A lot of things we grew up with seem to be fading away.  Things like record shops, drive-in movies, and video stores.  The latest may soon be the “buffet” restaurant. I'll miss them.

Battle Creek's Old Country Buffet restaurant closed this week.  The chain's parent company, Buffet LLC, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, closing 90 eateries.  The company also owned Ryan's, Fire Mountain, HomeTown Buffet and Tahoe Joe's.  A release by the company said it is "closing certain weaker restaurants."  Battle Creek was one of them, and they’re auctioning everything off on-line with “Auction Nation” through Wednesday.

A few years ago, the buffet across town on Capital Avenue, Ryan’s, was closed. Shrank’s Cafeteria has been gone from downtown Battle Creek for a few years. Mongolian Grill was pretty cool for a while, over on East Columbia.  Oh sure, there are a few left.  Hospitals. The casino.  There are still a few that feature Asian cuisine.

I still remember my first time at “The Sweden House Smorgasbord” on Portage Street in Kalamazoo.  We started going there after church in the 60s, and I thought it was heaven on earth!   (And I had to go back to church soon after to confess the sin of gluttony!)  I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard somebody at that place say “My eyes were bigger than my belly”.

Ok, so the food wasn’t really that great at most of these places. You learned what to avoid.  The décor wasn’t very good either.   You didn’t stand in one place for long, or you might not get your shoes to move off the sticky carpet.   There was never ANY ambiance.

Here’s an amusing and pretty accurate review I found on Yelp about the Battle Creek “Old Country Buffet”:

>>>This place had the atmosphere of eating a chili dog on a crowded subway.  I should have turned around and tried to swim upstream to escape while slowly going down the long hallway to the guardians of the dining room, or more like the mess hall at Harry Potter's Hogwarts Castle.  The two women at the registers when you finally got to them were not very polite.  After paying $12.95 to get in to eat, I was handed a little green paper giving me the so called "etiquette" of all-you-can-eat buffet...oh, yea I am for real here.  The noise and amount of people were overwhelming when I walked into the main part of the restaurant.   I so envied my grandmother who sat across from me because she could turn off her hearing aids.  Rude people walking in front of others, kids running with their bowls of ice cream from the dessert bar screaming "sprinkles!", and some lady who coughed right in my face while she waddled to get what was probably her 5th plate of fried chicken.  While I feel the ONLY thing that was good was the cornbread, I do have to admit that the food bars were always well stocked, warm food was warm & cold food was cold.  Oh, finding a knife was like searching for the Holy Grail in this place!  Warning, the nose guards on the food bars are ridiculously over-sized so be prepared to lean waaay in to spoon out some grub.  If you like feeding troughs, you will be happy as a pig in mud at this all you can eat buffet.>>>>

Here’s what I’ll miss:   Buffet restaurants were a place that could accommodate the whole family.   You always knew they’d find room for the whole clan, even if there were 18 of you.   The kids could always find something they would actually eat.  There were salad bars for the health-freaks. Tons of various meats for the low-carb crowd.   And it was instant gratification!  Walk in, pay the grazing fee, grab a tray, and load up!