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Road Trip: Reddick, MJ's Country Cafe & Buffet

Southern style cookin', Deep South love

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

102113MJsfI need to start with the GLOB Master's signature line, "I'm coming back" to MJ's Country Cafe and Buffet in Reddick just south of McIntosh. There is an Eating Professional's objective staring me down, challenging every heart healthy promise I have ever made.

I am talking about MJ's Favorite Cowboy Burger (image at top).  This protein explosion consists of a half–pound of hamburger sandwiched between TWO grilled cheese sandwiches, bacon, lettuce, and tomato. This lunch time belly bomb is served with your choice of French fries, onion rings, sweet potato fries, or fried okra.

102113MJsignIf my daddy were alive I would take him to Reddick to treat him to this hamburger. If any GLOBers have eaten this big-boy burger and lived to talk about, please identify yourself!  What do YOU think about the MJ Favority Cowboy Burger stomach stuffer?

MJ's is the perfect weekend diversion get-away-- a short drive 'back to a slower time in old Florida." This 30- minute destination south of the Urban GLOB "out on highway #441 where the cars sound like waves crashing down on the beach" is the ideal foodie get-away.

The GLOB Master is talking serious, home style, southern cooking with stick-to-your-ribs meat loaf, fried chicken, pot roast, baked chicken, fried okra, okra and tomatoes, greens, mac 'n cheese, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn bread, biscuits, white bread . . .  have I made you hungry yet?

Click here for the complete MJ's Menu.

102113MJbuffetROSIEThe GLOB Historian, Jon Roosenraad, was my lunch partner on this trip and we decided he would order from the menu and I would experience the N. Florida Famous MJ lunch buffet since Rosey typically shows more restraint in his lunch time caloric intake than the GLOB Master.  Rosey didn't even LOOK at the MJ's Favorite Cowboy Burger! Instead he ordered the Sandy's Southern Sandwich, which was a piece of very nice looking fried chicken exploding out of all sides of the S S S Roll. The fried green tomato was equally beautiful, fried to a crispy brown delight, The professor liked his sandwich, even though it was just a little more Southern fried heaven than this Michigan born transplant normally consumes.

When our very friendly server brought our lunches to the table, I asked if they got a lot of orders for the MJ's Favorite Cowboy Burger.

"Not really," she said and added, "Most of the lunch crowd are serious, hard working folk, coming in for MJ's Lunch Buffet."

Boy was she correct. By noon, the tables were full of lunch outers waiting their turn at the chow line. I think of my ex-wife here because, if she had seen the six sheriff's office employees sitting across the aisle from Dr. Jon and me, she would have wanted to know why they were all bigger than me.

102113MJbuffetPLATESince I am an eating professional, I thought it was incumbent upon me to 'fit in' so I made me a good looking plate of meat loaf, green beans, corn bread stuffing, and coleslaw -- a plate that had me smiling like a lunch time Cheshire cat.

I swear all the eyes in the diner were on me to see if I was going to get the obligatory second plate of lunch.

"So I did.'

102113MJbuffetPLATE2To be honest, I felt bad about not giving Mike and Jana's fresh fried chicken and fried pork loin serious consideration. I know I heard the lima beans and Mac & Cheese , and a very fresh-looking and tasty chopped broccoli salad in a pleading voice say, "Eat me Mikee!"

The entire lunch was exactly what this Southern boy needed in the way of deep south culinary affirmation.

I chanced upon MJ's when I met the owners Mike and Jana one afternoon in Harry's Seafood Bar and Grille.  Much to my surpise I realized that Mike Sanford, me, and Jana Sanford-Heller, my daughter weren't the only Mike and Jana's in this part of the world.

MJ's Country Cafe and Buffet is southern food and attitude personified. Gosh, GLOBers, it says so on the MJ's Country Cafe & Buffet website: "MJ's is just an extension of our home. We want our guests to feel at home here. We want to know you, visit with you, and send you away with a full belly."

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Gator Suyaki

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about Gator Suyaki.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!

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Ocean Buffet

The OB is an Eating Professional's paradise

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

OBstoreFrontI walked into the Ocean Buffet Asian lunch stop on the corner of the Oaks Mall Plaza, and the first thing I saw was rows, and rows of lighted food trays. Lunch time customers were busy scurrying from the lines of food trays searching out their favorite ABE.  That's Asian Buffet Entrée for the non-eating professional.

You have to trust me, GLOBers. I was witnessing a lunch-time professional eating convention where the weak, or timid lunchouter could be trampled, kicked under the buffet line, and left for the afternoon clean up crew.

