An expedition to Chandler’s leads through Raytown’s dining desert.

Table for Toe 

An expedition to Chandler’s leads through Raytown’s dining desert.

I'm always thrilled when friends and acquaintances — and readers — tell me about new restaurants to investigate. That's what inspired me to drive to Raytown to dine at an independently owned restaurant at 88th Street and Blue Ridge called Chandler's. Last week, a friend and I hopped in the car and headed east.

Chandler's was easy enough to find, but it was literally a case of lights-out-and-nobody home. A handwritten sign taped to the front door informed us that the place was "closed for reorganization." My friend Franklin was more intrigued by the free-standing, lit-up sign in front of the building that listed several specials, including a "hot camel toe."

"What's that?" he asked. I made a mental note to ask my co-worker the Night Ranger, who has written entire columns based on the camel-toe phenomenon. (Her answer? "I don't even want to think what a hot camel toe might be.")

Franklin and I were hungry, and we squabbled for the next few miles about where we wanted to eat — Raytown isn't exactly the culinary epicenter of the metro — until we realized we'd already driven out of beautiful downtown Raytown and were in Independence. As we passed the Noland Fashion Square shopping center, Franklin saw a small sign and demanded that I pull into the parking lot. "I don't know what the Hometown Buffet is," he said, "but I want to go there."

I'm always game for anything with the word buffet in the name. In the case of Minnesota-based Hometown Buffet, that alluring word is the name of the whole damned company, Buffets Inc. (which also owns the Old Country Buffet and Country Buffet restaurants).

Dinner was cheap enough (about $22 for two adults), and the home-style stuff — pot roast, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, rolls, soups — were surprisingly good. But I needed a hacksaw to cut through the "sirloin steak," and I'd recommend avoiding the orange chicken, the enchiladas, and the spaghetti and meatballs. Most of the desserts — including pies — were served in tidy little cubes.

I made a brave effort to clean my plate after the hard-bitten waitress gave me a look implying that, if I fussed, she'd kick my ass. No doubt with a swift kick from her camel toe.

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