A business day trip to the FL Panhandle gave me a rare opportunity to dine in new territory during the work week. This ”fly-by-night” banner (above) can easily be viewed from I-110 in Pensacola. I have actually passed this eatery before, but it really didn’t make much of an impact on me. Then last week I saw an “info-mercial” for Barnhill’s Southern Fresh Buffet on MediaCom Cable (our provider here in Baldwin County, AL). And it actually looked pretty promising.
Loyal regular customers raved about the made from scratch, homestyle food. Employees were lauded for their pursuit of both perfection and cleanliness. One employee was even interviewed to fully explain her commitment to be the best dishwasher in the food business. OK, now I had to give this place a go. Frankly, it all sounded a bit too good to be true.
I guess this sign is appropriate. A “trainload” of grub is served here each day.
All You Can Eat for $5??? Sure seems like the bargain of the century.
Others obviously agree … the line stretched outside the door on this early Tuesday afternoon. It was a rather motley looking crew — the clientele and the staff. That may have been my first warning sign. The line did move along at a brisk pace and I was certainly happy for that. Yes, I was one hungry beast!
My platter (pictured above) — well, at least the first go-around. BBQ chicken, green beans, stewed squash, and carrot raisin salad. I usually love them all — so I was anticipating a solid mid-day feed. The BBQ sauce slathered on the chicken breast was indeed very good. Both sweet and peppery. But the white meat inside was woefully overcooked … almost to the point of dry petrification. The green beans were just fine – no complaints here. However, I must add that the squash was extremely bland and the carrot raisin salad just a touch warm and watery.
Undeterred, I shoved off for my second run at the steam table. Sadly, similar results were acheived. This bowl of cabbage (above) pretty much summed up the day. Looked good, tasted flat. C’mon, folks — how about a little salt? Maybe some fatback? A sprinkle of black pepper? A splash of hot sauce? Little touches mean a lot and they were consistently missing. My table was dirty. The server seemed bothered. It took a while just to get a few napkins delivered to my table. The sweet potatoes were overly candied into a gloppy, gooey mess. Just gross. The rutabagas (yes, they actually had rutabagas!) were a welcome sight, but not the best I’ve ever had. A little dry … perhaps canned and re-heated???
Well, I thought, at least there will be some decent dessert choices. Always seem to be a good dessert bars at places like this. But nope, foiled again. The pies were obviously mass produced, Sysco-style productions. As I walked down the line I was greeted by dry, pre-baked cookies, a couple brightly colored Jellos, a chafing dish swimming with canned peaches in heavy syrup. Hardly Southern fresh, Mr. Barnhill. Shame on you!
You may have fooled me once, Mr. B.
But never again, sir. Never again.