 

OBshrimpVerticalThe Ocean Buffet has EVERYTHING!: Appetizers, soup, low mein, chow mein, egg foo young, beef, chicken, vegetables, and even a line of American dishes like pot roast, baked ham, baked fish, roasted turkey, and non-stir fried vegetables.

Ocean Buffet also has a complete sushi and sashimi bar, a raw bar of oysters and an assortment of crab and crab claws.

Last but not least, there is a spectacular dessert bar!

Of course all of this is subject to change as the eating professionals (EPs) attack these islands of gluttonous, masticating delights.

 

OBriceThis isn't my first buffet foraging rodeo, so I had a strategy.  I casually strolled the isles searching out my favorites,  AND making sure sure I didn't miss any special yummy entrees gems that would pleasantly surprise my taste buds.

 

OBcroquetes

I quickly adopted the EP assumption that this lunch would be a two-trip visit to the food islands. My plan was to first select my favorite lunch time goodies, and then capture a second helping of my buffet world favorites.

 

OBbeef

My mother would have been proud of the OB choices I made on my first lunch plate creation (pic at top), which consisted of fried rice, a vegetable medley of broccoli, carrots, baby corn, peppers, and mushrooms. For proteins I selected some stir-fried pork, fried shrimp, and an interesting looking raw oyster. I added a dollop of some of the hottest Chinese mustard I have tasted in some time.

Stir-fried veggies done right have to be the crispiest, most colorful, crunchiest and flavorful way to please a homo sapiens palette. Mixed with the fried rice, the veggies won the GLOB Master best lunch entrée of the day award. The pork was just OK, with an unremarkable taste. Still, I ate all my pork. The fried shrimp were too heavily battered for my prawn pleasure. I think the oyster was of the smoked variety, albeit on the dry and chewy side of yummy. There is an image of my first lunch plate at the top of this feature.

I also picked out a spring roll for the same reason I always order a taco in Mexican cafés. When in Hong Kong . . . ? The roll was crunchy and provided a nice  scoop for the Chinese mustard. How hot was the mustard? Imagine one of those Looney Tune cartoons where the top of your head explodes.  Imagine your sinuses swelling and burning so bad you can't breathe. 

Then I went back for a second Ocean Buffet plate of gastronomic pleasure. It would be disrespectful not to try all the entrees or at least as many as possible, correct?

I did get some more fried rice and veggies the second time and they were very good. I also went American and tried the sliced pot roast and gravy. The pot roast was ok but a little chewy and on the dry side. (Just like that unusual looking oyster!!)

 

OBdessertsI skipped the dessert bar, however there were some baked goods that ALMOST pulled me into their web of sugar love.

The buffet lunch is nominally priced at $8. It is easy to see why this is such a popular lunch spot for serious Hogtown eaters.

I'm going back to Ocean Buffet -- but not any time soon.

The pluses and minuses of Ocean Buffet:

Ocean Buffet (+) indicators: A zillion lunch time choices; fresh, crisp veggies; and excellent fried rice.

Ocean Buffet (-) indicators: Crowded, lunch line-like attitude; I ate too much.

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about the Ocean Buffet. Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!

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Szechuan Palace

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about the Szechuan Palace.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKKS!

 

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Indian Cuisine

IC: Good sauce, good food, good service

By Jules Gollner

EDITOR's NOTE - Jules Gollner is the owner of White Apron and appreciates the fine art of a professionally run restaurant.

INDIAdiningI have been frequenting Indian Cuisine on SW 34th St. for 4 or 5 years. Each visit is better than the last. The restaurant space is clean and neat, and the service is excellent.

It seems that a group of regular customers frequent the restaurant. Most everyone who comes in knows the lunch time drill: They grab a table and then go to the buffet and grab a plate. Fresh plates are suggested for each subsequent buffet visit, please!

 

INDIAsauces

I usually make a plate of Raita sauce (photo right, large bowl) and (in small bowls, left to right)  cilantro chutney, tamarind sauce, pickled onions, and cucumbers. This is my 'sauce plate' to accompany my naan bread and entrée.

My favorite dish is the Butter Chicken or the Chick Peas with Tomato.

 

IndiaMIKElunchAnother dish I am fond of is the Sauteed Cabbage - it has a little kick to it. Many other vegetarian options are available also, such as pakoora, a deep fried onion and potato fritter.

The basmati rice is perfect each time every time I visit Indian Cuisine, and if the naan bread ever runs out, the waiters will visit your table with a fresh batch in minutes.  Soup is available each day. The Indian Cuisine menu is available at the restaurant web link below this feature.

