What can we say, we love to eat. We love to eat so much that at least three chains that aren't known for buffets have operated all-you-can-eat specials in Lafayette.



The Oil Center location has served up a health nut's nightmare for almost 20 years now. The spread features Popeye's signature fried chicken, both spicy and mild, and their legendary biscuits. Diners can also help themselves to rice dressing, red beans and rice, green beans, macaroni & cheese (which isn't even on the regular menu), liver and gizzards, BBQ wings, and — just for the health nuts — salad.

The buffet has changed somewhat over the years. The price has gone up, naturally. For quite a while, they offered a "taco" shredded-chicken sauce that was actually rather tasty, with taco shells and shredded cheese. At one point you could get fries on request. I remember them putting fried fish on the buffet on a few Lenten Fridays. For a while they offered wings and drummettes coated in a honey-BBQ glaze. Those were actually much better than the BBQ wing parts that they offer now.

Perhaps the most remarkable change has been the removal of the to-go option. It was actually a pretty good deal while it lasted. They gave you a standard styrofoam container. They also gave you one of the cups that they use for their small sides. The rules were simple: 1) 3 pieces, one of which could be a breast. 2) The lid must close and lock. Beyond those rules, you could load that thing up to your heart's content. I had my own strategy for getting several pounds of food into those things. It was quite a value, and I wouldn't be surprised if I had a hand in them deciding to stop it. (Suggestion to anyone from Popeye's who's reading this: Do to-go priced by weight. Seems to work well for the Chinese buffets.)

Note that Lafayette doesn't have a monopoly on the Popeye's buffet. There are at least two other buffet locations in operation. As far as I am aware, none of them are in Louisiana. I do recall Popeye's buffets in New Orleans, Morgan City and Golden Meadow.

Taco Bell

For a while around 1993-1994, the local Taco Bell locations offered this intriguing deal: All you can eat from the 59-cent menu for $2.99. This was around the time that Taco Bell produced and promoted the "59-79-99" menu. The bottom end of the scale contained the basics: crunchy taco, soft taco, bean burrito, chips and cheese, pintos and cheese, and cinnamon twists. For your $2.99, you got your choice of three of these items, ad infinitum.

Needless to say, this was quite popular among college students. I've heard stories of people filling up backpacks with tacos et cetera.

Domino's Pizza

For a while in the mid-1990s, Lafayette pizza lovers had six buffet choices: Gatti's, Godfather's, Pizza Inn, CiCi's (el cheapo), Pizza Hut (at lunch only), and this oddity at 107 E. University, right across the street from UL. The pizza wasn't that good — it tended to be dry, and this was long before Domino's actually tried to make their pizza tasty. However, the buffet was unique in featuring chicken wings.

I do not know why Domino's tried this. Maybe they saw that the Popeye's buffet was succeeding in the Oil Center. They had a prime location; for at least the early part of the run, the concept did attract many UL students. I also don't know whether Domino's ever opened buffets anywhere else. The experiment ended around 1997. The owners closed the dining room off from the public and marked it as a training room.


If you happen to work for a major chain restaurant, are reading this, and want to try the all-you-can-eat thing, Lafayette is game for it. You'll surely get some buzz for it. Perhaps it will get you trending on Twitter (that actually happened for Popeye's). At the very least, you'll get your own place in Lafayette restaurant lore.