Buddy Freddy's, Plant City

The other day, I was so excited about being admitted to my doctoral program that I left campus without picking up my cap and gown. Oops. I didn't realize this until I was to Plant City. (For the non-locals, 20 miles from campus, 15 miles from home!). As I was really hungry, due to an early morning gym shop prior to that meeting, I decided that I was going to stop for some lunch first.

At exit 19 off of I-4, there are several decent restaurants to choose from for lunch. If I hadn't just had a good steak, Outback here now serves lunch, there's Applebees, Carrabba's, Sonny's and a few fast food choices, but as soon as I came off that ramp, I knew which place would be the perfect choice: Buddy Freddy's.

Buddy Freddy's is the only one left from a local chain, of southern buffets. The Johnson family started this place, Grandpa Johnson's and Fred's Southern Market, though I think they sold off the Buddy Freddy's about 20 years ago. It's all southern charm and all you can eat southern favorites. If you've got a bird like appetite, you may want to choose a place that offers a plated meal. Normally, I leave visiting a buffet to occasions when I've got my menfolk with me, but this time, I knew I was hungry enough to make it worthwhile.

I was brought to a table in the back, where a very nice woman quickly came to my table and asked my drink preference. What got me is I requested an Arnold Palmer and I was asked if I wanted it with sweet or unsweet tea-usually, places just make it with sweet, so it was nice that I was able to allow the lemonade to provide the sugar.

Their salad bar is full of fresh offerings. One four foot section has lettuce and sliced vegetables, the second section is full of the cold salads that I skip-but if you like macaroni salad, pasta salad, cottage cheese, and those types of selections, you're in luck. Me, I piled high some lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, onions and carrots and was happy as can be with the fresh tomatoes that were on that table.

After enjoying that starter, it was over to the hot section. The choices differ from day to day, but you're sure to find a dozen different vegetables, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, a fish of some sort, a beef dish, mashed potatoes and several gravies, as well as a daily special. I could have probably ended up with a plate of just the veggies, but I saw they had corned beef and I was sold.

Despite it being the end of the lunch rush and relatively few tables were occupied, the food was stocked and fresh. To me, it's like having all the choices of a Thanksgiving dinner without cooking all day, because I found candied sweet potatoes and mashed with gravy. The former was just the tiniest bit too sweet, but that may because I had chunks of brown sugar that had caramelized as a topping, but the latter was creamy and slightly buttery.

The vegetables are prepared southern style, so you will find butter and seasonings throughout. I'm fine with that, which is why I started with a decent sized salad where I could control the amount of dressing went on it. The green beans probably were made from frozen, as they had a brighter green color and decent tooth that you don't get from the canned version. The carrots were very tasty and if I'd had room, I might have gone back for more.

That corned beef had perfect seasoning, not too salty and not greasy, either. I know it's not on the buffet daily, but if it is when you're there, it's darn good and worth giving it a try.

For ten bucks, this is a good filling lunch like grandma would have made. If there had been a Golden Corral or similar buffet at the exit, I wouldn't have given it a moment's consideration, because they always seem sub-par for what you pay. On the contrary, Buddy Freddy's has good quality food, prepared fresh, friendly staff and a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere to enjoy a meal.

Buddy Freddy's on Urbanspoon<


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