The Budget Epicureans Review: Casey’s Buffet

Jeremy Smyczek | Staff Writer

Each week, the Budget Epicureans visit a local restaurant or take-out, searching for quality and value. Bonus points are awarded for healthy eating options.

Chain all-you-can-eat restaurants mostly suck. Because corporate rules state that your Golden Corral can’t vary its formula from one location to another, they’re forced into a lowest-common-denominator approach by which everything has to be bland enough to appeal equally to everyone, regardless of who they are and where they come from. Wilmington has a uniquely southern remedy for this national problem, Casey’s Buffet.

Casey’s is decorated like your mother or grandmother’s house, assuming that she shopped at Cracker Barrel and Johnny Rocket’s garage sales a lot. Sliding into ‘50s-diner pleather seats, one is immediately taken aback by the shameless kitsch on the wood-panel walls, like ceramic pigs enclosed in chicken-wire-covered display cases. The employees wear paper soda jerk hats. This ought to make you feel sorry for them, but everyone, from the staff to the after-church Sunday crowd that packs the place, honestly seems to be having fun, so it doesn’t.

No alcohol here, so a cup of coffee or the locally renowned sweet tea will wash down the 4,500 calories to come. Casey’s selection—straight buffet or carry-out, so no menus here—is smaller than most chains, but that just means that nothing sits long and that they avoid selling things that aren’t up to par.

Grabbing one of the day-glow-hued plastic dining plates, one greets a buffet stocked with everything your cardiologist ever worried about: steaming, savory Brunswick stew swimming in chicken fat, crispy pork chitterlings, pig’s feet and deep-fried whiting, to name a few.

To be fair, one can put together a nice vegetable medley, although no one ought to come to Casey’s looking to diet. Those wanting to dilute the butter a bit can season the fresh, tender collards, golden-roasted corn, firm, fluffy white rice or yummy black-eyed peas with any of the three hot sauces available at the table. The tangy, salty Texas Pete brought out the best in the veggies.

Main course recommendations are the perfectly crisp-yet-tender seafood cakes and what appeared to be fried catfish nuggets, both with a little of the house hot-pepper vinegar to spice up the breading. Nothing was a letdown: when’s the last time you said that at the chain buffet?

The desserts vary by day, and perhaps this was an off one: the apricot crumble while not bad, wasn’t up to the standards of the rest of the meal.

An occasional online review points out that there’s nothing at Casey’s that you couldn’t make at home provided that you had a deep fryer, but that hardly seems an appropriate knock. It’s unlikely that anyone would cook 35 different Southern foods in his or her kitchen and get nearly all of them exactly right. If three plates of soul food are what you’re looking for, there’s no reason to go anyplace else.


Cuisine: Southern/soul food

Price range: $10

Address: 5559 Oleander Dr., Wilmington, NC, 28403

Contact: (910) 798-2913 or

Store hours:

Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Wednesday – Saturday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Sunday: 11a.m. to 8 p.m.