The Indian Cuisine lunch buffet runs $ 8.99, a bargain these days.  If you choose from the menu, service is very attentive, with plates being whisked away and glasses being re-filled very quickly.

You might call before you head over for lunch, as there have been a few times I have found them closed for the day with no warning.

The Pluses and Minuses of Indian Cuisine:

Indian Cuisine + indicators:  Service, cleanliness, attractive water glasses.

Indian Cuisine - indicators:  Thin cheap napkins.

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about Indian Cuisine.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!

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Cici's Pizza

Choices abound at this pizza buffet

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

CiciDoorposterI was out in what I call the Archer Rd. Triangle to take pictures last week and thought pizza would be the answer to lunch. I walked past Cici's, a pizza buffet restaurant, in Butler Plaza twice before the thin-and-crispy, everything-on-it light went on in my head.

This review isn't for pizza snobs who demand certain ingredients, perfect crusts, or haute cuisine to satisfy their hunger.

This review isn't for foodies who turn their nose up at plain ol', ready-to-eat fast food. As Ferris Bueller says, life can move pretty fast sometimes, and this lunch stop is the perfect food-on-the-go factory.

Kudos to the Cici's for emphasizing customer-friendliness. Audra and Kaitlin teamed up to drive this all-you-can-eat bus, and they did it with a smile and attentive behavior, as they flew around the restaurant making sure everything was just right from keeping tables clean to answering any lunch question at all.

"Lunch is popular, be we do a lot of families and students for dinner, GLOB Master," Kaitlin said stopping by my table. "Customers are really coming in for the flatbread pizza," she added.

I am saving the flatbreads for another visit. According to the Cici's website they have 20 different pizzas available. It looked like Audra's and Kaitlin's mission was to have all of the pizzas available before lunch was over. There is a complete Cici's menu at the restaurant link below.

I found a website called punny.org that goes into detail about attacking a buffet lunch line, and I'm paraphrasing some of their better, humorous tips: Break out the Fat Pants -- Don't even think of showing up at a buffet in pants that actually fit you. You want two sizes above normal at a minimum. Sweat pants work great too.

 

CCsaladA

I started with a very nice salad from the salad bar that included all the standard items including some tart, sweet pickles and yummy garbanzo beans. I saw several ingredients that deserved my interest if I should make a second trip to the salad bar.

Now, here's my take on Cici Pizza, and pizza buffet rules:

PIZZA BUFFET RULE #1: Wait for the pizza that's fresh out of the oven. The whole pizza experience is amplified by fresh, hot, bubbly pizza.

 

ccPIZZAline

So many choices GLOBers. I surveyed the 60-ft-long ingredient landscape and tried to cover my plate with a varied selection choosing, from left in image at top of this review:

SAUSAGE & PEPPERONI:The Sausage was tasty; wish I had caught this one coming out of the oven. The Pepperoni and Sausage had very pronounced flavors. I could detect a certain sweet flavor to the red sauce.

PIZZA BUFFET RULE #2: Sit close, but not too far from the buffet line. Even a little bit of walking will contribute to buffet fatigue.

VEGGIE SLICE: Perhaps I should have called this slice a three-way. I had 2 of these, which had black olives, green peppers, and mushrooms. My slices were just warm, which made the crispy crust come into play for a flavorable combo with the green peppers. I did taste the 'shrooms, which complimented the crispy peppers very nicely.

PIZZA BUFFET RULE #3: Take a break. After your first plate is probably a good time to break out that book and pause for a bit. Avoid the temptation to down a mug of soda. The only digestive aid you should use right now is time.

CHEESE PIZZA:  Like climbing Mt. Everest I guess I selected  this slice of pie becaus it was there.  They just pulled this pie out of the oven and the cheese was hot, melted, and gooey.  A nice starter slice amidst a cornucopia of flavors, textures, tastes, bites, chews . . .

 

ccDESSERT

All right I couldn't resist. I saw the chocolate brownies when leaving the buffet line, and they really looked good. Walking up to the buffet line, I saw Audra adding a new pizza to the lineup called the Buffalo Sauce Chicken and Cheese. I swear I heard it sizzling GLOBers. It was bubbling like it was alive. I had to try that too, which turned dessert into a sweet and savory experience.

Kaitlin came by again and I said, "That hot buffalo chicken pizza is really good."

"Yeah it's my favorite, it just doesn't stay on the buffet too long," she replied.

