You likely will meet Chef Bob Brawner when you eat at his café. Throughout mealtime, he comes forth from the kitchen with great basins of butter beans or corn niblets or a tray of fried pork chops as these items need to be replenished on the buffet line. If he happens to pass your table carrying a new supply of fried catfish, he likely will offer you a piece hot from the fryer. When he asks if you are enjoying the meal, he really does want to know. If he isn’t too busy cooking, he might sit down at the upright piano near the front door and play a tune or two, perhaps one he wrote himself.
As befits so hospitable a host, Bob’s cuisine is Southern comfort. The first time I came by I relished lunch of crisp-fried chicken along with flavorful, starchy field peas, collard greens, rice and gravy, plus biscuits and cornbread. The buffet does not offer a huge assortment: maybe six side dishes and a couple of entrees. The alternative entrée that day was chicken parmesan.
Lunch is served every day; on Friday and Saturday, there’s dinner, too, and the Friday night seafood buffet is abundant: she-crab soup, crab legs, fried oysters, deviled crab, popcorn shrimp, Low Country shrimp boil, and catfish fillets, plus access to a minimal salad bar and dessert. Non-buffet types chose from a dinner menu that includes pork chops, fried chicken, beefsteak, and catfish fillets broiled or deep-fried – all served with fixin’s galore.
Bob’s buffet is an all-you-can-eat deal, and customers are encouraged to return to the line as often as appetite requires. However much you do eat, reserve some of that appetite for desserts. Plural. They are plentiful and good, ranging from creamy banana pudding to death-by-chocolate cake and including, in season, moist and fruity strawberry shortcake. As I polished off my apple pie one evening, the waitress, who had spent most of the meal circulating around the dining room to refill everybody’s tea glass and to encourage folks to pile their plate with seconds and thirds, pleaded with me to go back to the line for more dessert. With great glee, she reminded me of the sign above the front door emblazoned with Bob’s motto: “If you leave hungry, it’s not my fault!”