Lee Berg’s shines as Southern buffet

Telegraph correspondentAugust 10, 2012 

Downtown dwellers and employees, rejoice! Len Berg’s has been revived and it is as good as ever.

Long a mainstay of businesspeople working downtown, the former Len Berg’s served fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and sweet tea for nearly 100 years before it fell into hard times and was forced to close.

When Alex and Helga Lee bought the quaint restaurant, they were kind (and clever) enough to retain most of the former name and still make it their own, calling it Lee Berg’s.

Their restaurant does much the same. While the beloved drugstore-type red stools and counter are gone, the labyrinth of rooms still remains. The counter has been replaced by a buffet server with many of the same items that were served at Len Berg’s. Our service was gracious and efficient, everything was clean and appetizing, and our bill was small.

The $7.99 price includes all the salad, vegetables, entrees and desserts on the buffet as well as your non-soft-drink drink. Children are a few dollars less.

Our entrée choices on the buffet were mouth-watering fried chicken, both grilled and tempura-battered fish fillets, shepherd’s pie and grilled chicken. For vegetables, we had cabbage, big chunky sweet potatoes (my favorite), squash, collard greens and green beans. Of course, no Southern buffet would be complete without macaroni and cheese; there was nothing particularly special about theirs but it was as good as anyone else’s.

On the salad bar, there was the usual iceberg salad fixins plus four pre-made salads. I enjoyed the broccoli and raisin salad, and the potato salad was different in a good way. For dessert, we had a bit of peach cobbler, some blackberry cobbler, banana pudding and bread pudding. Tough work, but someone’s got to do it. We didn’t have room for the three types of cake.

Ordinarily, I’m not a big fan of buffets, but Lee Berg’s keeps it fresh, clean and in small batches. There is enough variety to please everyone and I can’t think of any Southern staple that they forgot -- maybe butter beans.

I do, however, recommend bringing back Homemade Fresh Peach Ice Cream (H.M.F.P.I.C., to those in the know).

I’ve always loved the many rooms that Len Berg’s had. Lee Berg’s has updated them a little, but they still have that tiny, cozy feel. It’s amusing when you realize what you thought was a mirror is actually a room with other people in it.

The service is as least as good as it was before. Our server greeted us with, “Everything comes free with your buffet and you can take as long or as little time as you like.” She kept our glasses full and our plates cleared.

Finding Lee Berg’s can be a bit challenging, especially if you haven’t been there since you were a child. My best advice is to find the Federal Post Office -- the big marble one on Mulberry Street, not the brick one on College Street -- and go behind it. It’s the little, low building that has all the cars around it.

All in all, this is a little gem that has not been uncovered by too many people yet. Go soon before the crowds find out and it truly returns to its glory days.

Lee Berg’s

Address: 240 Post Office Alley

Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays

Payment: Cash, credit

Smoking: No

Alcohol: No

Kids Menu: Yes

Noise Level: Moderate

Health Rating: 97

Price range: $7.95

Rating: 3.5 stars

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