CCstuffedWe are talking about Cici's being a crispy and crunchy multi-ingredient lunch stop with ingredienst any restaurant would be proud to serve to customers, GLOBers. It has more pizza choices than should be allowed for a professional eater and an every-day price at a little over $8.

Audra only charged me $7 for lunch and when I asked if it was a mistake she said customers over 55 years old eat for $7, children eat for $4.  I'm going back to Cici's, as soon as I get enough nerve to face the Archer Rd. triangle again.

The Pluses and Minuses of Cici's Pizza

Cici's Pizza + indicators: This was good, hot, fresh pizza in more varieties than seemed possible to eat.

Cici's Pizza – indicators: Stick to rule #1: The "older" buffet pizza slices are for the REALLY hungry lunch outers.

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about Cici's Pizza. Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments. - THANKS!

 

CICIsTOPPERgif

Family takes on all-you-can-eat pizza challenge

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

CiciDoorposterI wanted to try another pizza lunch buffet and quickly thought of PBB – that's Pizza Buffet Bliss – at Cici's Pizza in the Butler Plaza Shopping area.  Cici's must have something going for it considering it was closed for a while and then re-opened to much fanfare from inquiring Cici's pizza lovers.

On further consideration, I decided I need to take a different approach to multiple platters of sliced pizza pies sitting under heat lamps.  My new approach to PBB was to see how the hot slice lunch line worked for a large group Gainesville pizza lovers gathered together at one time. Just like Noah, I proceeded to round up pizza eaters.

 

ciciCLAN

"And so the Sanford clan descended upon Cici's pizza for an all-the-pizza-you-can-eat-and anything-else-sitting-under-a-heat-lamp" family feast.  There we were, five Sanfords representing three generations; three females and two males; one granddad, one mother, a high schooler, a middle schooler, and one elementary schooler in search of perfect pizza satisfaction.

Did I say we were also all hungry for pizza?  Cheese pizza, pepperoni pizza, veggie pizza, everything pizza, pizza with pineapple, white pizza, spinach pizza. All five Sanfords were surprised to also find spicy chicken wing pizza, spinach Alfredo pizza, and Mac & Cheese pizza.

 

ciciPizzaline

Everyone agreed the pizza was good. The Sanford girls were leaning more toward the cheese pizzas. Kaci was all over the Spinach Alfredo slice, plus she was curious enough to give the Mac & Cheese pizza a taste. Kaci had a hard time choosing her favorite. This string bean of a middle schooler wins the pizza eating award of all time for gobbling down nine slices of pizza, a healthy plate of salad, and a couple of very tasty pizza rolls called garlic knots. Oh yeah, Kaci also requested a couple slices of custom made pineapple pizza and they were duly baked up especially for her.

"That was a good dinner," Kaci said with a small, quiet burp. "I would come back.  There are still a few slices I would like to try," she added.

 

CiciFULLplate

Buchholz High School freshman Kali Sanford was more middle of the road in her pie slice choices. "It was all good, I like the cheese pies, the salad was good, and I REALLY liked the garlic-knot rolls."

Hawk Sanford is in the middle of serious training for his youth football team and, being smaller than everybody else, settled for two slices of cheese pizza. One thick slice and one thin and crispy square slice. When asked what his favorite pizza is, he quickly responded "Big Lou's Italian Pizzeria downtown."

Mom Lindsey sampled an everything slice and a slice of the spinach pizza and gave them a two thumbs up. It appears that the fewer slices of pie allowed Lindsey more room for the garlic knot rolls.

This was good meal. The pizza was hot and cooked fresh and was quickly removed from underneath the heat lamps by hungry customers. I agree with Hawk that the crispy cheese pizza was very flavorful, and that the everything slice and Alfredo slice had a lot of cheesy flavor.

CiciSTEPHIt was a very special fun pizza adventure. Kudos to the very customer friendly server, cook, chef, cashier, host, manager named Stephanie, who was very accommodating and eager to make our all-you-can-eat-pizza adventure special.

Thanks Steph! The GLOB Master likes the way you throw a pizza pie!

After much calculation, it was decided that the Sanford clan had consumed 26 slices of pizza, several servings of salad, more garlic rolls than we really want to talk about and at least eight brownies.

The Pluses and Minuses of Cici's Pizza

Cici's Pizza + indicators: This was good, hot, fresh pizza in more varieties than seemed possible to eat.

Cici's Pizza – indicators: This was good, hot, fresh pizza in more varieties than seemed possible to eat.

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about Cici's Pizza.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!

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