and I wished I had gotten that instead. I chose fried squash, black-eyes peas and macaroni and cheese – a starch lover’s paradise! I also wanted to try their corn muffins, so I put that on my plate too. When I sat my plate on the table, I decided that I wanted the potatoes and gravy and I just wouldn’t eat the rice. It was a buffet and they expect you to try a little of everything – so I went back for them.
Even though I don’t care for buffets and I do like good Southern food on occasion, I wanted to be open-minded and see it from someone’s eyes that liked country food buffet style. The last country buffet I had tried, I could not say one good thing about it, but this place did have its charm and the food tasted fresh. Lou really liked it. His only complaint was the potato salad that used a mayo dressing instead of mustard. I like mustard better too, but I don’t really care for potato salad much.
The reason I don’t like buffets is mainly because most places just empty cans of food into a heated tray (and I also don’t like the idea of the general public reaching over all the food) but this place really had the food looking nice and it was fresh. The other thing I don’t like is that we all tend to overdo the portions and leave feeling like a stuffed turkey. Lou said, “If you leave hungry, it’s your own fault.”
I didn’t eat the rice, but I tried the chicken. It was not greasy and it was cooked tender, but it didn’t have much spice. It was as good as what someone might fix at home, but it was nothing that I would rave was ‘the best’. The corn muffin was dry and cold so I didn’t eat that either. The squash wasn’t greasy and I guess it was alright. I really wanted to say only good things about this place because the people were so nice and friendly and I wanted to have an open mind. I had to think as someone who would like buffets. All I can say is, the food is fresh and, if you like buffets, this would be one of the better ones for country cooking and that type of atmosphere.
After eating my peas, squash, potatoes and chicken, I felt as if I ‘overdid it’ too, so I didn’t get dessert. Lou went back for the banana pudding and he said it was good, but we both were stuffed to the gills when we left.
If you like country cooking and all-you-can-eat, you might want to try them out. They are opened 10:30–4:00 on Thanksgiving Day and sure to have fresh food and good folk!
Mon - Sat: 11:00 am - 9:00 pm
Sun: 11:00 am - 8:00 pm