Friday, March 7, 2014

Hard Times at the Cafeteria

Whenever I don't know what to write for today's blog, I go to a handy file entitled "List of Blog Topics" and peruse the many ideas I have written down. Today my eyes flit over such fascinating titles as Stoics, Music, Inefficiencies of Time, My Ideal Reader and alight on a single word: Cafeterias.

Photo taken by Yelp user Rob W.
This topic goes along with my general interest in nostalgic food tourismI have loved these unique restaurants my whole life. Cafeterias used to be a lot more popular than they are now, and they were especially a big deal in the South, including Texas, my father's home state.

I have a lot of cafeteria memories. Certainly as kids, my Dad often took us to an outpost of Clifton's Cafeterias, a small Los Angeles chain. (Amazingly enough, they even still have one location open.) My most vivid memories of my Uncle Fred involve us eating fried okra together at an Amarillo cafeteria.

But I have continued my association with cafeterias into my adult life. My in-laws in Raleigh were always happy to go out to the cafeteria. In fact, we ate at one on our last visit there less than two weeks ago. The caterer at my aunt's 90th birthday party in Amarillo last summer was that same cafeteria where long ago I ate fried okra.

Unfortunately, times are not good for cafeterias. Every time we visited Raleigh there were fewer and fewer cafeteria options. The parent company of Furr's, that Texas chain, recently filed for bankruptcy. Luckily, they won't be closing any more locations. Apparently, the cafeteria industry has been hit hard by both the rise of fast food and fast casual restaurants, foodies writing bad reviews, and perhaps bad memories of school cafeterias.

However, I believe cafeterias fill a niche market. Alice, my mother-in-law liked them because it was easy to order a few vegetable dishes and make that your whole meal. Also, because there are no waiters, cafeterias can be quite inexpensive. And to me somehow, they're just kinda fun.

I'm only sorry that cafeterias aren't a Midwest thing. I could use more green jello in my diet.

No comments:

Post a Comment