On the closure of Furr's and the death of cafeteria food: did we ever enjoy a cheap buffet?

Categories: Breeality Bites

furrsjenn.jpg
Jenn Wohletz
The last Furr's in Colorado is gone for good.
When I heard that the last Furr's Cafeteria in Colorado had closed, I was sad. But only in the nostalgic-for-something-I-haven't-been-nostalgic-for-in-a-long-time kind of way. Furr's had become a place I always talked about visiting as an adult -- mostly to see if it was as good as it was when I was a five-year-old regular there in 1985 -- but I never seemed to make the trip happen. A few things deterred me, like my home Furr's location at the Buckingham Mall being long gone, and fellow Westword writer Jenn Wohletz's harrowing account of a contemporary visit to a newfangled Furr's in Wheat Ridge, which finally closed this month. Long before that, though, I knew the magic was gone.

But that's the problem with a place like Furr's Cafeteria -- it is celebrated for what it used to be, a place frozen in a time when jello is still considered a side item (not just a thing you eat when you're sick and your body can only process red dye #40-colored collagen from pigs).

See also: Furr's Cafeteria: Memories should stop at the buffet's edge

In modern times, the buffet only seems to serve a purpose if it involves a shitload of fancy food you wouldn't be eating otherwise. You know, Vegas-style. Like the last buffet with which I overloaded my system on New Year's Day, which was a celebratory gorging of crab legs, sushi, ribs, mango salad, eggs Benedict and frilly desserts served in tiny martini glasses. It also helped amp up the buffet situation that we were in a restaurant with a three-story aquarium running through the middle of it, because we carnivorous humans like to see the animals we eat while they are simultaneously alive in a tank and dead on our plates.

Other than the illusion of decadence and high life that come with a gaudy culinary spread, the regular old buffet is a screaming relic of the past. Like a throwback to a time when "getting your money's worth" was actually something people said when discussing food that was shovel-able. Now it seems like the ideas of getting one's money's worth and satiating our palate only come together on a dollar menu. Or as a piece of my own family's lore can attest, getting your money's worth means an infamous evening at the NCO Club where my grandfather made my aunt put a baked potato from the buffet in her purse, because they had "paid for it, so it was rightfully theirs." Now that's getting your money's worth.

Trying to remember what it was I enjoyed about Furr's in the first place was a bit of a childhood blur, though I'm sure it had a lot to do with Jello and macaroni and cheese, staple foods of any American buffet looking to target toddlers and senior citizens. Mostly, I had clearer recollections of other buffets -- those of the Chinese-food variety made for hangovers and the "healthy" versions, like the Colorado-proud, totally early '90s Healthy Habits, which is now a liquor store on Colorado Boulevard. Or Souper Salad, which is still alive and well. Souper Salad I can get down with every once in a while, but only because I am looking for a VFS -- Vehicle for Sprinkles -- and that's something Souper Salad's all-you-can-swirl soft serve ice cream is great for.

I also recall walking into Wendy's a few years ago (which is so weird to type, because who walks into a Wendy's anymore?) and wondering where the salad bar went. Then I realized it wasn't 1995, and no one else enjoyed the combo of kidney beans, Bacos and ranch on a plastic oval plate of dead lettuce as much as I did. Wendy's probably had it right when the company ditched the sneeze-guarded germ smorgasbord and went for the bourgie sandwich market.

Though Furr's is gone, buffets will no doubt live on. So next time you find yourself in line for a trough of food, dump a little Jello out on the floor for all the Colorado Furr's locations that have passed.

Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies



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68 comments
Sarah Rowan
Sarah Rowan

Whoa. I totally forgot about that place.

Samie Burnett
Samie Burnett

Omg! Ed Garner, I thought I was the only person in the world to remember the Yum Yum Tree!

Ed Garner
Ed Garner

NO!!!! 1st the Yum Yum tree and now Furrs!!!

Samie Burnett
Samie Burnett

Demiko Davis-Cherry, Sunday lunch after church, lol. The one in Glendale had a piano player!

Phil Lewis
Phil Lewis

Yes, with me and my Grandmother! Miss her...

Christopher Allen Shinn
Christopher Allen Shinn

Grandma always took us kids there growing up, that's where she made sure the manors that our parents taught us were being used.

Joe Shepherd
Joe Shepherd

they served the cheapest shit food they could find , GMO's that nobody else wanted

Chelsea West
Chelsea West

i loved that place when i was a kid and there was the location on south wads worth. yay fried okra!

Trafton Foster
Trafton Foster

Furr's was college dorm food for senior citizens

Barbara Smith
Barbara Smith

Furrs was my mom's favorite place to eat. We spent a lot of time there in her later years.

J. Christopher McMath
J. Christopher McMath

Went to the cherry creek location when we were kids in the 80's. I remember jello, chocolate cake and some sort of chicken cutlet with yellow cheese sauce. Also remember Wyatt's, which I think was similar.

Tony Olivas
Tony Olivas

Furr's was awesome. My grandparents always took us there.

Jakob Wyldkat
Jakob Wyldkat

Went there when it was by Albertsons in Boulder

Brenda Weston
Brenda Weston

We are there often when out kids were small. Plus a friend had his wedding reception there. Obviously it was a small casual wedding.

Monique Bowman
Monique Bowman

my mom and dad would take my aunt francis there at least once a month. i used to love going, i miss my auntie, and the memories of her having so much fun eating there. it was a real treat.

Miri Plough
Miri Plough

That was literally my favorite place to eat when I was a kid.. I haven't gone since I've become an adult, but still kinda makes me sad :(

Douglas A. Oringderff
Douglas A. Oringderff

My family struggled financially when I was a child. Still, once a month we went out to eat and it was at Furr's. The selection was divine for a very young man. Simply divine.

Amanda DeKalb
Amanda DeKalb

I was just thinking about Furr's yesterday! I used to frequent the ones in C. Springs in the 90's with my grandparents. I remember: extra helpings of mac & cheese, "sweating" pumpkin pie, long lines full of grey hair, awful 60's decor like velvet drapes and wood paneling, grand piano tinkling - to class the place up of course - and trying to win a sticky hand or bouncy ball from the toy vending machine in the lobby. As an adult I would've puked from it, but alas, the memories remain!

Erin Formisano Shank
Erin Formisano Shank

Southglen mall. My grandma and grandpa took us. Waited in line, chicken friend steak, jello, and mashed potatos. You jerks that bash it fine....it wasn't about the food, it was spending time with my family.

Matthew Mercado
Matthew Mercado

Extremely well written as this is exactly how I feel (felt) about Furrs. My favorite was the triangle fish pieces, and the green jello.

Julie Beckwith
Julie Beckwith

I loved the piano player at Crossroads in Boulder.

Christie Gaer
Christie Gaer

I will always have fond memories of Furr's and Wyatt's. Nothing said weekend at Grandma and Grandpa's like a stop at one of these locations. It was a kids heaven! Mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey and endless dessert. Sure, as I've grown into adulthood and my palate has developed significantly, that would not be a favored choice. However, I would give anything to have one more dinner with my now passed loved ones at any of these places. Bittersweet memories.

Steve Bozich
Steve Bozich

I didn't even know there were any in CO - no wonder they are closing. Place to get liver and onions - so you don't have to stink up your own house.

Keeks Crosbone
Keeks Crosbone

I thought it was fitting that my college roommate took me here the morning I got out of jail for not paying a traffic ticket.

Adam Smith
Adam Smith

My family was extremely poor, growing up. Furrs was a treat and a blessing

Julie Barrickman
Julie Barrickman

I kept meaning to go there ; my dreams are smashed now. I guess after living here for 16 years I best get to Casa Bonita before it closes.

Amy Segura
Amy Segura

I agree! Buckingham Mall in the 70's and 80's. They had a piano player in the middle of the dining room :)

Beth Reed
Beth Reed

We ate there a lot when I was a kid, and when my kids were little. Always makes me think of family. The food used to be good, but I the past ten years or so, the food quality went down, and the servers slopped your food in a dish, like they were pissed off that you were there. We finally quit eating there.

Sarah Muslim
Sarah Muslim

Going with the whole family when my great-grandmother came to town!

Doug Hayduk
Doug Hayduk

i remember Furrs from the Sixties... think you could get a dish of corn for 22 cents or something like that.

Scott McNulty
Scott McNulty

Furrs and Casa Bonita. No one does explosive number twos for hours better!!

Josh Makelky
Josh Makelky

Not Furr's!!! Noooooo!!!! Never ending pudding and reconstituted potatoes!!!! Noooo!!! And chocolate milk too!!! Nooooo!!!

Isaac Patrick Sanchez
Isaac Patrick Sanchez

Yeah ,it feels jail ,standing in line with a tray getting served by people with hair nets but paying for the same garbage you would get inside.

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