Iâ€™m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Junction City, Kansas.
Greetings from Junction City, Kansas
N 39Â° 01.270â€™ W 096Â° 49.125â€™ Elev. 1052 ft.
Just as people associate Maine with lobster, I associate Junction City, Kansas with …Egg Foo Yung. What?
The SS Me So Hungry pulls into this port irregularly, delivering â€œmechanically separated (turkey) meatâ€ and then sailing away with various turkey-based luncheon meats, and delivering them to … wherever.
While there is another much better place to eat in Junction City â€” Napoliâ€™s, an Italian place that Iâ€™ll review soon â€” none is more convenient land yacht-wise than Family Buffet. Wedged between a truck stop and a Merchant of Death (Walâ€¢Mart), thereâ€™s parking galore. And itâ€™s got a bit of the funky.
Parking the land yacht nearby can be really important sometimes. On one visit here the thermometer on the bridge read 114Â°. It was a blessing that the humidity that day was almost Arizona-esque, and the slog to the restaurant short enough to be bearable; an hour later the temperature had dropped to a balmy 94Â°.
Being as the Chinese community in Junction City â€” heck, all of Kansas â€” is somewhat small, Iâ€™m guessing Family Buffet is a family business.
There is an old man there, usually during the day, who Iâ€™m guessing is the family patriarch. He sits in a chair behind a wait station and just watches. Not with an authoritarian glare, in a keep-the-staff-in-line way, but rather, just hanginâ€™. Every time Iâ€™ve passed him heâ€™s spoken to me, a big smile on his face. I have no idea what heâ€™s saying as I donâ€™t speak Mandarin and he doesnâ€™t speak Cantonese, which is okay because I donâ€™t speak Cantonese either. So I just smile back and say â€œHiâ€ or whatever and he smiles and answers back in Chinese.
As you may have guessed my favorite thing here is the Egg Foo Yung. They simply have the best. Itâ€™s the fluffiest, tastiest Iâ€™ve ever had, made with peas, carrots, green onion, etc. It may be the best Iâ€™ve ever had. And the sauce is perfect, too; not too sweet, not too salty.
One day they ran out after Iâ€™d only had two. I kept getting up, checking the tray and, damn it, none had arrived. I even moved across the table to better spot the fresh stuffâ€™s arrival. Seeing my obvious distress when I checked the tray thrice again, the old man sprang to his feet and, I guess, asked me what the problem was. I told him, in the nearest language I commanded to Mandarin Chinese (read: English), that there was no Egg Foo Yung. He then told me, I guess, that he was all over it, the smile never leaving his face.
He then disappeared through the kitchen doors and it sounded like all hell broke loose. (Of course, normal discourse in Chinese always sounds like all hell has broken loose to my ear.) Long story short, he appeared with a fresh tray of Egg Foo Yung a few minutes later, beckoning me over for first grabs. Score.
They have scores of items on the buffet from Chinese to vegetable sushi to pizza and a full salad bar. Most of the Chinese fare, however, is very chicken-centric, which bums me out; it makes it hard for me to realize my dream of an all-pork diet. They must have 25 different chicken based dishes. Geesh. I want my pork. Nevertheless, the chicken stuff is very varied and, well, itâ€™s all pretty good.
They also always have fried butterfly shrimp and, at night anyway, peel-and-eat shrimp as well. I donâ€™t usually have the peel-and-eat though; that peeling crap is too much work and it interferes with my reading.
I also really enjoy their hot-and-sour soup. Itâ€™s not corn-starched out, i.e. thickened to complete coagulation. I usually throw in a couple of wontons from the wonton soup kettle for good measure.
And a real treat is that theyâ€™ve got eight-or-so different flavors of self-dipped hard ice cream!
Theyâ€™re really nice folks at Family Buffet. Every time Iâ€™ve been there the service has been great, the food is decent enough and, hell, I can park the land yacht within a stoneâ€™s throw.
And so we roll.
Family Buffet, 801 E. Chestnut St., Junction City, Kansas
Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.