I was heartbroken last month when I heard that one of my favorite buffets in the city, the original Peachtree Buffet on Eastwood Trafficway, had closed. (A smaller full-service Peachtree restaurant now operates in the same complex.) There were once several first-rate soul-food buffet restaurants in Kansas City with the Willis family's Peachtree as the ne plus ultra of the group, which included the now-defunct Three Friends restaurant on Prospect and the more intimate but congenial Papa Lew's Soul Delicious Foods.
I'm happy to report that Papa Lew's Soul Delicious, which turns 30 years old next year, is very much alive and well at 2128 East 12th Street. The restaurant is still family-owned; the namesake, Lewis Lyman Sr., passed away in 1992, and his widow, Dorris, and son, Marvin, have been running the venue since, moving it from 18th Street to the current location in 2004.
And, yes, business at Papa Lew's has increased since the Peachtree Buffet stopped operating as a buffet.
Next week, the Lymans will be serving Thanksgiving Day dinner at Papa Lew's. But the day before Thanksgiving — Wednesday, November 23 — the Lymans and Dickens Demolition are teaming up to give away 130 turkeys. Raffle tickets will be given away free at 6 p.m. at 12th and Brooklyn, says Marvin Lyman, and winners will be called out between 6 and 8 p.m. "You just have to be there," Lyman says.
The following day, Papa Lew's will serve a Thanksgiving buffet from noon to 5 p.m.; the meal is priced at $12.99 and will feature three kinds of turkey — baked, smoked and deep-fried — as well as baked ham, yams, greens, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green beans, stewed cabbage, cornbread and rolls, sweet potato pie and peach cobbler. Reservations are strongly suggested.
Last month, the Lymans introduced a new "Swagger Dinner" to the restaurant's dinner menu. Seven dishes, priced between $5.99 and $12.99, are now offered for dine-in customers, including Sly's Seafood Atchafalaya (named for Kansas City mayor Sly James), a grilled catfish fillet on a bed of white rice, smothered in shrimp etouffee. Other choices include grilled pork chops, a soul-food wrap — dressing, collard greens, candied yams and baked chicken folded into two flour tortillas, seafood gumbo, hot wings, and a steak burger. A hefty sampler platter featuring the seafood Atchafalaya, pork chops, fried hot wings, green beans and pear cobbler is available for $45.99.