Thomas and Sarah experience the Cathedral Buffet
by Thomas Skala
11:58 am (In the shadow of giants)
We park and exit the vehicle. We stand in the looming shadow of what was once supposed to be a rotating restaurant. There’s no rotating restaurant and the locals have given the structure a priapic nickname. This bodes well. After passing a small gift shop and paying for tickets, we enter the dining room of Cathedral Buffet. The eating area is as large as a children’s T-ball field with room for banquets, private dining, and a stage. It is adequately heated [read: “warm”]. It’s lunch rush and about 10 percent of the people eating are alone (but with God, are you ever alone?). We’re the only patrons in our thirties. We are comfortable and the regulars know each other by name.
12:14 pm (Green Party)
We start with salads. I (Thomas) haven’t eaten a fresh vegetable in two weeks. The website describes the salad bar as “the talk of the town.” It’s circular, filled with basic offerings, and crowned by globe lights. To make it seem more salad-y and less like a UFO, plastic ivy has been tossed on top of the lights. We didn’t try the soups, but they looked promising.
PROS: Much-need roughage; Great place to meet singles
CON: Not much to talk about.
12:34 pm (Bring an appetite)
This is a no-frills American buffet: steamed vegetables, pasta, meats, carbs, sweets, and beans. “Please take all you want but eat all you take,” instructs a sign. The gravy on the pork loin has parsley flakes (little touches). The vat of mashed potatoes looks like it weighs as much as a Labrador that thinks it’s a lap dog. We load up and head back to our two-top.
It’s what you’d expect from a large American buffet. Sarah likes the fried chicken and wishes she were also eating alone so that she wouldn’t have to blot the grease from her lips. It’s at this time that Sarah points out there is no music. Accent lighting is provided by icicle lights procured in a dorm room or Five Below store.
PRO: You can eat as much as you want in silence
CONS: Silence invites introspection and you’ll realize you’re eating too much; Needs more butter
1:07 pm (Getting my money’s worth)
I’m going up for seconds because I’m doing this for you. Sarah, on the other hand, has dignity. The chef restocking a tray asks, “How ya doing, buddy?” in a friendly tone. I’m on cloud nine because both sides of the garlic bread are buttered (little touches). While Sarah is eating chocolate cake and drinking decent coffee, I’m at the beverage station. There are flavored syrups: caramel, vanilla, and WILD raspberry. Get soda water and add syrup, creating a flavored La Croix type thing. You’re welcome for this pro tip.
PRO: Custom sodas
CON: Gluttony is a sin.
1:24 pm (Not dead yet)
Time for dessert. I’ve picked a small bowl with a softball-sized portion of something that I’ve expertly determined to be chocolate. I dig in and discover that it’s fudge topping with enough bits of cake in it to give it a semblance of structural integrity (little touches). It’s good, but I don’t think it would be wise to finish all of it. CHEAT DAY! We finish, stopping at the gift shop on the way out.
CON: Death by chocolate
PRO: Dying in a ministry building
This started as an offbeat dining review. Our intention was not to talk about the ministry but we were brought back to that point during our final interaction with Cathedral staff. Northeast Ohioans have an opinion about Ernest Angley. Our direct experience is that congregation members who work at Cathedral Buffet are a caring group of people. They are also cautious. When a manager found out we were with a publication, she informed us taking photos of the food line is usually not allowed. She said, “People come here to hurt us.” Clearly, assumption is a two-way street.
We chatted about the sense of community within the restaurant. Eating alone can be awkward. Not the case for those who include a Cathedral lunch as part of their daily routine. Comfort, consistency, and familiar faces make the buffet a social anchor. Considerately, the recipes cater to the generally older crowd who make up the bulk of patrons. But without a doubt, all customers are greeted with sincere appreciation. Remember: buffets are non-denominational. Don’t let uncertainty ruin a good bowl of mashed potatoes.
(All photos by Thomas Skala)