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Mar 16, 2014 12:35 AM

Has Fast Food Killed off all the cafeterias??

are there any cafeterias where you live?? do you even know what a cafeteria is??

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  1. Yes. Other than institutions and some large companies, Ikea comes to mind.

    1. Great topic and growing up in the northeast, we did have plenty of them.
      I always looked at a cafeteria and a cost conscious, appetizing way of selling food. In fact there are many of them still in business here in NYC. Many are serving foods from the owners homeland, in areas where they and their compatriots live. these cafeterias tend to be small without wait staff and a few tables. The food displayed on a typical hot or cold counter, behind glass.

      If I recall the cafeterias of my youth from the 50's and 60's it is more like Horn & Hardart...

      In essence 'fast food" establishments became a different way to market food, and have taken the tray you would carry to your table with your selections, to a bag of food handed to you in the front seat of your car with a beverage you so proudly place in your cupholder.

      2 Replies
      1. re: PHREDDY

        The type of place you describe is popular in the Latin and Chinese Communities. The Latin places usually feature specials for a day of the week. You can get small or large portions with rice and beans.

        In NYC Chinatown, there are places where you pick 4 items and come with rice for <$5. There are also many places combined with food shopping that have tremendous selections of prepared foods, some have table, but most do not.

        If I lived closer to either...there would be no need to cook.

        BTW...Finally, Some *Cafeteria* in the Latin community are not, or do not resemble the cafeterias we are talking about here. They are more Luncheonettes. Places like these will serve Empanels, Croquettes and Sandwiches, no steam table food.

        1. re: PHREDDY

          For us Delaware Valley residents, H&H was a favorite childhood haunt. Whether in Willow Grove, PA or Market Street in Philly, you knew you were getting the same quality fare. And it was good!

          The long standing Colonnade (going back to the 1920s through the 60s) had a breakfast menu featuring a machine for fresh squeezed orange juice, waffles to order and an amazing array of fresh fruits, omelets and pastries. Alas, long gone.

          In the 70s through 1991, we had Steve Poses' Commissary in Philly where he made carrot cake a household staple.

          If anyone has the opportunity to be invited to lunch at The Center for Advanced Studies in Princeton, you will have the paramount cafeteria experience of the world - bar none!

        2. Cafeterias are alive and hospitals and colleges. I live in the PNW.

          The general public can go there and eat anytime. I just don't know why anyone would. Mass produced ordinary food in warming trays is less of a lunchtime desire, than a FF burger.

          9 Replies
          1. re: sedimental

            Old Country Buffet has a modest number of locations in Washington and Oregon. Nationwide their locations seem to match population densities.

            Years ago Bishops Buffet was a family favorite in Iowa and Indiana. That seemed to be most popular with the Sunday after-church crowd.

            Casinos still pull in good business with buffets.

            Is there a difference between cafeterias and buffets? I suspect there are region differences. Bishops for example was modestly upscale, better than institutional cafeterias. If anything it was chains like Olive Garden that did them in.

            1. re: paulj

              Old Country Buffets pulled out of the Northeast market 5+ years ago. There use to be 3-4 within an hour drive of me they have all closed.

              The primary difference in my experience is a buffet you serve yourself and is generally all you can eat for one set price. A cafeteria you walk down the line, select foods priced on a per serving or per plate basis, and pay for what you have selected. Cafeterias are not all you can eat.

              1. re: jrvedivici

                Bishops was like your cafeteria description. I think they used the 'buffet' name to sound more upscale.

              2. re: paulj

                Cafeterias and buffets are two different things.

                  1. re: paulj

                    In general,

                    In cafeterias (like on most colleges campuses, hospitals, work places) there are a few set entrees that are dished up together (chicken/dumpling meal or Salisbury steak/potato meal), or you can order separate items like soup, salad, sandwich. You can choose from a few dessert items. Pay when your tray is full, for what is on it, before you sit down to eat.

                    In buffets, usually now AYCE, you pay a single price up front, and can choose from a variety of items. There are no "meals" and you can't order a grilled sandwich or burger, etc.

              3. re: sedimental

                The last two hospitals I had to spend any time (visiting...Toronto Western and Toronto General), didn't have cafeterias. They had food courts instead.

                1. re: Sooeygun

                  Food Courts -- Is that where they put each meal on trial?

              4. San Francisco still has Tommy's Joynt. There used to be a whole bunch of similar places called Hofbraus, long gone.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mwhitmore

                  There are still 3 Harry's Hofbraus- I frequent the San Leandro location for the excellent beer selection, believe it or not:


                  Brennan's in Berkeley is still going strong, and, again, not too shabby a beer list: