Banjo food restaurants are a Southern specialty, typically buffets featuring a wide range of southern foods. They are part cafe, part hotel, part cafeteria, part nightclub, and part buffet.
What is banjo food
Banjo food is the name of a cuisine created in the South, by the Quaker community in North Carolina in the 19th century. Banjo food involves feeding people buffet style, in the style of a jazz club or restaurant. It involves a wide range of Southern food – especially chicken and dumplings, collard greens, biscuits, barbecue, okra, squash, pickled vegetables, cornbread, fried okra, white-sugar pie, watermelon, eggs, fried chicken, fried fish, fried shrimp, BBQ chicken, and plenty more. Banjo food was originally created as a community restaurant, for travelers to stop in on the way to or from other parts of the country, or as a stopover by the hungry, the poor, and the homeless.
Why banjo food
For a recent Southern Decadence celebration in New Orleans, I had the pleasure of attending a dinner at the The Times-Picayune Banjo Club Restaurant. This was by far the most unique dining experience I have had in my lifetime. The room, decorated in the art deco style of the 1920s, is all richly red velvet and soft lighting. The tiny round tables, with an individual menu at each place setting, were festooned with decorative ornaments and centerpieces. The dining room could easily house about 20 people, but there were about 50 patrons in the restaurant, and tables were standing room only.
Where to find banjo food
The origin of banjo food is not precisely known, but the term originated with the barbecue restaurants that opened in the 1940s in Louisville, Kentucky and served black-eyed peas, cornbread, collard greens, ham, and other classic southern foods. It evolved into banjo buffets, banjo coffee houses, and banjo coffee shops where customers could sit down, eat, drink and smoke. For the last several years, banjo food has been gaining in popularity in the Southern US and is now available in Texas, California, Washington DC, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and many other states.
Banjo food restaurants are best suited for kids. They are often quite fast-paced with lots of noise and lots of opportunities to burn off some energy before they crash for the night. Banjo food also comes with a high price tag for the atmosphere. However, if you’re willing to give them a shot, they’re a great way to try out an array of southern foods. What types of foods would you order from a Banjo food restaurant?