There are three basic types of restaurants. First, there are the places where folks go to try something new, something exotic, or something of higher quality than their normal day-to-day fair. Then there are those places that cater the more familiar – comfort food, so to speak. And finally, there are the convenience joints. The boundaries between these three are nebulus. Some may take comfort in the exotic. Also, as tastes expand, more and more fast foods are branching out into ethnic foods. Depending on the establishment, both exotic and comfort foods can be served fairly quickly, making them bleed over into the convenience category.
One thing that usually distinguishes the comfort category from the others is a lack of budget for advertising. They don’t have the deep pockets of the franchises, nor the name recognition, and they don’t have the volume or visibility of the higher end places. What they do have are local reputations, and that is what keeps most of these places afloat.
The I-85 exit near my office is a trucker’s haven, featuring two massive truck stops and a variety of fast food. When I’m not eating in a school, I usually hit one of the fast food places. I’ve decided to expand my horizons (and probably my waistline) by trying one or two of these local joints all along – sparingly, of course.
Today I visited L&L Family Restaurant, located on Wade Hampton Boulevard in Lyman. I had been here twice before, under different ownership. Leroy and Linda Sims have operated L&L for the past year and a half, and feature a menu rich in soul food. Their specialty is oxtail, served with choice of vegetables. Linda and Leroy wait tables, while Mama Simms does the cooking. Linda frequently chastises her husband for not keeping track of the customers and meeting their needs in a timely fashion, but all are very friendly and courteous to their guests. This place will make you feel at home.
While meat-n-three vegetables is on the menu, the preferred method of culinary delivery is via buffett. Today featured turkey, rice, corn, chunks of roast beast (or something), collared greens, black-eyed peas, macaroni cheese pie, and gravy. There was a rudimentary salad bar with lettuce, carrots, and a couple dressings. I noticed a distinct lack of tomatoes anywhere, except for the ketchup bottle.
I loaded my plate, and enjoyed a filling, if not tasty meal with a bite of just about everything except the collard greens. In a place like this, sweet tea is de rigour. I wound up adding quite a bit of salt and pepper, but I longed for something with an acidic touch, and tomatoes would have been just the thing. I was offered vinegar, but since I didn’t have the greens, it seemed inappropriate. With tomatoes on the brain, I glanced at the ketchup bottle and noticed the discolorations. I also noticed this at every other table. I’m not sure what’s going on, but if they purchased their ketchup from a grocery salvage place, I worry about the other food. Regardless, it was good, and I can see how folks take comfort in such home-cooking.