January 24, 2012 – Some of you might have heard that a Syrian-American young man went to his homeland to study engineering at Al-Yarmuk University.  He, of course, disappeared and the State Department claims that it is in contact with Syrian authorities in an effort to find him.  This case sounds like the U.S. manipulating people to dissuade them from traveling to Syria since previous alerts had zero effect on tourism.  It is coming, though.  Spring is almost settled in Syria now and people are expecting a large number of tourists.  The U.S. wants to prevent that.  My brother-in-law says that the coastal area on the Mediterranean is virtually incident-free.  He has encouraged me to come over and join him for some drinks and mazza up in the mountains.  I’m probably going in a few weeks.


Taylor, Michigan.  As a Frenchman, assignments such as this give me pause to reflect on how much I hold American restaurants in a suspect class.  But not anymore.  The MNS Southeastern Michigan Restaurant of the Year has disabused me of any misgivings and now I am a proud patron of this remarkable establishment. 

             The stunning architecture suggests Albert Kahn but without the unnecessary acoustics
LOCATION:  Wherever you find white trash, trailer parks or bowling alleys, you will see an Old Country Buffet.  The one I’m seated at, as I dictate this review, is in the picturesque city of Taylor, on its Champs d’Elysee: Telegraph Road, just past the imposing blue arch that crowns I-94 and only one mile from a gigantic replica of a Goodyear tire!  Incroyable!     

In poll after poll taken of residents of Romulus, Taylor, Ecorse and Keego Harbor, the Old Country Buffet has trounced other pretenders such as “the Lark”, “Tribute”, “Gandy Dancer” and “Opus One”.  People tend to view the other nominees as “faddish”, “artsy”, “faggy” and well, “just plain communist”.  When it came to the closest nominee for this coveted award, the Lark took only 3% of the individuals polled. Asked to explain this 3% anomaly, Billy John Snuffnagle, president of Dixie Pollsters, Inc., commented: “Probably some jews from the lake area.” 

HYGIENE:  One of the reasons Old Country Buffet is so popular is the general cleanliness of the rest rooms, a real plus for a population that trumpets its humble country origins.  “It’s not so easy to find a sparkling toilet where I come from.” says Joe Bob Karpentoor of Allen Park, “So I make a habit of coming here everyday for a shave and a shower.”  Mmmm.  But the dining area is also quite tidy with dour Hispanic women traipsing about between tables filled with really famished guests.  I should not have done this but my valet suggested I shout: “Immigration!!!” to see what would happen and sacre bleu, all the women disappeared.  They only came back after we laughed and told them we were food critics – not Border Patrol.  They were not pleased. 

The OCB is a buffet or smorgasbord type of eatery.  You walk up and down areas designated for food and fill your plates to your heart’s content – as many times as you like!  As a former inspector in Marseilles, I was particularly interested in the existence of pathogenic diseases, Listeria and the like.  I am pleased to inform you that no such microbes were evident in the salad areas; no trichinosis in pork dishes; no grubs, rat droppings or dead flies in any of the desserts; and certainly no evidence of hostile cultures in any of the entrees. 

SERVICE:  None.  You serve yourself at this establishment and have only yourself to blame for any lapses.  The clean-up crew, as we mentioned earlier, is composed of illegal aliens who are over-sensitive to the presence of federales.  It could be said, however, that shortcomings in the service department are due to the “frenzied feeding” ethos motivating the clientele.  Although, for example, there is plenty of food to go around, an obese woman with extremely poor teeth snarled at me as I tried to make myself a Cobb Salad.  She told me to “keep yer distance, boy, er I’ll bounce ya on the noggin'”  What grief!

We could not identify the type of meat in the picture above but can assure the reader that it harmed no one in plain site 

FOOD:  This is comfort food at its most comfortable.  Really crave that cafeteria cooking at your old high school?  Well, you can relive those days here at the OCB!  I found dishes I’d read about in Steinbeck novels or those books by A.J. Cronin.  Why, I found “Chicken a la King”, “Sloppy Joes”, “Meatloaf”, “Chung King Chop Suey”, “S–t on a Shingle”, “Ravioli in Catsup” and so many more. They even had my favorite dessert: “Cherry Crunch”.  On the more exotic side, you could fill your plate with tacos and Boston Baked Beans.  Anyone who had a mother who suffered from a debilitating allergy that suppressed the olfactory senses will love the fare at the OCB.  There is even a dessert table where the guest can devour puddings, gelatins and aerated ice creams.  And its all you can eat! 

BEVERAGES:  There are no alcoholic drinks at the OCB. They have a dispenser for carbonated sodas and cannisters filled with milk.  The curious absence of wines and liquors is probably due to the image the OCB wishes to project to the public; that of an wholesome eatery for families bent on stuffing themselves to obesity heaven.  The photograph taken of the young boys above reveals exultation in a new generation of butter-balled oafs, clumsy plumbers and good ol’ boys.  In any case, my valet and I snuck in a pocket-sized flask of cognac and laced our Mountain Dews with it. It was fine.

No relation to a well known personality in the Detroit area who recently passed away, Leroy Scruffington of Southgate claims OCB improved his dental “situation”. 
DRESS:  Dress as you would for a picnic or do what so many others do: wear a bib or overalls.  Some people came in dressed in white frocks and looked like professional painters.  Do not wear a business suit or fashionable dress, it might attract a grimace or cruel remark.

COST:  Not much, really.  Lunch only costs around $9.00.  No tipping, by the way.   

CONCLUSION:  If any visitor to the Detroit area asks you: “What’s the best place to eat at here?”
Smile and tell him with appropriate aplomb that: “It’s the Old Country Buffet. Best restaurant around.” We agree.  Incidentally, there is an emergency room just down the road with a staff trained in dealing with intestinal disorders and injuries from those unforeseen fist fights in parking lots.